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Meet Our Guest

KEVIN O’SHEA is a primary teacher currently at the Canadian International School in Beijing, China who will be moving to a school in Shenzhen, China in the fall. Today, his  school sees a mix of Chinese students and children of international diplomats and ex-pats stationed temporarily in Beijing. Kevin is a big fan of nature, outdoor education, inquiry, and photography. He’s also the producer of the Just Japan Podcast and the Making Better Teachers Podcast.

Poor Reception for Differentiated Instruction

Kevin recalls a situation early in his career when he was asked to assign homework packages for his Japanese students to complete during a break from school. In an attempt to meet the unique needs of each of his learners, he differentiated the learning activities according to the skills and abilities of each student. But the plan backfired completely.

What Kevin wasn’t aware of is that all his hard work of differentiation flew in the face of cultural expectations around consistency and equality for everyone. Parents in the class got together to compare the homework assignments, and when they discovered that students had been given different requirements, a lot of arguing and accusations followed. Fortunately, Kevin’s administrators had his back and gave him their full support, but the whole scenario was still deeply discouraging.

He experienced a lot of sleepless nights that year, and even completed an application to join a police force back in Canada and leave education altogether. Fortunately, his principal convinced him to stay in education, and his experiences have greatly improved since then.

A takeaway: school leaders must know their parent community and act proactively to keep parents in the loop about shifts in practice or educational philosophy.

On Content Creation

Kevin’s been a “devotee” of podcasts for over ten years. His love for the medium began in 2008, when he would take the train to work each day in Japan. In 2009, he produced a short-lived podcast on Canadian history. Later, he began the Just Japan Podcast, which continues today. Although the technology and process has evolved over time, his passion remains as strong as ever.

In terms of the mission of the Making Better Teachers Podcast, Kevin talks glowingly about the ways that he has been helped and inspired by other podcasts. His goal is to do the same work and share similarly great ideas with an international audience.

Podcasting is helpful in the context of international education, Kevin points out, because in an environment of stiff competition and short-term teaching contracts, it’s especially important to share your message and build the profile of who you are and what you’re all about as an educator.

Creating content is also an important part of building relationships throughout a PLN. Again, it’s about visibility, especially in the context of international schools. Using PLN tools like Twitter are essential when you teach at the only English-speaking school in an area.

Kevin jumped into YouTube over ten years ago, and at the time, he discovered there just weren’t a whole lot of English-speaking YouTubers posting content about Japan. In addition to building one’s professional profile and building professional relationships, creating and consuming online content is also a terrific way to reflect on one’s one practice and learn from the practice of others. For that reason, Kevin is interested in doing more vlogging about teaching and education.

A takeaway: Kevin talked about four great benefits of content creation by educators.

  1. Content creation builds one’s professional profile and increases visibility.
  2. Content creation can act as a form of networking to build professional relationships outside of one’s local context.
  3. Content creation and consumption is a great way to share and learn new ideas from other educators.
  4. Content creation can be a powerful means to professional self-reflection.

A Passion for Outdoor Education

One of Kevin’s greatest passions as an educator is to get kids outside more often. Things like Outdoor Classroom Day and the Dirty Hands Movement are motivating, and he’s thrilled to see how teachers around the world are building outdoor play into literacy, science, and other academic areas.

As educators, we need to work harder at getting our students outdoors each and every day. We need to take back play and let out kids get dirty! He encourages all educators and schools to participate in Outdoor Classroom Day on May 23. To sign up, visit https://outdoorclassroomday.com/.

In terms of further professional growth, Kevin is focused on building his practices and strategies around outdoor education as he changes schools and moves closer to Hong Kong. He’s hoping to certify as a Forest Kindergarten practicioner, which involves taking kindergarten learning outside all the time. (What is forest kindergarten? Here’s what Wikipedia says.)

Personal Passions and Productivity Hacks

Kevin is a self-professed bug and bird guy. When it comes to insects, he enjoys studying, photographing, catching and releasing. His passion is a great fit for the elementary classroom, where he enjoys rock star status whenever he has the opportunity to bring in an unusual creature or bug. Kevin models what we want to see in all of our learners: curiosity.

A simple but effective productivity hack that he has come to love is the habit of preloading the coffee maker before bed. Going to the trouble of loading potable water and coffee grinds the day before helps those mornings run that much smoother, and it’s become a staple of his routine.

Voices & Influences that Inspire Kevin’s Thinking and Practice

On Twitter, Kevin recommends following Michael Bycraft @MabyCraft. Mike posts incredible videos from his students’ work in robotics and computer science. He’s well worth the follow.

Kevin’s pick for edtech tools is Seesaw, a popular platform that works wonders for the curation of student work and learning into online portfolios. Seesaw offers a terrific way to connect classroom learning activities with parents as well. Visit Seesaw and follow Seesaw on Twitter @Seesaw.

Kevin’s book suggestion is Lost Child in the Woods by Richard Louv. Follow the author on Twitter @RichLouv.

He offers two podcast picks – one educational and one non-educational. The first is The Morning Stream, which offers a wide variety of miscellaneous news, trivia, and humor. The second is The Cult of Pedagogy from education leader Jennifer Gonzales. Follow these creators on Twitter @MorningStream and @cultofpedagogy.

Kevin’s favorite YouTube channel is Brave Wilderness, where the host engages with all manner of creatures and environments on a regular basis. With over 14 million subscribers, this channel has become so successful that it now has its own TV show.

Two shows that Kevin has been enjoying on Netflix lately are Black Summer and Our Planet. The latter is another excellent nature series narrated by the legendary David Attenborough, and the former is a zombie series that Kevin can only watch when he has some alone time.

We sign off on this fun conversation, and Kevin gives us the best ways to connect with him and receive his online content. See links below!

See more from Kevin:

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

iTunes | Google Podcasts | Spotify

Follow the Teachers on Fire podcast on social media.

Song Track Credits

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

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