Episode 79 – Karen Caswell

79 - Karen Caswell

Meet Our Guest

KAREN CASWELL is a 4th grade teacher at a large primary school on Australia’s Gold Coast. Her favorite themes in education include relationships, reading, kindness, and global connections. In addition to being a homeroom teacher, Karen does some collegial coaching and is an indigenous champion at her school. She’s also an Apple Certified Teacher, Seesaw Ambassador, the founder of #TLAPdownunder.

Follow Karen on Twitter @kcasw1 and visit her blog at https://www.karencaswell.com/.

Taking Time Away to Recharge the Passion

Karen shares about the time that she pulled completely out of education. After teaching for twenty years, she still loved being a teacher, but she admits to feeling the wear and tear of the bumps and bruises one experiences along the journey.

As a result, she took an extended break away from school to focus on rest, relaxation, and rejuvenation. She also did some big picture reflection about where she was and where she wanted to be. She realized she was suffering from a sense of disillusionment more than anything else, and she decided that if she was to return to the profession she wanted to pour her energy and focus primarily into students. Yes, the other parts of the job were still important, but she found that putting the focus primarily on students helped to clarify her mission.

It was also during this time that she discovered the books from Dave Burgess Consulting. To start, she read Kids Deserve It by Adam Welcome and Todd Nesloney, Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess, and Be Real: Educate from the Heart by Tara Martin. Karen credits these books for showing her what is possible in the classroom, helping her become a connected educator, and recharging her vision for education.

What is #TLAPDownUnder?

After getting into the DBC books, Karen was thrilled to connect with Dave Burgess and other authors at the weekly #TLAP chat, but she quickly realized that the time slot was difficult for Australian and Asian educators. With that in mind, she began the #TLAPDownUnder chat, and it’s taken off.

She now sees educators contributing from countries all over Asia, and the relationships formed there have been tremendously encouraging. Dave Burgess has dropped by a couple of times and of course North Americans are free to join in as well, although it may make for a late night or an early morning, depending on your time zone.

Why and How Karen Uses Seesaw in the Classroom

Karen uses Seesaw as a digital portfolio that collects evidence of student learning in her classroom. Since most of her students’ work is now kept on the platform, she no longer has to cart stacks of papers to and from home each day. Parents are kept updated and constantly in the loop with what their children are learning, and students are able to give peers effective feedback and assessment as well.

Because Karen’s class is fully equipped with iPads, her students enjoy creating booksnaps and Real You snaps to represent their personalities and demonstrate their learning.

Professional Commitments and Goals

Outside of Seesaw, Karen has a tremendous passion for helping students find the joy of reading, and it makes her sad to see teaching strategies dampen that joy. She shares strategies with her colleagues about how she grows the will to read in her classroom and even how she finds the time to do more independent reading in the timetable. Recently, Karen has leveraged her global connections in education to form creative writing and read-aloud partnerships with educators like Allyson Apsey, Alicia Ray, and Annick Rauch.

One of her biggest success stories from the last year was when one boy – espousing a well-known dislike for books for some time – actually went to great lengths to find a quiet space in the building in order to finish his book. Win!

“If we’re not giving them times to read independently, we’re not giving them opportunities to practice the very reading and comprehension skills we’re trying to teach them,” she points out. Next up on her professional goals list? Growing a school-wide love of writing as well.

Personal Passions Outside of the Classroom

Bearing a strong and understandable resemblance to her professional goals, Karen thoroughly enjoys reading and has recently been pushing herself to write more often as well. It’s been a fun and rewarding process, and she looks forward to more in the days and years ahead.

Another passion is travel: she and her family look forward to another trip to the southern United States in the near future.

The Power of Routine

Karen’s biggest productivity strategy is routine. For important priorities like exercise, it needs to keep happening on a regular basis – without fail. She’s found that if she takes more of a casual approach, one miss turns into two, which turns into ten. Habits must be maintained to be effective.

Voices & Resources That Inspire Karen’s Professional Practice

On Twitter, Karen recommends following Catherine Williams @CathWilliams05 and Tamara Letter @TamaraLetter.

An edtech tool that makes content creation a lot of fun for Karen and her students is Keynote, from Apple.

When asked to recommend a book, Karen points to The Lost Man by Jane Harper. Follow this author on Twitter @JaneHarperAutho. If asked to make a pick from the inspirational reads at Dave Burgess Consulting, Karen goes back to the one that started it all: Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess.

A podcast that has really inspired Karen is the In Awe podcast from Sarah Johnson. Explore Sarah’s site and connect with this podcast at In Awe to Rise, and follow the producer on Twitter @SarahSaJohnson.

Karen isn’t a big consumer of YouTube videos, but she appreciates the work coming from John Spencer’s channel. His education-related animations are well worth the views!

On Netflix, Karen has two quirky picks that just may get you laughing: The first is Travels with My Father and the second is Upper Middle Bogan.

We sign off on this trans-Pacific conversation, and Karen reminds us of the best ways to find her online. See the links below for details!

See more from Karen:

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.

Episode 74 – Susan Jachymiak

74 - Susan Jachymiak.png

Meet Our Guest

SUSAN JACHYMIAK is a 4th grade teacher in Orland Park, IL. She’s a rookie this year, and she’s clearly on fire! Follow her on Twitter @MsJachymiak and visit her blog at http://msjachymiak.weebly.com.

Rookie Year Challenges

Susan’s teacher training focused on middle school education, but her first teaching position has been at the fourth grade level. These students come with different learning and social needs than students in middle school, so it’s taken some professional growth for her to better understand the dynamics of these younger learners and meet them where they are.

#NewTeacherJourney and the Power of Twitter

As Susan started plugging into Twitter chats before her first year of teaching, she noticed a shortage of chats dedicated to rookie teachers. That led her to create the #NewTeacherJourney chat, which typically connects on Sunday evenings at 8:30 pm EST. She’s been pleased to see the number of other new teachers plugged in, connecting, and gaining encouragement and advice thanks to this hashtag.

Susan is a strong advocate of using Twitter – not only for the purposes of connecting socially with other educators, but in order to leverage the power of the platform by actively sharing and learning from what is happening in classrooms around the globe.

Passions in Education

What excites Susan about education today are the amazing opportunities that technology is allowing learners in her classroom. She uses GoFormative to facilitate exit slips as checks for understanding at the end of lessons, Prodigy to reinforce Math concepts, and Mystery Skype to reinforce critical thinking and geography skills.

Her professional goal for the rest of this year and going into next year is focused on organization, including what to collect from students, how best to arrange it, and how best to act on it. Because so much of teaching requires thinking on your feet and making quick decisions – especially during your first year – it’s been a challenge to find the systems that work most efficiently for her. Ultimately, better organization will set her up to better meet the unique needs of each of her learners.

Susan has also been fascinated by the possibilities for learning articulated by Jo Boaler in her book, Mathematical Mindsets. In the Math classroom, this helps students understand the power of “I don’t get this … YET,” seeing initial failures as merely first attempts in learning, and adopting practices of continuous revision to improve first attempts and learn toward mastery. These concepts don’t just apply to students – they apply to educators as well!

Productivity and Recharging

Susan is a list-keeper, and for that purpose her app of choice is Google Keep. Keep is where she goes to determine what still needs to get done, what is a higher priority, what needs to be added to the list, and what needs to come off. She also recharges her professional passion in Twitter chats, and she makes it a goal to participate in at least one of those per week.

Voices & Resources That Inspire Susan’s Professional Practice

On Twitter, Susan suggests following @RaeHughart. Rae shares a lot from her practice, offers great resources from the Teach Better Team, and co-hosts the Teach Better Talk podcast.

For edtech tools, Susan recommends Class Dojo as a means to build class culture and encourage collaboration toward group goals. She also points out Plickers as a fun way to quickly and efficiently collect feedback and formative assessments across the class using your mobile device.

Susan’s writing has already appeared in a published book! It’s called Chasing Greatness: 26.2 Ways Teaching Is Like Running a Marathon by Mike Roberts. Follow the author on Twitter @BaldRoberts.

Two educational podcasts that Susan is listening to are Teach Better Talk and The Pondering Education Podcast.

Over on YouTube, Susan is tuned into a channel called Pocketful of Primary, hosted by Michelle Ferré. On her show, Michelle shares all the ups, downs, and ideas from her work, and Susan gleans things of value from every episode.

On Netflix, Susan enjoys two classic series: Fuller House and Friends.

See More From Susan

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.