Episode 77 – Adam Welcome

77 - Adam Welcome

Meet Our Guest

ADAM WELCOME is a former teacher, principal, and director of innovation. He’s also a recognized education leader, speaker, and the author of Kids Deserve It and Run Like a Pirate. Follow Adam on Twitter and Instagram @MrAdamWelcome.

Disappointed by Mediocrity

Adam recalls the year that his professional enthusiasm was dampened by colleagues who preferred to stay with conventional practices and were reluctant to support new initiatives. Students were disengaged, there was little laughter in classrooms, and he knew learning was being sacrificed in exchange for convenience. It was frustrating to see.

Finally, Adam decided to change grade levels and acquire his administration credentials. That move helped him get to a place where he could put his money where his mouth was and actually do the hard work of building school culture instead of complaining about negativity.

When you’re in a tough situation, try to stay positive and actually do something about the problem, Adam urges. This too shall pass, and you can be that positive solution.

The Birth of #KidsDeserveIt

After connecting with Todd Nesloney on Twitter and then chatting with him further at a principals’ conference, Adam realized the two educators shared a passion for putting the welfare of students at the forefront of their work.

After a tweet to that effect was widely shared, Adam and Todd wrote a blog post on the topic and then developed their ideas more fully in Kids Deserve It. #KidsDeserveIt continues in the form of book studies, Twitter chats, and an educational philosophy of school formation.

13 Marathons in One Year

Run Like a Pirate followed an impressive year of 13 marathons in 12 months. Although he was fairly public about his running goals and activities, Adam didn’t envision a book at the outset of the year. But after more and more people were inspired to set new fitness goals and do more with their lives, Adam started to think seriously about writing the book. Although he couldn’t do much writing during his year of marathons, the ideas and passion flowed quickly in the months that followed, and #RunLAP was born in the spring of 2018.

More than just running, this is a book about realizing our full potential, about challenging our vision of what is possible. In some ways, #RunLAP is #ThePowerofYET (I’m not a runner … yet).

When we put ourselves in a box by saying we’re just NOT something, it’s kind of demeaning. But when we take the opposite stance, when we say we can become anything we want to be, our students see that and build confidence as well.

What Excites Adam About Education Today

Adam appreciates innovations in education like edtech tools and the makerspace movement, but the macro change that really gets him excited is the idea of teachers backing up and taking more of a facilitation role in their classes.

Doing so frees up time and energy for teachers to build relationships with students and conference more often on a 1:1 basis. It also empowers students to take more agency and ownership over their learning journey. Teachers are no longer chiefly sources of information – they’re coaches, facilitators, and enablers.

Personal and Professional Goals

In education, Adam is focused on doing more video content. The world is moving more and more to video, which gets more play, engagement, and excitement. It’s where our younger learners are moving for learning, and it only makes sense to develop our message on video platforms.

As a personal goal, Adam looks forward to a 4-marathons-in-4-days event coming up in the Bay Area that uses 4 bridges to come up with the necessary miles. Being comfortable is easy, but nobody grows in the comfort zone. He’s looking for ways to push himself professionally and physically this year.

Passions and Productivity Hacks

Adam gains fuel from his family, and lately he’s also been inspired by leadership books outside of education. Authors like Jocko Willink, who’s written Extreme Ownership and also produces a podcast, are particularly inspiring.

He’s also a big believer in strong starts to the day, including getting up early and making the bed. Although he’s given up trying to make his bed while his wife is still in it, his kids have learned to practice this habit from a very young age. It’s about starting the morning right and feeling fully prepared for the day.

Voices & Resources That Inspire Adam’s Professional Practice

On Twitter, Adam recommends following the wonderful @RaeHughart, guest on episode 73 of the Teachers on Fire podcast.

One of Adam’s go-to edtech tools is Evernote. Whether you go with Evernote, OneNote, Google Keep, Wakelet, or another curation and note-taking tool, find and use one that syncs across all platforms and devices, he advises.

Adam’s book pick is Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win, by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin. Although these authors come at leadership from a military perspective, the lessons and principles they share are universal and apply equally in education.

Sticking with the same author in the world of podcasts, Adam recommends listening to the Jocko Podcast. He also loves The Rich Roll Podcast, produced by another vegan and legendary runner with a phenomenal personal story.

Over on YouTube, Adam shouts out CJ Reynolds, an inspiring English teacher in Philadelphia who also appeared on Teachers on Fire at episode 39. His YouTube channel is called Real Rap with Reynolds.

We sign off on this conversation, and Adam gives us the best ways to connect with him online. See below!

See more from Adam:

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.

Episode 72 – Tisha Richmond

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Meet Our Guest

TISHA RICHMOND is a Technology Integration Specialist serving 19 schools in Medford, Oregon. She’s also a speaker and author of Make Learning Magical: Transform Your Teaching and Create Unforgettable Experiences in Your Classroom.

From Misery to Magic

In 2014, Tisha was at a real low point as an educator. She was frustrated, tired, and dreamed of becoming a barista. A sign in her classroom spoke as a silent reminder: “Above all, have a good time.” But the good times seemed elusive, and she found herself struggling to find joy in her work.

When the culinary teachers in her district first adopted iPads, she was skeptical at first, but after attending iPadpalooza and seeing what educators were doing with technology, her imagination was captured. She went all in on iPad integration in her classroom, utilizing Google Classroom, iMovie, app smashing, green screens, and other strategies to allow students to demonstrate understanding and elevate their learning.

Her passion for the profession was completely rekindled. The magic was back.

The Heart of Make Learning Magical

Make Learning Magical starts from the incredible transformation Tisha experienced in her own practice. She wants educators everywhere to know that no matter how long you’ve been in the classroom, magical learning experiences are still possible.

In her book, Tisha makes MAGICAL an acronym for the factors that bring the magic to your practice:

  • M – Meaningful Beginnings
  • A – Authenticity and Agency
  • G – Gamified Experiences
  • I – Innovation
  • C – Creativity and Collaboration
  • A – Authentic Audience
  • L – Legacy.

To the last point on legacy, Tisha recounts some memories from a teacher that was instrumental in her own life and urges educators to create experiences that will cause students to want to continue learning long after they leave our classrooms.

Breakout EDU

Breakout EDU, one of Tisha’s latest passions, involves games of logic and problem-solving that groups of students (or educators) can play together. Think of an escape room – but instead of trying to get out of a place, participants try to unlock special containers using provided clues. Tisha has been thoroughly impressed by the level of immersion she’s seen from students: they’re all in, enthusiastic, excited, collaborating, and relishing the productive struggle.

Education Today & Professional Goals

Tisha is thrilled by the opportunities that our learners have for authentic global collaboration today. She shares a recent joint effort between culinary and design classes who were able to team up on a project from different parts of the country.

Tisha is keen on learning more about augmented and virtual reality, but when it comes to technology in education she is just hungry to learn wherever she can. She wants to serve the educators in her district well, and that means creating professional development opportunities that are personalized and meet the needs of every educator. She will continue to speak and write – two of her passions – and she’s recently been accepted into a class that will equip her to build her own BreakoutEDU games.

Other Passions and Productivity Habits

Outside of education, one of Tisha’s chief passions is design – especially interior design. Along the same theme, she really enjoys the creative process, including calligraphy, sketchnoting, hand lettering, and graphic design. Many years ago, she wouldn’t have considered herself a “creative,” but she’s really enjoyed getting in touch with this side of herself in recent years.

Exercise and running are key in terms of clearing her head and improving her focus. These activities give her those opportunities to process, and they seem to lead to some of her best creative breakthroughs. Writing has also become a foundational habit in terms of reflecting and processing her thoughts.

Voices & Resources That Inspire Tisha’s Professional Practice

Looking to strengthen your PLN on Twitter? Tisha recommends following @TamaraLetter and @SixthIsGoal.

The edtech tools Tisha sees being put to best use in the classroom these days include Canva, Pear Deck , and FlipGrid.

Two books deserve the most credit for reviving Tisha’s practice and revolutionizing her perspectives on education. They are Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess and Explore Like a Pirate by Michael Matera. Follow these two awesome authors on Twitter at @BurgessDave and @MrMatera.

In  educational podcasts, Tisha’s tuned in to The Google Teacher Tribe Podcast with Kasey Bell and Matt Miller, Cult of Pedagogy with Jennifer Gonzales, and Well Played with Michael Matera.

Over on YouTube, Tisha points to sketchnoter Carrie Baughcum. Follow Carrie on Twitter @HeckAwesome to see more of what she’s all about.

Though she claims not to be able to sing herself, Tisha is digging a show called The Masked Singer in her free time.

See More From Tisha

We sign off on this magical conversation, and Tisha reminds us of the best ways to connect with her and learn together online. Get connected!

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.

Episode 70 – AJ Juliani

70 - AJ Juliani

Meet Our Guest

AJ JULIANI is a dad, a sought-after speaker, and prolific author of several education books, including The PBL Playbook, Empower and Launch. He is a recognized authority on design thinking, genius hour, growth mindset, IBL, PBL, and all things innovation in education. Read more from AJ at http://ajjuliani.com/ and follow him on Twitter @AJJuliani.

AJ is currently the Director of Learning and Innovation for Centennial School District, located near Philadelphia. He and his team serve about 6,000 learners. In addition to his work there, AJ writes frequently on education and speaks at schools and districts across the country.

Frustrated by the Game of School

Teaching in 2011, AJ was starting to get discouraged by the climate of his classes. His students were intent on playing the game of school, navigating their way through assignments in ways that they thought would earn them the best grades for the least work. Frustrated by what he saw, AJ started reading more widely and searching for better solutions in his practice.

He eventually found Daniel Pink’s book, Drive, and it led him down the rabbit hole of intrinsic motivation, inquiry and passion-based learning, genius hour, and much more. It was the beginning of a huge paradigm shift, and he’s never been the same. He now sees student choice as a sort of secret sauce when it comes to inspiring student engagement and empowerment.

Thoughts on How to Approach Project-Based Learning

AJ’s practical advice about project-based learning is to start small. Try to avoid massive projects that simply follow exhaustive requirement checklists, which really amount to recipe-based learning. Instead, start with small class activities that help students embrace greater amounts of control and direction in the classroom.

Secondly, treat the project itself as a source of continual formative assessment instead of simply using it as a piece of summative assessment at the end. It’s the main course, not the dessert. Students should be able to demonstrate their evolving understanding of concepts throughout.

The Professional Benefits of Blogging

In many other professions and industries, it’s normal and expected for practitioners to write about their work and share it broadly. In K-12 education, this work is often left to researchers, when in fact the teachers in the trenches have important and valuable perspectives worth sharing as well.

AJ sees three primary benefits in blogging about educational practice:

  1. It helps us reflect on and learn from our own practice.
  2. We’re sharing the highs and lows of our practice in a way that others can learn and benefit from.
  3. As we reflect and write, you start to see your profession differently. You start to see the growth that is possible as you track your evolution as a professional, engaging with other educators, and sharing other perspectives. Blogs and PLN activities can inspire us and give us the encourage.

Be More Chef

Most students – and many educators – approach education as cooks. We want to follow a given recipe, and follow it well, hoping to find the success and learning that the formulas promise.

The chef’s approach is different. She takes a look at available resources and asks “What can I make with this?” And that’s AJ’s call to educators.

As you think about your practice and even your life, ask yourself “Am I just following recipes?” AJ’s late brother was a fine example of someone committed to leaving the beaten path and writing his own recipes. Yes, there will always be economic opportunities for people who prefer to follow and be compliant. But there are far more opportunities in today’s economy for people who are go-getters, strong self-starters, creators, makers, designers, and dreamers.

Building Empathy Through Design Thinking and Story

Design thinking always starts with awareness of one’s surroundings. It helps learners learn to take note of the needs of others. It helps young learners to ask critical questions to better understand their context and the needs of others. These are important skills.

Another way we can build empathy is through stories. Brain researchers tell us that the brain processes stories in a different way than it does other information – it activates more resources in order to gain a deeper appreciation for the needs of others. Telling and sharing stories is by far the best way to build empathy.

One recent example of a design product that came from AJ’s district was the creation of reflector socks for cyclists from MIT. The students didn’t enter the design process thinking they were going to engineer a new sock design, but after getting a clearer understanding of the needs of the cyclists, that’s where they ended up. The socks continue to sell today! In another case, some elementary students designed an artificial insect that could evade exterminators effectively. These second graders had to pitch their product design to some actual exterminators – another authentic learning experience.

Goals, Interests, and Passions

At the moment, AJ is working with a company called Next Lesson to develop PBL lessons and units for elementary classes. These are resources that will help educators take their first steps into PBL without jumping straight into Genius Hour.

From a larger perspective, though, the thing that is really exciting AJ about education is how many people are doing things differently. Most educators have moved past the initial stages of integrating technology in their practices, and now so many educators are thinking more deeply and differently about the learning process itself.

AJ derives tremendous joy and fulfillment from sports, but the thing that he’s really been diving deep into lately is AI. He’s reading and watching as much as he can, and he feels like today we’re boiling the frog – things are already drastically changing around us, often in ways we don’t notice or are not aware of. For him, AI isn’t something to fear but instead something to be cognizant of and recognize.

Voices & Resources That Inspire AJ’s Professional Practice

On Twitter, AJ recommends following @CultofPedagogy. He learns a lot from Jennifer Gonzales and describes her as his pedagogical North Star.

AJ just finished reading 21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari, and considers it a fascinating read. Follow the author on Twitter @Harari_Yuval.

AJ’s podcast pick right now is The Knowledge Project Podcast with Shane Parrish. Follow the host on Twitter @FarnamStreet.

Over on YouTube, AJ suggests subscribing to his co-author, John Spencer. Follow John on Twitter @SpencerIdeas.

In terms of non-educational viewing, AJ and his wife are enjoying The Americans on Amazon Prime right now. It’s making him suspect everyone around him of being a spy!

We sign off on the conversation, and AJ gives us the very best place to connect with him and receive more of his thoughts on education: AJJuliani.com. Visit him there and subscribe!

Other Places to Connect with AJ

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 68 – Dr. Brad Gustafson

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Guest Profile

DR. BRAD GUSTAFSON is a National Distinguished Principal, best-selling author, and speaker. He is also a Digital Innovation in Learning Award winner and a member of the National School Boards Association “20 to Watch.” Brad recently released a new book that is making a stir: Reclaiming Our Calling: Hold on to the Heart, Mind, and Hope of Education. Find out more about his work at www.BradGustafson.com and follow Brad on Twitter @GustafsonBrad.

The Importance of Investing in Student Relationships

Brad recalls the experience of suspending a student who struggled to regulate her behavior and manage her emotions effectively. During a conversation with the parent, the parent said “I just wish you had gotten to know her.”

Brad let that comment absorb deeply, and from that point forward he worked hard to build a relationship with this student. Through the course of the year, they partnered on computer design projects, LEGO drone activities, etc. and the relationship improved. By the end of the year, he was able to leverage the relationship effectively to help this student manage her emotions effectively and de-escalate formerly impossible situations quickly.

The Heart of Education

In Reclaiming Our Calling: Hold on to the Heart, Mind, and Hope of Education, Brad seeks to address the tension between the pressure on schools to meet certain metrics of academic performance and the mission of educators to meet the needs of the whole child. How do we restore balance in education and reaffirm the things that matter most? Brad debunks the notion that high-value learning and a nurturing environment must be mutually exclusive. We can do both well — and stay sane in that process.

The Place of EdTech

When it comes to strategic uses of edtech and developing digital literacy, the guiding theme should be the idea of connectedness. Instead of always being focused on the latest and greatest apps or technology, we should be asking questions like “How will this bring us together?” and “How will this connect our learners to content, to opportunities, and to one another?” Technology tools should connect with the creator and the maker inside every student, because that will be a mindset that transcends their time in schools.

Engaging Students in Learning

Whoever is doing the talking is doing a lot of the learning. When students are actively engaged in reflecting and conversation, that’s when learning really happens.

If we want to reach the YouTube generation, does it not make sense to have kids be active creators and consumers alongside us? We want to scaffold and model and walk with them in a safe environment, with the best of the best: committed and mindful educators.

Having Grace for the Learning Journeys of All Educators

Conversations about leading change, valuing good work, and moving to next steps will never grow old. Sometimes we can get so hyper-focused on innovation and pedagogy that we fail to recognize and value the baby steps of growth experienced by some educators.

Every educator is on a journey, and we need to be careful not to demonize practices deemed “behind the curve” when in fact they may represent progress for someone else. It’s when teachers feel safe to try new things and grow that the most growth happens.

Amplifying Student Voice

In terms of student ownership and learner empowerment, another key to building a positive learning culture is finding ways to amplify student voice from the time they enter school. Learning can’t be done to students, it’s done by students. A student wrote the foreword to Reclaiming our Calling, and Brad’s also had the pleasure of seeing a former student speak at the state principals’ conference.

When we amplify student voice, we also allow teachers to learn from learners. Great things are possible when we invest in student strengths, empower, and give kids ownership of their learning journeys.

Professional Goals, Passions, and Productivity Hacks

This school year, Brad is focused on more meaningful conversations around change and growth. He wants to support and learn from others in his community and across his PLN. Platforms like Voxer and Twitter are fulfilling and making a difference because they inspire and inform across local and global learning communities.

Brad loves competing, and lately he’s been having a blast playing against his kids on games like Crossfire and Risk. He also enjoys playing pickle ball at school and of course reading. Even more fun than talking about books he’s read have been the facilitation of activities that inspire other educators and learners to talk about their reading.

Taking inspiration from his friend Jessica Cabeen’s Balance Like a Pirate, Brad spends some minutes each morning drinking coffee and centering his thoughts with reflection and time in the Bible. He’s found that grabbing his phone too quickly can send him down the rabbit hole of email and social media, and very quickly the day starts to happen to him — instead of moving through the day with intentionality and purpose.

Voices & Resources That Inspire Brad’s Professional Practice

On Twitter, Brad recommends following @PrincipalBoots. Lindsy is a wealth of stories about family, education, and laughs. Check her out for nonstop inspiration.

Instead of pointing to a favorite edtech tool, Brad makes the point that when you know your pedagogical goals, approach, and can articulate them, you’ll know right away if a tool will or will not fit. Brad’s pillars of pedagogy include collaboration, student ownership, digital connectivity, and experiential learning – all grounded in relationships. Those criteria form his judgments when it comes to choosing tech tools.

Over in books, Brad suggests checking out a book first recommended to him by George Couros – one written in such a unique and powerful style that in some ways it shaped the direction for Reclaiming Our Calling. The book is Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni. Follow the author on Twitter @PatrickLencioni.

Like the guest before him, Dr. Brad selects the Better Leaders Better Schools podcast by Danny Bauer as his top pick in education. Add it to your daily commute today and follow @AlienEarbud on Twitter to learn more about the show.

Still a self-professed kid at heart, Brad enjoys the LEGO channel on YouTube. Follow LEGO on Twitter @LEGO_Group.

There’s some strategy involved with the Gustafsons’ Netflix viewing. Just when their Minnesota winter gets its coldest, Brad and the family watch Hawaii 5-0. It helps them dream of warmer climes and fun in the sun even while things are freezing.

We sign off on this conversation, and Brad reminds us of the best places to follow him. Make sure you grab your copy of Reclaiming Our Calling today!

Follow Dr. Brad

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.

Episode 66 – Dr. Sarah Thomas

66 - Dr. Sarah Thomas

Guest Profile

DR. SARAH THOMAS is a regional technology coordinator in Maryland and serves as affiliate faculty at Loyola University. In 2014, Sarah founded the EduMatch Project, and she has spoken and presented at numerous conferences since. Find out more about Sarah on her blog and follow her on Twitter at @sarahdateechur.

The Challenge of Finding the Right Fit

Sarah’s first three years in education were the hardest of her career. She came through alternative certification after completing a bachelor’s degree in radio, television, and film. As she began her undergraduate work, Sarah’s mother became a middle school teacher, and Sarah was impressed.

After graduating with her bachelor’s degree in media, she enrolled in a Master’s of Education program. Early into her Master’s studies, she responded to an ad calling for teachers in her district. Once she finished her training program, she found it a challenge to find the right placement in the district. It was discouraging at first to try to figure things out and adapt to different school cultures, but the support of her family and the meaningful relationships she was building with students propelled her through.

The Vision and Mission of EduMatch

EduMatch started from a conversation Sarah had on Twitter, when she connected two educators with unique passions and interests that matched the other’s. That’s what it’s about: learning and growing together, helping others on their education journeys, and leveraging the power of stories. Through its publishing work, EduMatch amplifies the voices of students and educators who have a story to share. A series of crowd-sourced books have led to solo projects, with five solo titles published in 2018 and more on the horizon. If you’re an educator interested in contributing to the 2019 edition of EduMatch’s annual Snapshot in Education, complete this form.

Passions, Goals, and Creativity

Social media has opened incredible opportunities for educators around the world. The democratization effect created by the internet now allows every educator to find their own voice and share their own learning journey. The old paradigm of established voices and gatekeepers has shifted, and as the sharing increases, the professional learning accelerates. This democratization also opens up new possibilities for learning with and from students, which is equally exciting.

In terms of professional growth, Sarah is hoping to get back to producing more content this year. She argues that when we share what we’re doing, what we’re doing well, and what we are trying to improve, the act of publishing helps to give us the valuable feedback that we need to direct our next steps. Over the past year, Sarah was able to collaborate on Closing the Gap: Digital Equity Strategies for Teacher Prep Programs, and now that she’s got the writing bug she feels ready for more!

Outside of her work in education technology, teaching, and publishing, Sarah is most passionate about music. She’s enjoyed listening, playing, and learning musical instruments for as long as she can remember, and she’s excited by the prospects of bringing more music back into her life in 2019.

Voices & Resources That Inspire Sarah’s Professional Practice

If you’re looking for passionate educators to add to your PLN, Sarah invites you to check out the Awesome Table of EduMatch. Find educators around the world who are working in the same spaces you are.

Sarah’s edtech tool recommendation for educators is Voxer. Get in and get connected! Follow Voxer on Twitter @Voxer.

The book that is most meaningful to Sarah at the moment is one written by her father! She’s working through it on her Kindle at the moment and it’s giving her a fascinating understanding of her family’s history.

One education podcast that Sarah has been tuned into for some time is the The Dr. Will Show. The show is hosted and produced by Will Deyamport, with a focus on edupreneurship: serving other educators well while producing an income as well. Follow the host of the show on Twitter @IAmDrWill.

Sarah has two YouTube recommendations to share. The first is The Mr. Wasko, an educator who creates fun similes and metaphors from movies and pop culture. The second pick is purely for fun: Zach Morris is Trash – a serial that appears on the Funny or Die channel. Follow these channels on Twitter @FunnyorDie and @TheMrWasko.

Finishing her doctorate has allowed Sarah to enjoy a season of reduced demands, leisure, and rest. On Netflix, she’s been enjoying Wentworth.

We sign off on this conversation and Sarah shares the best ways to follow her and EduMatch online. See below for details!

Follow Sarah …

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.