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

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

Episode 49 – Colby Sharp

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COLBY SHARP is a husband, father of five, fifth grade teacher, avid reader and book reviewer, runner, and self-proclaimed nerd. He is the author of The Creativity Project: An Awesometastic Story Collection and 2018’s Game Changer!: Book Access for All Kids.

In our conversation, Colby recalls the discouragement of a harsh professional evaluation and explains how he grew from the experience. He describes the heart and process of The Creativity Project, and explains how teachers can use this anthology to inspire creative expression in their English classrooms. He also shares about his passion for reading, putting books in the hands of kids, creativity, daily exercise, podcasts, Casey Neistat, and much more.

Follow Colby online here:

Find the highlights from our conversation at the timestamps below:

  • 0:49 – Colby teaches 5th grade at Parma Elementary School in Parma, MI.
  • 1:23 – He describes the experience of receiving fairly harsh reviews from his principal after his first year of teaching. Rather than throwing a pity party, he decided to learn from the experience, take steps to grow as a professional, and things improved quickly from there.
  • 3:24 – We talk about the mission and message of The Creativity Project: An Awesometastic Story Collection. Colby describes how authors were given a choice of two prompts to respond to creatively. The results were amazing, and the book offers exciting examples of where the creative process can take students as well.
  • 8:11 – Colby describes another passion he has for education today: teachers. Teachers today have incredible passion for kids and for learning. They’re in it for the right reasons. The new teachers he’s seeing come to the profession are inspiring.
  • 9:25 – Colby is also deeply passionate about improving access to books in schools, libraries, and communities – finding more ways to get books into the hands of children. Nerd Camp is an annual conference that connects young readers and authors. The last Nerd Camp was attended by 1500 educators, 1000 kids, and 50 authors. Every kid that attended left with at least one free author-signed book.
  • 10:55 – His productivity hack is daily exercise. He’s only missed about seven days so far in 2018, and he believes in it enough to spend his lunch breaks running.
  • 12:48 – On Twitter, Colby recommends that you give @SusanKHaney a follow.
  • 13:53 – One tried and true edtech tool in Colby’s classroom is Audible, which you can follow on Twitter @Audible_com.
  • 15:22 – A professional book that Colby thoroughly enjoyed and learned from this summer was 180 DAYS: Two Teachers and the Quest to Engage and Empower Adolescents by Kelly Gallagher and Penny Kittle. Follow these incredible authors on Twitter @KellyGToGo and @PennyKittle.
  • 17:13 – Colby’s top education podcast recommendation is Cult of Pedagogy by Jennifer Gonzales. Follow Jennifer @cultofpedagogy.
  • 19:55 – On Youtube, Colby recommends subscribing to master storyteller Casey Neistat.
  • 21:16 – A recent Netflix title that Colby gives both thumbs up to is To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, which embodies everything that’s good, fun, and wholesome about the teen romantic comedy genre.
  • 22:51 – We wrap up our conversation, and Colby shares the best ways to follow him online. See above for details and links!

Subscribe to the Teachers on Fire podcast on your mobile device: iTunes | Google Podcasts | YouTube | Spotify

Follow the podcast on Twitter @TeachersOnFire and on Instagram @TeachersOnFire.

Song Track Credits

  • Intro: Relax (by Simon More)
  • Outtro: Starley – Call on Me Remix (by DJ Zhorik)

Listen to this episode on YouTube and subscribe for more episodes!

Episode 42 – Jamie Osborne

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JAMIE OSBORNE is a middle school teacher-librarian in Richmond, BC, Canada. She writes at https://thebiblioz.wordpress.com/ and recently published her first episode of The Biblioz podcast for teacher librarians.

In our conversation, Jamie addresses the challenges of moving students from an unhealthy focus on grades to the uninhibited freedom of failure-free learning. She explains why she enjoys her new role in the library so much and describes her personal transformation from Twitter lurker to contributor, blogger, and now podcaster. Jamie also shares some of her personal habits and passions and offers some solid recommendations for books to read, Twitter accounts to follow, and more.

Follow Jamie!
TW: @TheBiblioz
IG: @TheBiblioz
Blog: https://thebiblioz.wordpress.com/
Podcast: https://apple.co/2MTMBXL

Find the highlights from our conversation at the timestamps below:

  • 0:56 – Jamie describes her current role in education as a new teacher-librarian at a middle school in Richmond, BC, Canada.
  • 1:39 – One challenge she recalls from earlier in her career was when some of her high school students and parents seemed more focused on marks than their learning, and students seemed unable or unwilling to take risks. Since that time, it’s been a pleasure to move to the library where she enjoys designing learning experiences that take place without the involvement of marks. This fall, she’s excited to introduce a multidisciplinary course for 8th Graders called STEAM 8. Students will be free to pursue learning and creativity in all sorts of directions, much of their work modeled closely on the design process and all of it without traditional marks attached.
  • 4:46 Jamie discusses the things that currently ignite her passion in education: empowering students to become more confident and creative, take risks, think outside of the box, and adapt to new challenges.
  • 7:42 – Jamie explains how and why she went from being a Twitter lurker to a Twitter contributor, blogger, and now podcaster. A highlight from June 2018 included a visit to the ISTE conference in Chicago, where she interviewed some of the biggest names in the librarian niche and published their thoughts on her Biblioz podcast.
  • 11:13 – Areas of personal passion and learning include painting, calligraphy, photography … anything visually creative. She enjoys pushing herself and growing beyond her creative comfort zone.
  • 11:50 – Personal habits that contribute to Jamie’s creative success relate to self-care: exercising, taking times to shut off mentally, and setting clear personal boundaries.
  • 14:08 – On Twitter, Jamie recommends @ExLibrisMrHunt, @ErinKCald, and  @Esther_Memmott.
  • 15:14 – For edtech tools, Jamie looks forward to unlocking new learning experiences for her students through Google Expeditions.
  • 15:37 – As a librarian, you know Jamie’s got a great book pick for us. It’s Launch: Using Design Thinking to Boost Creativity and Bring Out the Maker in Every Student by John Spencer and AJ Juliani.
  • 16:36 – If you’re looking for another quality podcast to add to your daily commute this year, check out Educated by Design with Michael Cohen (@TheTechRabbi).
  • 17:23 – Finally, when she’s got no brainpower left for anything productive, Jamie’s watching Hinterland on Netflix.
  • 18:48 – We sign off on the interview, and Jamie reminds us how we can follow her content online. See above for details!

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Follow the podcast on Twitter @TeachersOnFire and on Instagram @TeachersOnFire.

Song Track Credits

  • Intro: Relax (by Simon More)
  • Outtro: Starley – Call on Me Remix (by DJ Zhorik)

Listen to this episode on YouTube and subscribe for more episodes!

Episode 36: Andi McNair

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Andi McNair is a keynote speaker and blogger specializing in edtech, genius hour, and innovation in education. She is also the co-founder of #makeithappenEDU and the author of Genius Hour: Passion Projects that Ignite Innovation and Student Inquiry. See more of her content at http://www.andimcnair.com.

In this conversation, Andi describes the low moment in her classroom that changed it all for her – when she realized her learners were completely disengaged and she knew she needed to reimagine her practice. Thanks to some inspiring education leaders, she began a journey of passion-based learning and has never looked back. Andi also tells us why it’s a great time to be an educator and shares some great recommendations for books to read, Twitter accounts to follow, and more.

Check out Genius Hour: Passion Projects that Ignite Innovation and Student Inquiry on Amazon!

Follow Andi on the web at http://www.andimcnair.com/ and on Twitter @McNairan3.

Find the highlights from our conversation at the timestamps below:

  • 1:00 – Andi describes her past and current roles in education.
  • 1:52 – Reality check: when Andi noticed her students had become completely disengaged, she knew she had to either leave the profession or completely reinvent herself and redefine her practice. She chose the latter.
  • 3:53 – We discuss the heart of Andi’s book, Genius Hour: Passion Projects that Ignite Innovation and Student Inquiry. She describes how Genius Hour advocates like Don Wettrick, Gallit Zvi, Denise Krebs, Joy Kirr, and introduced her to the idea of passion-based learning. In the book, Andi maps out the 6 Ps of Genius Hour, a process that has worked well in her context give teachers and learners a clear path to the finish line: passion, pitch, plan, project, product, and presentation.
  • 7:52 – Andi tells us why it’s such a great time to be in education: because of the power to connect our learners with each other, with other classes, with outside experts, etc. and help students understand the WHY behind their learning through authentic products.
  • 10:07 – One of Andi’s personal passions is one that she enjoys with her family: watching and learning more about the great game of baseball.
  • 11:33 – A personal habit that contributes to her success: journaling every single day – not just remembering (what I did and how) but reflecting (what I learned and why). Some of her reflections happen collaboratively on Voxer!
  • 13:55 – Her Twitter account suggestion is @DonWettrick, international speaker and presenter, host of the StartEdUp podcast, and author of Pure Genius: Building a Culture of Innovation.
  • 14:26 – Andi gives us two edtech recommendations. The first is Nepris, which connects industry professionals with classrooms (@NeprisApp on Twitter). The second is Thrively, which helps learners discover their strengths, interests, and aspirations (@Thrively on Twitter).
  • 15:25 – Her book recommendations start with a classic for any teacher looking for more passion, motivation, or imagination: Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess (@BurgessDave on Twitter). She also recommends a book we’ve recommended here recently: Shift This by Joy Kirr (@JoyKirr on Twitter).
  • 16:42 – On Netflix, Andi’s enjoying When Calls the Heart, a show built around a woman who teaches in a small Canadian mining town in the early 1900s. Add it to your list!
  • 17:02 – Andi signs off and gives us the best ways to follow her content online: and at her website (http://www.andimcnair.com/) on Twitter @McNairan3, and on http://voxer.com/ @AndiMcNair.

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Song Track Credits

Intro: Relax (by Simon More)
Outtro: Starley – Call on Me Remix (by DJ Zhorik)

LISTEN to this episode on YouTube and SUBSCRIBE for more episodes!