Episode 76 – Kali Slusser

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Meet Our Guest

KALI SLUSSER is an instructional coach, fitness obsessor, and kombucha fanatic! She is also a wife of a fellow teacher and a mom of three. Connect with Kali on Twitter @KaliSlusser and follow her ongoing book reviews with Greg Moffitt at https://readlikeapirate.wordpress.com/.

Rethinking Careers

Kali recalls the experience of being let go by a school district after twelve years of teaching. The school did not have a union and decided to lay off a number of teachers with seniority as a cost-cutting measure. Devastated and disillusioned, Kali started looking at a new career as a fitness instructor.

Things changed quickly at the end of that summer when an administrator called to ask Kali to step into a classroom on an emergency basis – the school year was set to start in two days, and the school needed to fill a position in a hurry. Despite the abrupt transition, Kali found her footing that first year and continues to serve in the same school (albeit a different position) – six years later.

The Journey of Read Like a Pirate

The mission to partner with Greg Moffitt to read and review all of the DBC books at readlikeapirate.wordpress.com began three years ago when Kali first read Teach Like a Pirate. At the time, she tried to get a book club going in her school, but the idea received little interest and support.

Later, she read Lead Like a Pirate, and soon decided that Greg (her principal) would thoroughly enjoy the read. She was right, and Greg didn’t stop there. He went on to read Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros, Culturize by Jimmy Casas, and other great titles from Dave Burgess Consulting.

Inspired by the book reviews from Alicia Ray, Kali suggested to Greg that they also begin reading and reviewing the entire DBC series at a pace of one per week. The deal was struck, the blog was born, and so far these two educators have read and reviewed 19 books together.

One of the reading tricks or hacks that Kali and Greg use is the iPhone accessibility (voice over) option, which can read out loud from the Kindle app.

The Life of an Instructional Coach

As an instructional coach, Kali follows the school’s professional growth cycle to support educators along their independent learning journeys. She coaches, plans, observes, and helps teachers reflect on their practice – the most important part of the coaching process. She also attends professional development events and presents her learning to the staff about once a month.

Kali enjoys a highly collaborative relationship with administrators, who give her the room and flexibility to try new things and make adjustments in her role where appropriate. She calls the role a lot of fun and an amazing experience.

What Excites Kali About Education Today

Kali is excited and energized by the direction that education is moving. Today’s learning activities are less about memorizing facts and more about becoming an independent learner and problem-solver. It’s an exciting paradigm shift, and it’s been fun to observe these differences play out even in her own children.

Professional Goal

It’s been a challenge at times to shift her mindset from that of a teacher to a coach. She has to resist the urge to tell teachers “this is how you should be doing this” and instead pose reflective questions and help teachers come to new realizations on their own.

Personal Passions and Productivity Hacks

A couple of things that ignite Kali as a human being when she leaves the school are fitness and nutrition. Exercise fuels, relaxes, and energizes her. She enjoys taking care of herself and her family, and she tries to devote non-education reading time to these areas as well.

Kali gets up at 5:00 a.m. on most mornings, grabbing an energy drink, getting dishes and laundry going, and starting her workout. It’s quality me-time that allows her to listen to podcasts and prepare mentally for the day.

Voices & Resources That Inspire Kali’s Professional Practice

On Twitter, Kali recommends following @JeffreyKubiak, another charismatic California principal who appeared on the Teachers on Fire podcast at episode 54. Jeff is awesome! Be sure to follow her amazing reading partner on Twitter as well. You’ll find him @Greg_Moffitt.

Kali’s pick for edtech tools is Flipgrid, and perhaps no other platform is as good at increasing student voice and communication in your classroom. Follow Flipgrid on Twitter @FlipGrid.

Outside of the books from Dave Burgess Consulting, Kali recommends 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.

One podcast that is really grabbing the whole family’s interest when they’re in the car is Brains On! Check it out at https://www.brainson.org/.

Over on YouTube, Kali’s go-to channel is the tried-and-true TED Talks. If you still haven’t subscribed, maybe it’s about time!

When she finds time for some Netflix entertainment, Kali’s watching Grey’s Anatomy. The show has it all: humor, romance, adult storylines, and the reminder that there are other fields more stressful than education.

We sign off on this fun conversation, and Kali reminds us of the best places to follow her online. See below!

See more from Kali:

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 45 – Jarrod Dumas

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JARROD DUMAS is an assistant principal at Oak Hill Middle School in Sabattus, Maine. He recently published Unlocking Excellence: A Guide to Becoming an Extraordinary Educator.

In our conversation, Jarrod recalls a great story about how his own sarcasm once cost him in the classroom. He shares about the heart and message of his book, and discusses the sources of his excitement in education today. We also get into Carl Jung’s archetypes, fitness, educators to follow on Twitter, Sherlock Holmes, and more! See below for more details and timestamps from our conversation.

Follow Jarrod online here:

Find the highlights from our conversation at the timestamps below:

  • 0:55 – Jarrod describes his current position and responsibilities as Assistant Principal at Oak Hill Middle School in Sabattus, ME.
  • 2:26 – “Well, if you would get off your ass and teach us something … I wouldn’t be playing these games now, would I?” Jarrod recalls a time that sarcasm cost him in the classroom and explains how being authentic with students can build relationships and buy credibility.
  • 8:13 – We talk about the heart and message for educators in Unlocking Excellence: A Guide to Becoming an Extraordinary Educator. In the book, Jarrod shares practical advice and relevant examples that help educators improve their mindset and become the best that they can be.
  • 12:01 – There’s a lot that excites Jarrod about education today: the opportunity to shift the paradigm in education, the promise of technology and the ability to bring the outside world into the classroom, and more. There’s nothing we can’t sort out if every part of the learning community contributes and pulls together, he says.
  • 13:39 – An area of personal learning that has been fascinating Jarrod outside of education lately is Carl Jung’s work on archetypes, which can give us a fresh lens through which to view and understand ourselves and our potential.
  • 17:07 – A personal habit that contributes to his success is fitness: exercising regularly, eating right, walking, and practicing self-care. As educators, we need to remember to put on the oxygen mask first.
  • 19:37 – On Twitter, Jarrod points us toward @TeacherofSci1, who offers great content on Instagram and has a large following on other platforms but is relatively new to Twitter.
  • 20:43 – Looking to classroom practice, Jarrod recommends any edtech tools that increase student engagement. In particular, he mentions Socrative and Kahoot. Get to know those two platforms on Twitter @Socrative and @GetKahoot.
  • 20:43 – Jarrod gives us two great book recommendations. The first is King, Warrior, Magician, Lover by Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette. The second is Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Novels and Stories Vol. 1 by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
  • 23:26 – If you’re looking for some hard-hitting motivation for your creative and entrepreneurial dreams, look no further than The Gary Vee Audio Experience by @GaryVee.
  • 24:36 – A YouTube channel that never fails to deliver motivation in the mornings for Jarrod is Motivation Guru. He recommends subscribing!
  • 25:30 – When he’s got no energy for anything productive, Jarrod is watching Peaky Blinders on Netflix.
  • 26:23 – We sign off on the conversation and Jarrod shares the best ways and places 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

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!