Episode 87 – Kristen Nan

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Meet Kristen Nan

KRISTEN NAN is a blogger, presenter, and award-winning educator for innovative practices. She’s also a believer in goodness, an idea generator, a risk taker, and a disruptor in education!

Kristen just completed another year as a third grade teacher at Hopewell Elementary, a school located in a tight-knit suburban community outside of Pittsburgh, PA. The area is a melting pot of Europe built on a strong work ethic, a steel mill, and an industrial revolution way of life. Kristen entered the profession 22 years ago, with the last 20 of those years spent in third grade.

Idea Tsunamis

Kristen is by nature a risk-taker, and her constant tsunami of new ideas can feel overwhelming for others at times. She’s the kind of person that says, “What’s the worst that can happen here?” while others are saying “Let me list all the ways this can go wrong!”

Although she can get rattled when not everyone is on board, she overcomes this weight by finding her people, her fellow risk-takers, and her supporters. Some of these people are within her district, and others can be found across her global PLN. That’s one of the reasons she finds it so essential to be connected with other educators around the world.

True Grit

Kristen’s blog prominently displays a header that reads “Call me stubborn, but I refuse to quit! T.R.U.E. G.R.I.T. is the foundation for success in learning and life! Exploring the dynamics of a successful classroom and how grit is a vital characteristic of student achievement.”

When asked why the development of grit is such a passion for her, Kristen observes that she’s relied on this competency ever since childhood. Her experiences have taught her first-hand how important this trait is, and that’s part of what fuels her mission to promote grit for educators and learners today.

On her site and in her writing, Kristen uses GRIT to represent goal setting, responsibility, imagining excellence, and a tough mindset to back it all up. This mix of heart, soul, and mind is what life is all about!

The starting point for building grit in kids is LOVE – when kids feel loved, known, and safe, they will be more willing to take risks and persevere through adversity. Building grit in our learners is also about not rescuing too quickly, allowing them those times of productive struggle, and making sure we don’t rob them of opportunities to conquer difficult challenges or solve problems through their own efforts.

Perfectionism can be an enemy to risk-taking and grit, which is something both educators and parents must recognize. When our students feel pressured to be perfect and not miss a single thing, they’ll be less likely to take risks or think creatively.

EdTech Innovation and Learning in Education

The excitement of learning something new never gets old for Kristen. One day after her last day of school this year, the ideas had already started cooking for the next year.

New apps and edtech resources energize her, and she gets a thrill out of the collaboration and connections that can result. She finished the year with an app smackdown in her third grade class, and her students blew her mind with their creativity and engagement.

Professional Goals and Self-Reflection

Kristen’s immediate focus is the process of self-reflection and learning that takes place after every school year, and this interview has been helpful in terms of engaging more deeply in this process. What should I be doing differently? How can I be better? These are the questions she asks herself while she sets goals and learns from other progressive educators in her PLN.

She’s also a big reader – she’s read over 50 books in the last two years – and she also loves to write about education when the opportunities present themselves. She doesn’t regret breaks in her blogging activities, because those breaks simply speak to other priorities and realities in her life.

She’s also working on a book at the moment, but she expects it to come out later this year. It will be co-authored by Jacie Maslyk. The title will be “ALL IN: Taking a Gamble in Education.”

Personal Passions Away From Education

The things that really bring life and energy back to Kristen start with the simplest: people, music, and laughter. She also loves to camp, kayak, take photos, and even draw, but none of it fills her soul without meaningful people and relationships in the picture.

Productivity Starts with Emotional Health

Kristen is a glass half full kind of person. She’s certainly seen her share of adversity and difficult times, but her orientation continually brings her back to finding the good in others and situations. “I’m a forgiver,” she says, noting that as we forgive others, it allows us to forgive ourselves. It also helps to give us the joy to ride above the critics or the unfair judgments of others.

Voices and Resources That Inspire Kristen’s Professional Practice

On Twitter, Kristen recommends following @BethHill2829, founder of #JoyfulLeaders and a source of continual inspiration.

Kristen’s favorite edtech tools at the moment are the Sphero Specdrums, which allowed her students to create some amazing things this year.

As a big time reader herself, it wasn’t easy for Kristen to pick out just one book. She settled on the recently released In Other Words: Quotes that Push Our Thinking by Rachelle Dene Poth. If you want to broaden your perspectives, give this book a read, and get to know the author on Twitter @RDene915.

Kristen has two educational podcasts to share. The first is Teach Better Talk with hosts Jeff Gargas and Rae Hughart (both former guests of the Teachers on Fire podcast) and Dr. Sam Fecich’s EduMagic podcast for pre-service teachers. Sam is also a former Teachers on Fire guest and is part of the Teachers on Fire Magazine writing team! You won’t go wrong by adding these podcasts to your podcast app subscriptions.

Kristen’s pick for channels on YouTube is ISTE. With the 2019 conference fast approaching, she’s been gobbling up everything this channel has to offer.

Connect with Kristen:

Song Track Credits

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

Episode 77 – Adam Welcome

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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.

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 75 – Annick Rauch

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Meet Our Guest

ANNICK RAUCH is a Grade 1 French immersion teacher in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. She’s a loving mom to 4 boys and wife to the man who allows her to do it all. Her passions in education include growth mindset, global collaboration, and all things innovation. You can follow her on Twitter @AnnickRauch and visit her blog at http://www.annickrauch.ca/.

A Bump in the Road

Annick recalls a moment last year when a live on-screen image search in front of the class went wrong. After her initial alarm and concern, she carefully debriefed the incident with her learners and emailed parents to explain what had happened. Parents were surprisingly thankful for the way that she handled the unfortunate surprise and the lessons students took away from it. Read Annick’s full reflection on this situation at her blog.

Seesaw in the Language Classroom

As a language teacher, Annick loves what Seesaw offers in terms of helping students represent their learning and connect with parents. Although most of her students don’t come from francophone homes, Seesaw gets parents engaged in the learning process and is a great tool for documenting and curating the learning journeys of her students.

The Growth Mindset and YouTube Read-Alouds

Annick has done a lot of work with her learners around growth mindset. She sees it as an essential life skill – young learners need to grasp the Power of YET in order to help them develop grit and resilience in their approach to difficult learning challenges. Annick has helped to organize growth mindset read-alouds, featuring different classes reading through great children’s books that illustrate growth mindset. Her classes have also connected globally with other classes and authors around the world, giving these activities even more interest and impact.

Check out one example of these growth mindset read-alouds on YouTube: It’s Okay to Make Mistakes.

The Impact of Authors from Dave Burgess Consulting

Authors like Jennifer Casa-Todd, George Couros, Tamara Letter, Paul Solarz and many others have all been instrumental in Annick’s personal and professional learning journey. They all have one thing in common: they’ve published books through Dave Burgess Consulting.

Annick recalls how a learning conference at High Tech High in San Diego first connected her with Twitter and Learn Like a Pirate, by Paul Solarz. After learning from the book, Annick tweeted out a snippet from her learning, and the Solarz actually responded! Encouraged by this connection, Annick went on to read The Innovator’s Mindset, Teach Like a Pirate, A Passion for Kindness, and other best-sellers from DBC.

She’s thankful for the support she’s received from these authors and encourages other educators to experience the same sort of support and inspiration. “Just pick a book that interests you … and get connected with the author,” she says.

Passions and Professional Goals in Education

Annick is thrilled today by the incredible new opportunities for global collaboration in education. She talks about her recent connection with Karen Caswell in Australia and the opportunities she’s had to bring authors like Tamara Letter and Dave Burgess into her classroom via Google Hangouts.

This year, one of Annick’s biggest professional goals has been to develop the Optimal Learning Model (from Regie Routman) in her practice. She’s been getting together a few times a year with a small group of educators who are also working on this model, and she’s also been able to learn a lot from co-teaching with another teacher immersed in the model. She’s been able to implement what she’s learned in two incredible writing projects, and she’s been blown away with the learning and progress demonstrated by her first graders. See a recent exhibition of their learning.

Personal Interests Outside of the Classroom

Annick has been a writer since she had the first of her fourth boys. Her writing has moved from emails to keepsake books to her blog. Most of her blogging has been about education, because learning remains one of her chief passions. Writing has definitely been a source of energy and motivation for her ever since those early emails, and she plans to continue this practice.

Secrets of Annick’s Productivity

Annick relies on a few things to keep her healthy, inspired, and productive. Her husband is a key support on the home front, looking after dinners every day and supporting her in many other ways.

She’s also a goal-setter, and she’s found great success by setting simple, attainable goals. That attainable part is key – it’s better to run for at least ten minutes than not run at all.

Another productivity hack is list-making: she thrives on lists and will even write in list items after they’ve been completed, just so she can cross another item off.

Annick has also added more support at home by hiring some cleaning help. She and her husband really appreciate the time and energy gained from this decision and consider it a good investment in quality of life.

Voices & Resources That Inspire Annick’s Professional Practice

On Twitter, Annick’s been gaining tremendous inspiration from @TamaraLetter. Annick also wrote a personal endorsement for Letter’s A Passion for Kindness and recommends it as an essential read.

If you’re looking to start reading education books from Dave Burgess Consulting, Annick recommends starting with the title that began it all: Teach Like a Pirate. Follow the author, Dave Burgess, on Twitter @BurgessDave.

Over on YouTube, Annick recommends subscribing to John Spencer. His channel is full of short, pithy, inspirational messages for educators. Few education channels offer more value! Follow the channel creator on Twitter @SpencerIdeas.

On Netflix, Annick is gaining inspiration from Heal and reliable amusement from Life in Pieces.

We sign off on this conversation, and Annick lets us know where we can see more from her online. See below for details!

See more from Annick:

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.

Just Start: Get on the Track of Improvement

By settling for safety, we miss out on certain growth and learning.

Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash

“Fear is always triggered by creativity, because creativity asks you to enter into realms of uncertain outcome. This is nothing to be ashamed of. It is, however, something to be dealt with.” — Elizabeth Gilbert

At the outset of the new year, AJ Juliani issued a challenge to the education world: blog — or engage in blogging activities — for thirty days.

His call was a welcome one. Research has long been telling us that our students learn best when they are given the time, tools, and opportunity to reflect thoughtfully on their own learning journeys. In Leaders of Their Own Learning, Ron Berger calls this sort of metacognitive activity “writing to learn.”

The same principle applies for educators.

Writing to Learn and Learning to Write

The more we speak, write, tweet, vlog, and publish about our learning and professional practice, the more we will learn, grow, and develop as educators. And as we make our own learning visible, others benefit and grow as well.

John Hattie talks about the power of collective efficacy. Stephen Covey calls it win-win. Simply put, we’re better together.

Our professional growth isn’t just about reading and listening to the established voices in education. It’s also about sharing and contributing our own experiences.

So, as passionate educators, why don’t we participate in the global conversation more than we do?

It’s Not Really About Time

The typical response says we don’t have enough time in the week. But for most, that’s not actually the case. As Laura Vanderkam demonstrates convincingly in 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think, most of us actually do have the time.

When you get right down to it, most of us aren’t hitting ‘Publish’ for one reason: fear.

We fear embarrassment. Rejection. Crickets.

We assume that our voice doesn’t matter. That no one will pay attention. Or worse yet, that we’ll be exposed as an imposter.

As Elizabeth Gilbert points out, most of us don’t publish creatively because the outcome is uncertain. There’s just no guarantee of success — whatever success means.

So we take the safe option.

The Power of Practice

But people who aren’t publishing are overlooking an absolute guarantee: improvement.

That’s right, I said it. When you create content consistently over time, your growth and improvement is guaranteed. You can’t help but get better.

In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell makes the case that repetition is highly underrated. He tells story after story of individuals who simply put in the time on their craft to gradually become an expert in their space.

Marques Brownlee

Earlier this year, I listened to a podcast featuring YouTuber Marques Brownlee, a soft-spoken, thoughtful, and charismatic tech reviewer. He talked about how he began publishing YouTube videos back in high school simply because he loved the medium and enjoyed the process. As he describes it, his first 100 videos were viewed by audiences of around 100 people.

Today, Brownlee’s videos earn millions of views apiece. He has 7.7M subscribers.

It’s not all about growing an audience. That’s not really my point, although the size of his growing viewership does speak to the value of his work.

What I’m more interested in is those first 100 videos. Just think about the sort of headspace he was in to continue creating.

As he puts it, he created content simply because he enjoyed it. The views and reactions were secondary.

And because he stuck with it, he’s obviously eclipsed Gladwell’s 10,000 hours. He’s become a master at his craft.

The Teachers on Fire Podcast

In March of 2018, I realized a long-held dream by launching a podcast for educators, Teachers on Fire. I didn’t really know what I was doing, and I had questions about everything from applications to equipment to guests.

It took a lot of work to get started, and it definitely wasn’t easy. My sound quality was awful at the beginning, and I made a ton of unfortunate mistakes that made the process even more painful.

The interview for my very first episode took forever to complete because the recording app I was using crashed at least six times. It was a frustrating first experience.

Almost a year later, I still don’t have it all figured out. But I’m learning. I’m growing. I’m improving my craft. I’m miles and miles from where I started, and my conversations with education leaders are inspiring listeners around the world.

Consistent Content Creation is a Direct Line to Improvement

I don’t consider myself a skilled artist. But I have zero doubt in my mind that if I set aside three hours a weekend to learn and practice pencil drawing for 52 weeks, I would be a much better artist by year’s end.

Absolutely no doubt in my mind.

I’m convinced that the same holds true for any kind of creative publishing. Once we embark on the commitment of regular creation, improvement isn’t a question. It’s an absolute certainty.

And as we hone our creative skills, our contributions to the world around us become more valuable.

This is what I want my stepsons to know. My students to know. And you, fellow educator, to know.

We can lament our lack of creative skills. Or we can take action.

Just start.

Episode 74 – Susan Jachymiak

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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.