Episode 85 – Andrew Milne

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Meet Andrew Milne

ANDY MILNE is a charismatic PE educator who has hopped the pond from London to Chicago! He’s also a speaker, blogger, and was named 2017 Health Ed Teacher of the Year. 

Today, he’s thrilled to serve at his dream school, a high school located in the northwest suburbs of Chicago with 4,000 students spread out over two campuses. It’s Andy’s sixth school and his 23rd year of teaching, and he finally feels like he’s found his sweet spot.

He serves on a fantastic team of 36 PE and dance teachers, with three former national Teachers of the Year and several former state Teachers of the Year. His students are motivated to succeed in every area of studies, and Andy enjoys the support of visionary administrators who cultivate a culture of yes and encourage positive risk-taking on the part of their teachers.

Leaving the Profession

Seven years into his career and at his second teaching position, Andy started to feel jaded. He was seeing things he wasn’t happy with, a mentor had moved away, he was overlooked for a promotion, and he was starting to lose some of his fire.

Eventually, he decided to leave education and take a job in a completely different industry. Once there, however, he quickly started to realize that education was his truest passion and highest calling. He returned to education after about 18 months away, and he’s never looked back.

How to Bring More Energy, Creativity, and Empathy Into Your Practice

When it comes to bringing energy to the classroom, Andy turns to a book called The Kinesthetic Classroom. Get kids moving, because movement is engagement. Remember to send more oxygen to our students’ brains by prompting them to physically move around the room whenever possible, he advises. Another favorite activity is sending students on a walk & talk, which can be a powerful exercise in reflection and reinforcement of learning.

When he thinks of creativity, he urges educators to see the world through the lens of their classroom. Model your passions for your learners whenever possible. When students start to see the world through your lens, you’ve helped them reimagine their world and increase awareness of the opportunities for learning around them.

On building a culture of empathy in our classrooms, Andy says we need to listen to our learners – REALLY listen to them. When we care about our learners not as students for a time but as human beings preparing for life, we’re giving them the armor and weapons that they will need to take on all the challenges and decisions they will face in the years to come.

Mobile Devices and Wellness

Andy works in a school with a 1:1 iPad policy, but devices don’t need to be used in every setting and learning activity. We need to model and support the sort of mindful device management that recognizes times when devices are not helpful. As educators, we also need to include students in self-reflective processes and activities that help them to analyze their own digital habits and adjust accordingly.

Parents can and should actively support their children with device management as well. Sometimes, this might look like parking all devices in main living areas overnight or turning the household wifi off at a given time every evening.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Education

Andy is energized by the conversations around diversity, equity, and inclusion that only seem to be gaining steam on Twitter and in other professional circles. Hashtags like #EduColor, #CleartheAir, and #HipHopEd have offered a steady stream of provocative questions, ideas to consider, books to check out, and educators to follow.

A Professional Project on the Go

Andy is currently developing a walking curriculum. He is passionate about all facets of walking: stress relief, pacing, breathing, heart rate, blue minds theory, and engagement with nature. He’s been reading Born to Walk (by Dan Rubenstein) and other titles by authors who are shining light on the connections between walking outdoors and cognitive activity.

Becoming

Everything Andy does is about BECOMING. He’s becoming a better husband, a better father, and a better person. That’s his passion: becoming better in every part of his life, little by little.

A Timeless Productivity Hack

Andy read Dr. Matthew Walker’s book, Why We Sleep, and it’s completely revolutionized his view of sleep. It’s the no. 1 life hack! Sleep has to be a non-negotiable for us as professionals and for our learners as well.

His ideal sleep quota is eight hours a night, although he admits that doesn’t always happen. His alarm goes off at 4:45 a.m. every morning, so he tries to get to bed by 9 each night. He keeps devices out of the room, makes sure the temperature is cool, and draws the blinds tight to make his bedroom as dark as possible.

Voices and Resources that Shape His Practice and Inspire His Thinking

Over on Twitter, Andy recommends following @MrPranPatel, who has been boldly leading conversations around diversity and equity in education in the UK.

Two of Andy’s favorite edtech tools are Canva, a powerful design creation tool, and Calm, one of the best meditation and mindfulness apps available today. Teachers are entitled to a free account on Calm! Check out this link to learn more.

Andy’s two book picks are Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts by Brene Brown and White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo.

If you’re looking for some interesting history content to complement the Teachers on Fire podcast, Andy suggests checking out The Chernobyl Podcast, an HBO special. In it, the producers take a close look at all of the events surrounding the world’s most famous nuclear meltdown.

Andy’s not really a YouTube subscribing type, but he’s sure thankful that YouTube satisfies his need for 80s soul music. On Netflix, a fun series that takes him back to his homeland is Turn Up Charlie. Check it out!

We sign off on this conversation, and Andy lets us know the best places to connect with him online. See below for links and details.

Connect with Andy:

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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

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Episode 73 – Rae Hughart

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Meet Our Guest

RAE HUGHART is a middle school Math teacher, educational consultant, Director of Training & Development for Teach Better, and a co-host for the Teach Better Talk podcast – and if you haven’t given Teach Better Talk a listen, you need to! Connect with Rae on Twitter AND Instagram @RaeHughart, and check out her course offerings and resources at TeachBetter.com!

Shut Out as a Learner

Rae’s own experience of elementary school wasn’t an easy one. She struggled with a reading disability, complicating her learning in most subjects. In fact, Rae feels she is likely one of the few Math teachers out there today as one who earned a ‘D’ when she was in 6th grade math herself. By high school, these poor associations of school were slowly building a passion to pursue a career in education with the purpose of changing the experience of school for learners like herself.

The Teach Better Mission, Upcoming Book, and #MasteryChat

The book on the way from the Teach Better Team (to be published by Dave Burgess Consulting) will feature all four leading members as contributors: Rae Hughart, Jeff Gargas, Chad Ostrowski, and Tiffany Ott. The authors plan to bring a mix of personal stories, education philosophy, and tactical strategies that will help educators move forward and experience continuous professional growth.

#MasteryChat, hosted by the Teach Better team and taking place every Thursday evening on Twitter, covers just about any and all issues in education and really boils down to the idea of coming together to master our craft as educators.

Tips for PLN Engagement on Twitter and Instagram

Rae sees Twitter as the place for educators to build engagement around rich pedagogical conversations and focused issues. Instagram is a different dive, a different lens, with different kinds of moments and ideas to be shared.

Of the two, Instagram is the better platform to visit to really get to know the human side of educators, partly because Instagram stories give teachers a lot of space to speak directly to their followers and get personal.

“Enjoy Instagram,” says Rae, “but remember that fluff ain’t enough.” Make sure you’re finding ways to connect and have those rich professional conversations as well, she advises.

A Personal Passion and Productivity Hack

Rae’s favorite outlet and source of recharging is her dogs. She obsesses about them whenever she can and loves nothing more than walking them over to Lowe’s – they’re allowed to walk inside the store there!

When asked for a productivity hack, Rae simply asks how anyone can do it alone. She’s committed to the idea of joining hands with others – a village of support. That’s the only way to make great things happen and really crush it in education.

Voices & Resources That Inspire Rae’s Professional Practice

Aside from the Teach Better team, Rae suggests following @MrAdamWelcome on Twitter for a steady stream of balanced inspiration.

Her edtech pick is Seesaw. Follow them on Twitter @Seesaw.

Rae’s book recommendation is Educated by Design: Designing the Space to Experiment, Explore, and Extract Your Creative Potential by Michael Cohen. Follow the author on Twitter @TheTechRabbi.

One podcast that lifts her up outside of the education space is The Rise Podcast with Rachel Hollis. Follow this well-known author on Twitter @MsRachelHollis.

Rae’s choice on YouTube is an oldie but a goodie: TED Talks. And on Netflix, it’s been Person of Interest lately.

See More From Rae

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

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Episode 67 – Dr. Erik Youngman

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Guest Profile

DR. ERIK YOUNGMAN has been a first grade teacher, assistant principal, and principal. Today, he’s the director of curriculum, instruction, and assessment for the Libertyville School District in the Greater Chicago Area. He advocates for continuous learning, feedback, growth mindset, metacognition, innovation, and visible learning. Follow Dr. Erik on Twitter @Erik_Youngman.

The Challenge of Change

Although his career has been overwhelmingly positive, change is a theme that must be continually addressed. Change can lead to either low moments or tremendous opportunities. Organizational change can spark awesome professional conversations but also requires learning mindsets, shared vision, collaboration, communication and a clear understanding of why the change is being put in place.

Growth Mindset

Adopting a growth mindset requires a powerful shift in thinking. Don’t just learn from mistakes; reflect throughout the day and seek feedback to spark learning from every activity for continuous improvement. Even if you’re performing well in an area, careful scrutiny and reflection can lead the further growth and development.

When teachers create, model, and use common vocabularies, it equips students to better reflect and gain more insights from their own learning journeys. When students and teachers are empowered to reflect and self-regulate, make choices, take ownership, and monitor their own progress.

The Possibilities in Education Today

What really excites Erik about the state of education today is the tremendous opportunities for learning among educators today. Books, journals, Twitter, conferences are fuelling so many powerful conversations around technology, equity, personalized learning, student choice and voice, and competency-based learning. In his position he is honored to be involved in many of these conversations, which are shaping education today and for the future.

Professional Goals, Passions, and Productivity Hacks

In terms of professional growth in 2019, Erik is ready to take some risks. His goal is to share his perspectives and learning with other educators more than he has in the past. This interview is a good start! He’s also presenting at the ASCD conference in March, he’s writing an article about homework for an online magazine, and he’s exploring a collaborative effort on a book with other authors as well.

Erik is a big sports fan, but another area that intrigues him is that of leadership. He loves to study successful leaders and pays close attention to their activities, quotes, and recommendations.

His productivity hack is all about maximizing time. He calls his workouts “multitasking education research exercise.” He listens to education and leadership podcasts at maximum speed which allows him to consume a large amount of content as efficiently as possible. He also takes notes on his phone to remember innovative ideas and resources worth pursuing further.

Voices & Resources That Inspire Erik’s Professional Practice

On Twitter, Erik recommends following @GeorgeCouros for a constant source of reflection and inspiration.

An edtech tool that does so much for learners and learning in Libertyville right now is Google Slides. If you like Slides, you’ll really love this Slides add-on: Pear Deck. Follow Pear Deck on Twitter @PearDeck.

Dr. Erik has two book recommendations, both of which have been instrumental in his own learning journey and dissertation. The first is called Rethinking Homework, 2nd Edition: Best Practices That Support Diverse Needs by Cathy Vatterott.

The second is called On Your Mark: Challenging the Conventions of Grading and Reporting – A Book for K-12 Assessment Policies and Practices by Thomas Guskey.

Follow these two authors on Twitter @RealHomeworkldy and @TGuskey.

Over in the education podcast space, Dr. Erik recommends Better Leaders Better Schools by @AlienEarbud and The Wired Educator by @WiredEducator.

Follow Dr. Erik

If you’re interested in hearing more from this guest follow Dr. Erik on Twitter @Erik_Youngman.

Subscribe to the Teachers on Fire podcast on your mobile device.

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Song Track Credits

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Episode 46 – Katelynn Giordano

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KATELYNN GIORDANO is a sixth grade language arts teacher in Sugar Grove, IL. You can find more of her insights on learning, reading, and writing at CurriculumCoffee.com – “a written shot of espresso for educators.”

In our conversation, Katelynn recalls the time early in her career when a veteran colleague told her not to speak during faculty meetings. Part of her recovery from that discouraging blow involved moving to a new middle school position, where she was fortunate to come under the wing of a mentor who was supportive in every way. It was the positive energy and encouragement gleaned in this environment that helped shape her into the talented and motivated educator she is today. Katelynn also explains why she’s passionate about education and describes the activities that fuel her personal fire outside of the classroom. She tells us about the daily routines that make her productive, and offers some awesome recommendations on Twitter, books, edtech tools, and more.

Follow Katelynn online here:

Find the highlights from our conversation at the timestamps below:

  • 0:52 – Katelynn describes her current context as a 6th grade English teacher at Kaneland Harter Middle School in Sugar Grove, IL, USA.
  • 1:12 – We go back to a time when a veteran colleague told Katelynn to be quiet and not speak during faculty meetings. It was a discouraging encounter to say the least, taking the wind out of her sails for considerable time. Later, Katelynn took an open position in a middle school and was fortunate to come under the wing of a mentor who was supportive in every way. In this case, the grass really was greener on the other side of the fence, and the two contrasting experiences have given her a passion for positive mentorship in education.
  • 6:11 – Katelynn’s passions for education today focus on student-directed and personalized learning, empowering learners to take initiative, giving learners voice and choice, and teaching writing in new and personalized and effective ways. Her perspectives will inspire you!
  • 12:46 – One area of personal learning outside of the classroom has been her rediscovery of the joys of writing. She blogs at CurriculumCoffee.com, and savours the therapeutic qualities of synthesizing ideas and presenting them in ways that others can access and learn from. She also dabbles in drawing, painting, and other artistic pursuits when time allows.
  • 16:14 – A personal habit that contributes to her success is working out each day. She talks about the value of getting away from the digital noise, alone with her thoughts and the positive rewards of exercise. She also enjoys reading children’s literature and using her reading experiences to engage in authentic conversations with students around their reading.
  • 18:26 – On Twitter, Katelynn recommends following @MisterMinor.
  • 19:17 – Her pick for edtech tools is the fabulous FlipGrid. Follow them on Twitter @FlipGrid.
  • 21:15 – Katelynn is a reader, so you know these two picks are good ones. For children’s literature, check out Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rodes. In education, you want Being the Change: Lessons and Strategies to Teach Social Comprehension by Sara K. Ahmed.
  • 22:44 – When she’s got no energy left for reading or writing, Katelynn is watching a Netflix favourite: The Office.
  • 23:51 – We sign off on the conversation, and Katelynn tells us the best places to find and follow her content online. See above for details!

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Song Track Credits

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

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