Episode 80 – Kevin O’Shea

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Meet Our Guest

KEVIN O’SHEA is a primary teacher currently at the Canadian International School in Beijing, China who will be moving to a school in Shenzhen, China in the fall. Today, his  school sees a mix of Chinese students and children of international diplomats and ex-pats stationed temporarily in Beijing. Kevin is a big fan of nature, outdoor education, inquiry, and photography. He’s also the producer of the Just Japan Podcast and the Making Better Teachers Podcast.

Poor Reception for Differentiated Instruction

Kevin recalls a situation early in his career when he was asked to assign homework packages for his Japanese students to complete during a break from school. In an attempt to meet the unique needs of each of his learners, he differentiated the learning activities according to the skills and abilities of each student. But the plan backfired completely.

What Kevin wasn’t aware of is that all his hard work of differentiation flew in the face of cultural expectations around consistency and equality for everyone. Parents in the class got together to compare the homework assignments, and when they discovered that students had been given different requirements, a lot of arguing and accusations followed. Fortunately, Kevin’s administrators had his back and gave him their full support, but the whole scenario was still deeply discouraging.

He experienced a lot of sleepless nights that year, and even completed an application to join a police force back in Canada and leave education altogether. Fortunately, his principal convinced him to stay in education, and his experiences have greatly improved since then.

A takeaway: school leaders must know their parent community and act proactively to keep parents in the loop about shifts in practice or educational philosophy.

On Content Creation

Kevin’s been a “devotee” of podcasts for over ten years. His love for the medium began in 2008, when he would take the train to work each day in Japan. In 2009, he produced a short-lived podcast on Canadian history. Later, he began the Just Japan Podcast, which continues today. Although the technology and process has evolved over time, his passion remains as strong as ever.

In terms of the mission of the Making Better Teachers Podcast, Kevin talks glowingly about the ways that he has been helped and inspired by other podcasts. His goal is to do the same work and share similarly great ideas with an international audience.

Podcasting is helpful in the context of international education, Kevin points out, because in an environment of stiff competition and short-term teaching contracts, it’s especially important to share your message and build the profile of who you are and what you’re all about as an educator.

Creating content is also an important part of building relationships throughout a PLN. Again, it’s about visibility, especially in the context of international schools. Using PLN tools like Twitter are essential when you teach at the only English-speaking school in an area.

Kevin jumped into YouTube over ten years ago, and at the time, he discovered there just weren’t a whole lot of English-speaking YouTubers posting content about Japan. In addition to building one’s professional profile and building professional relationships, creating and consuming online content is also a terrific way to reflect on one’s one practice and learn from the practice of others. For that reason, Kevin is interested in doing more vlogging about teaching and education.

A takeaway: Kevin talked about four great benefits of content creation by educators.

  1. Content creation builds one’s professional profile and increases visibility.
  2. Content creation can act as a form of networking to build professional relationships outside of one’s local context.
  3. Content creation and consumption is a great way to share and learn new ideas from other educators.
  4. Content creation can be a powerful means to professional self-reflection.

A Passion for Outdoor Education

One of Kevin’s greatest passions as an educator is to get kids outside more often. Things like Outdoor Classroom Day and the Dirty Hands Movement are motivating, and he’s thrilled to see how teachers around the world are building outdoor play into literacy, science, and other academic areas.

As educators, we need to work harder at getting our students outdoors each and every day. We need to take back play and let out kids get dirty! He encourages all educators and schools to participate in Outdoor Classroom Day on May 23. To sign up, visit https://outdoorclassroomday.com/.

In terms of further professional growth, Kevin is focused on building his practices and strategies around outdoor education as he changes schools and moves closer to Hong Kong. He’s hoping to certify as a Forest Kindergarten practicioner, which involves taking kindergarten learning outside all the time. (What is forest kindergarten? Here’s what Wikipedia says.)

Personal Passions and Productivity Hacks

Kevin is a self-professed bug and bird guy. When it comes to insects, he enjoys studying, photographing, catching and releasing. His passion is a great fit for the elementary classroom, where he enjoys rock star status whenever he has the opportunity to bring in an unusual creature or bug. Kevin models what we want to see in all of our learners: curiosity.

A simple but effective productivity hack that he has come to love is the habit of preloading the coffee maker before bed. Going to the trouble of loading potable water and coffee grinds the day before helps those mornings run that much smoother, and it’s become a staple of his routine.

Voices & Influences that Inspire Kevin’s Thinking and Practice

On Twitter, Kevin recommends following Michael Bycraft @MabyCraft. Mike posts incredible videos from his students’ work in robotics and computer science. He’s well worth the follow.

Kevin’s pick for edtech tools is Seesaw, a popular platform that works wonders for the curation of student work and learning into online portfolios. Seesaw offers a terrific way to connect classroom learning activities with parents as well. Visit Seesaw and follow Seesaw on Twitter @Seesaw.

Kevin’s book suggestion is Lost Child in the Woods by Richard Louv. Follow the author on Twitter @RichLouv.

He offers two podcast picks – one educational and one non-educational. The first is The Morning Stream, which offers a wide variety of miscellaneous news, trivia, and humor. The second is The Cult of Pedagogy from education leader Jennifer Gonzales. Follow these creators on Twitter @MorningStream and @cultofpedagogy.

Kevin’s favorite YouTube channel is Brave Wilderness, where the host engages with all manner of creatures and environments on a regular basis. With over 14 million subscribers, this channel has become so successful that it now has its own TV show.

Two shows that Kevin has been enjoying on Netflix lately are Black Summer and Our Planet. The latter is another excellent nature series narrated by the legendary David Attenborough, and the former is a zombie series that Kevin can only watch when he has some alone time.

We sign off on this fun conversation, and Kevin gives us the best ways to connect with him and receive his online content. See links below!

See more from Kevin:

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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.

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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

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

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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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Song Track Credits

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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 …

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.