Episode 76 – Kali Slusser

76 - Kali Slusser.png

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 56 – Jon Harper

56 - Jon Harper.png

Subscribe to the podcast on your mobile device HERE: iTunes | Google Podcasts | Anchor | Spotify | YouTube

JON HARPER is an Assistant Principal at Sandy Hill Elementary School in Cambridge, Maryland. He’s the smooth-sounding voice of the My Bad Podcast & Co-Host of the Teachers Aid podcast.

Follow Jon online here:

In our conversation, Jon describes a time in his career when the stresses of work and life overtook him and he was unable to get out of bed for two days. Since then, he’s seen the power of being vulnerable and reaching out for support, and that mission now defines his creative work. Jon also explains why he’s excited about education today, talks about a professional goal, and gives us some great picks on Twitter, books, podcasts, and more.

Find the highlights from our conversation at the timestamps below:

  • 1:18 – Jon describes his current context in education as assistant principal at Sandy Hill Elementary School in Cambridge, Maryland. The school is Pre-K to 5th grade, with about 400 students. It’s located in a community that does have significant needs but he also works with an amazing and committed team of educators.
  • 2:50 – Jon describes a time four years ago when the stresses of work and life overtook him and he was unable to get out of bed for two days. Since that time, he’s discovered the incredible power of vulnerability. During his recovery, he wrote a blog post called The Masks We Wear, and the response was amazing. As professionals, we often feel that we are alone and that no one else is struggling the way we are. Looking back, he sees his biggest mistake as not reaching out sooner for support.
  • 6:45 – The Teachers Aid podcast takes on the intense social and emotional issues that teachers deal with. So much of what we hear about in education today is about putting students first, but Jon and Mandy like to talk about the importance of educators putting on the oxygen mask first so that they can help others.
  • 9:22 – Jon’s professional goal this year is to stay more organized and procrastinate less – something a lot of us can relate to.
  • 10:28 – What gets Jon excited about education today is the increasing vulnerability and authenticity of educators and their willingness to be real about their struggles on blog pieces, podcasts, etc. When people share their missteps and mistakes it lets others know they don’t have to be perfect all the time.
  • 12:26 – An area of personal learning that lights Jon’s fire outside of the school context is playing soccer with his son. It’s a great way to build the father-son relationship, and it also helps him keep in shape.
  • 14:42 – A productivity habit that Jon has learned to do regularly is focus on the big things and recognize when good enough is good enough. The Pareto Principle states that 20% of the activities in our lives produce 80% of the results, so it’s important to focus on the 20% as much as possible.
  • 17:26 – An education account worth following on Twitter is that of Oskar Cymerman. Follow Oskar at @Focus2Achieve.
  • 18:40 – An indispensable tool that allows Jon to contribute to his PLN at his convenience is Voxer. Follow Voxer on Twitter @Voxer.
  • 20:12 – Jon’s book recommendation is Girl, Wash Your Face: Stop Believing the Lies About Who You Are so You Can Become Who You Were Meant to Be by Rachel Hollis. Follow the author on Twitter at @MSRachelHollis.
  • 21:08 – His pick for podcasts is the #AmWriting podcast, hosted by @JessLahey and @KJDellAntonia.
  • 22:04 – On YouTube, Jon’s been inspired by Shots of Awe with Jason Silva.
  • 23:05 – When he’s got no energy left for anything productive in his day, Jon and his wife are enjoying the Atypical series on Netflix. It’s a fun but illuminating look at the life and experience of one high school student’s journey with autism.
  • 25:33 – We sign off on the conversation, and Jon shares the best ways to follow him and get more of his content online. See above for details.

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 54 – Jeff Kubiak

54 - Jeff Kubiak.png
Subscribe to the podcast on your mobile device HERE: iTunes | Google Podcasts | Anchor | Spotify | YouTube

JEFF KUBIAK is the principal of Nelda Mundy Elementary School in Fairfield, CA. Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeffreykubiak and catch his blog posts at http://principalkubiak.blogspot.com/.

In our conversation, Jeff recalls feeling so broken and unsupported as a rookie teacher that he left education entirely. He describes the strategies he is following to build school culture, and explains why he is so passionate about the state of education today. He tells us about the personal passions and routines that give him energy and contribute to his success. He also gives his picks on Twitter, books, edtech tools, and much more.

Follow Jeff online here:

Find the highlights from our conversation at the timestamps below:

  • 0:54 – Jeff describes his current context in education at Nelda Mundy Elementary School in Fairfield County, California. The school runs from kindergarten through fifth grade, has about 800 students, 35 teachers, and a very multicultural community that lives locally. One of his current missions is to help shift the school’s focus from performance to growth – #allkids. “We’ve got to move the whole kid,” he says.
  • 3:08 – Here Jeff recalls a low experience during his first year of teaching. Although he was hired to teach 5th grade, his assignment changed to MS PE at the last minute before the school year started. It was a very difficult experience, and he often went home feeling broken and beaten down. He felt like he didn’t have the support he needed and actually left the school before the year was finished. Eventually, however, he realized he missed the students. He found an elementary school that embraced his mantra for education and his inner candle was lit once again.
  • 5:34 – Nelda Mundy is using a couple of tools to build community this year. Virtually every staff member and student has read One, by Kathryn Otoshi, which advocates the idea that every person counts and every person also stands up to be counted. The staff is also reading Culturize by Jimmy Casas.
  • 7:15 – When asked why he’s so passionate about education today, Jeff points to the fact that our students can teach our teachers things. He loves watching kids learn, and seeing their passion for learning build. When they get fired up, he gets fired up.
  • 8:03 – Some of the other passions that fuel Jeff’s spirit outside of the school include being with his family, spending time outdoors, traveling, reading with his family, swimming, surfing, and coaching.
  • 9:37 – Some of the personal habits and regular routines that contribute to Jeff’s success include walking every day, biking, and swimming in the pool. “Give me water and I’m a happy man,” he says.
  • 10:56 – Jeff recommends a handful of education leaders to follow on Twitter: @JCorippo@Casas_Jimmy@ThomasMcMurray@KatieMartinEdu@BethHouf@BrewerHM, and @MrAdamWelcome.
  • 12:18 – In the classroom, Jeff loves the learning he sees happening around FlipGrid. Professionally, he enjoys the relationships and constant insights that Voxer facilitates. Get to know these two tools better by following them on Twitter @FlipGrid and @Voxer.
  • 14:43 – Jeff’s two book recommendations are What School Could Be: Insights and Inspiration from Teachers across America by Ted Dintersmith (@Dintersmith) and The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho (@PauloCoelho).
  • 15:29 – If you’re a podcast listener, Jeff’s got a bunch of picks here as well: The Rich Roll Podcast by @RichRollAspire: The Leadership Development Podcast by @Joshua__StamperMy Bad by @JonHarper70bd, and School Leadership UnearthED by @GustafsonBrad & @BenjaminGilpin.
  • 16:42 – Jeff isn’t a big TV viewer, but a few shows he has enjoyed on Netflix include Master of None, Weeds, Californication, and The Amazing Race.
  • 17:49 – We sign off on the conversation, and Jeff gives us the best ways to follow him online. See above for details!

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 52 – Paul Stevens-Fulbrook

52 - Paul Stevens-Fulbrook.png

Subscribe to the podcast on your mobile device HERE: iTunes | Google Podcasts | Anchor | Spotify | YouTube

You might know Paul Stevens-Fulbrook better on Twitter or Instagram as @TeacherofSci. Paul is a father of five and head of Year 7 and 8 Science at his school in the UK. He writes at teacherofsci.com with the mission of “supporting teachers’ lives through strategy, wellbeing and extra income.”

In our conversation here, Paul explains why it’s critical for teachers to remain true to who they really are, even when they’re in the classroom. He tells us the most exciting opportunity that edtech tools offer: improved student engagement. He shares about some of his other loves outside of the classroom: running, cooking, and spending quality time with his family. He also offers us his picks on Twitter, in books, on YouTube, and more.

Follow Paul online here:

Find the highlights from our conversation at the timestamps below:

  • 1:07 – Paul describes his current context in education: high school science teacher and department head at Steyning Grammar School in the United Kingdom.
  • 2:28 – “Be careful where you get your advice.” At the outset of his teaching career, veteran teachers warned him to be stern, not to smile, and not to be too friendly in the classroom. Predictably, he didn’t bond with his students, and his stern exterior seemed to only make relationships more difficult. Then, other teachers told him to be the same person in the classroom that he was in the staffroom: funny, silly, relaxed, and genuine. Students embraced his authenticity and things went much better after that.
  • 5:01 – The mission of teacherofsci.com is to support teachers’ lives through teaching strategies, wellbeing, and income. Most teachers struggle a little bit in the areas of finance, health, and balance – how to fit all of our priorities into the day. Teacher of Sci is here to help!
  • 7:41 – Paul’s main passion in the classroom today is edtech – particularly the ways that technology can engage every student.
  • 9:33 – Outside of the classroom, Paul is committed to building his blog, running, cooking, and spending quality time with the family. “One thing I’ve learned is that you’ve got to take time for yourself. It can’t be about teaching, teaching, teaching. You’ve got to get away from the books at some point.”
  • 11:52 – “Seek education from cradle to grave.” This ancient Arabic proverb is Paul’s mantra – he tries to learn every day and from everything.
  • 12:32 – On Twitter, Paul recommends following @ICT_MrP.
  • 13:28 – An edtech tool that Paul is just getting into with great early success is Classcraft. Follow @Classcraftgame on Twitter to find out more about this platform.
  • 14:48 – Paul’s pick for books is Unlocking Excellence: A Guide to Becoming an Extraordinary Educator by Jarrod Dumas. Follow Jarrod on Twitter @Xtraordinary247.
  • 16:12 – Looking for an interesting podcast to add to your commute? Check out No Such Thing as a Fish. Follow them on Twitter @NoSuchThing.
  • 17:24 – On Youtube, Paul points us to two channels: SciShow and For Teachers. Follow these great shows on Twitter @SciShow and @_ForTeachers.
  • 19:37 – When he’s out of energy to do anything productive and unencumbered by his wife’s inclinations, Paul likes to watch survivalist shows like Man vs. Food on Netflix.
  • 21:15 – We sign off on the interview, and Paul tells us the best ways to follow him online. See above for details!

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!