Episode 88 – Alicia Ray

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Meet Alicia Ray

ALICIA RAY is the Lead Digital Learning & Media Innovation Facilitator at a STEAM school in Mount Airy, NC. With years of experience teaching middle school classes, a major part of her current role includes building innovative learning activities that link literacy and various forms of media.

From Professional Insecurity to a Power-Packed PLC

Alicia doesn’t enjoy revisiting this experience, but she feels a certain obligation to give this lesson its due attention and share the things she learned with others. In her story of adversity, she recalls teaching a self-contained 5th grade class, which included high stakes testing in Math, Science, and reading. As one might expect, this teaching assignment brought with it a lot of responsibility.

When the 5th grade team added a former teacher of the year, Alicia found herself fighting feelings of insecurity and competition. To counter these feelings, she helped her team form an incredible PLC that capitalized on the strengths of each member. The team found sweet synergy partly from their extra-curricular activities: meeting outside of school, doing things together, and finding common interests.

As the team grew and evolved, their trust in each other increased, and they discovered how to best share the teaching load: who would create which learning activities, who the go-to authority in each area would be, and how each one could innovate and adapt learning materials to fit the needs of their individual classrooms. The best part of this trusting team relationship? Students won.

The Hows and Whys of a Master Book Reviewer

Alicia is a phenomenal reader and reviewer of books from Dave Burgess Consulting, but she’s quick to point out the source of her motivation: her students. “It’s so important to know what you believe in and why you believe it, because that does nothing but help your kids,” she says.

Alicia learns something and takes away lessons from every single book she reads, and she’s hungry for more. She wants to do better than just say she’s a lifelong learner – she wants to live it and model it in front of her students and children as well. She recently completed a research unit at her school that was inspired by several DBC books, including Launch, The Limitless School, Educated by Design, and The Revolution. She’s proud of what her students researched, learned, and created, and she looks forward to improving this unit even further in years to come.

What’s Setting Alicia on Fire in Education

Alicia loves the connections she enjoys with educators across the planet on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, blogs, and other platforms. She is thrilled to share ideas, learn from others, and connect her students in those same authentic ways.

One of the memories that she treasures from this past year was the opportunity to connect with Karen Caswell‘s class in Australia. It was a fantastic experience for her students and it brought home the point that we live in a global community.

Her Current Project: Educational Eye Exam

Alicia is constantly reading and implementing, because as Dave Burgess likes to say, “Inspiration without implementation is a waste.” Her current project is a compilation of takeaways and inspirations from her learning and practice in a book titled Educational Eye Exam. What began as a blog post kept growing and growing, and as this book nears publication later this summer she is thrilled at the prospect of sharing with the world.

A Passion by Necessity: Health & Wellness

Last August, Alicia’s five-year-old was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. Since then, her family has made health and wellness a top priority. This looks like managing the family diet carefully, counting carbs, and practicing strategies to maintain mental, physical, and spiritual health.

These practices have also spilled into her professional work, where Alicia is doing more than ever to try to meet the non-academic needs of learners. It starts with awareness and sensitivity, requiring her to step back and think about making sure the conditions for learning are met before launching into the next activity.

Goals, Google Sheets, and Bullet Journals

Alicia calls herself a goal-setter, and her goals are the key to her productivity. When she orders books, her goal is usually to have it completely read within 48-72 hours after receiving it. From there, she’s found that if she’s going to write a review of the book for her blog, it needs to happen right away.

When it comes to running, she sets a goal of getting to a particular mailbox (remember, she lives in rural North Carolina). As long as the goal is specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely … it’s SMART and it works for her.

Alicia tracks her goals and daily habits in Google Sheets (using hacks she learned from Alice Keeler), and has also become obsessed with bullet journaling since reading Lisa Johnson’s Creatively Productive.

The Ideal Reading Time & Place

Alicia’s ideal reading environment usually materializes around 9:30 p.m., after the kids have been put to bed – centered on a large sectional in her pajamas, with comfy blankets and a nest of pillows. It’s a recipe that would put most people to sleep in a hurry, but it works well for her!

Voices and Resources That Inspire Her Thinking 

On Twitter, Alicia recommends following @Hayes_Melisa. Melisa has an awesome personal story to share, and she never fails to bring the awesomeness!

 Her pick for edtech tools is Google Forms. Forms are powerful, versatile, and can probably do more than you think they can!

 When asked to choose just one book, Alicia goes back to the one that started it all: Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess. She’s written and highlighted her way through a few physical copies of the book and listened to it several more times on audiobook. The passion never gets old!

Over on YouTube, Alicia suggests subscribing to DBC Inc. This channel is relatively new, so get on it and make some noise!

When she needs some laughs and lighter fare on Netflix, Alicia is heading to The Office. This classic sitcom will never be beaten … unless of course they made a school version!

We sign off on this fun conversation, and Alicia gives us the best ways to connect with her online. See below for details!

Connect with Alicia:

Song Track Credits

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

Episode 76 – Kali Slusser

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Meet Our Guest

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

Rethinking Careers

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

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

The Journey of Read Like a Pirate

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

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

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

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

The Life of an Instructional Coach

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

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

What Excites Kali About Education Today

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

Professional Goal

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

Personal Passions and Productivity Hacks

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

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

Voices & Resources That Inspire Kali’s Professional Practice

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

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

Outside of the books from Dave Burgess Consulting, Kali recommends The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog: And Other Stories from a Child Psychiatrist’s Notebook–What Traumatized Children Can Teach Us About Loss, Love, and Healing by Bruce D. Perry.

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

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

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

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

See more from Kali:

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

iTunes | Google Podcasts | Spotify

Follow the Teachers on Fire podcast on social media.

Song Track Credits

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