Episode 92 – Shane Lawrence

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Meet Shane Lawrence

SHANE LAWRENCE is a high school educator in Alberta, Canada who specializes in film studies and teaches digital media and art courses at the 7th and 8th grade levels. Shane is also the host and producer of The Ed Podcast

From Teaching on Fire to Burning Out

Shane recalls the year that the departure of a key partner in his school’s theater program left him directing West Side Story by himself. He was spending up to 60 hours a week on the musical alone, and life started to unravel. His family relationships struggled, his practice was impacted, and he was constantly drained of physical and emotional energy.

Eventually, he had to make the choice between the production – a source of deep passion and commitment – and his family. He chose his family, and he hasn’t directed a musical since that year.

Although he misses aspects of the work, he knows it was the right decision to step away. He doesn’t entirely dismiss the possibility of directing another dramatic production in the future, but if he does, it will be when conditions are right and he has the proper support structures in place.

The History and Mission of The Ed Podcast

Originally, Shane started podcasting for the fun factor. And it’s still fun today – he wouldn’t do this work if it wasn’t.

The mission of The Ed Podcast is to expand the conversation and thinking around education. When educators tune in, they can expect to hear casual, unscripted conversations with other educators about the things that they’re passionate about. “I want to edify the community of teachers so that we can all feel part of a whole and get better with each other, ” he explains.

Computer Classes

Shane is new to computer courses and is quick to point out that he is still learning and growing in this area himself. Some of the skills he teaches include hardware configuration and trouble-shooting, file management, cloud storage, coding (using KoDoo), and other applications in the Adobe and Google suites. At his school, grades 9 through 12 bring their own laptop devices to school, and his 7th and 8th graders can access Chromebook carts on a need basis. 

What Ignites Shane’s Practice: Professional Conversations

Although Shane sees himself as more of a slow burn than a raging fire, he finds fuel in the professional conversations. From his own faculty room to his podcast to the discussions on Twitter, he thrives on the exchange of ideas and topics that support continuous growth. Conversations and coffee: these are the two essential ingredients that keep his passions alive in education.

A Professional Goal

His most pressing area of growth in this coming year has to be his art courses. This is an area he’s new to, and he knows it will stretch him. Fortunately, his predecessors have laid out plans and resources in a path that he can follow. He knows he’ll be challenged, but he looks forward to that process.

Personal Passions Outside of the Classroom

“I like way too many things,” Shane declares. His interests include gaming, screenwriting, design, architecture, law enforcement, photography, and the list goes on and on. In an ideal world, he would love to get degree after degree after degree – he’s truly a lifelong learner.

Lately, he’s had a passion for the ukelele – something he’s wanted to come back to since childhood. He’s been practicing and improving his craft, and he loves to play it in the classroom while he talks with students. Shane is also a film aficionado, and he never tires of learning about this art form.

A Different Sort of Productivity Hack: Grace

This may not sound like a productivity hack, but Shane finds it crucial to give himself grace for his failures. Like many education professionals, he’s keenly aware when he falls short. It’s tempting to view himself as a failure or imposter, but grace allows him to dust himself off and remember that he’s on a continuous journey of growth.

Try again, learn some more, try again, learn some more … we don’t need to hold ourselves to perfection as long as we’re growing and improving.

Voices and Resources that Inspire His Practice

Over on Twitter, Shane recommends following @JennBinis. Jenn has been a guest on The Ed Podcast a couple of times already, and she never fails to bring a critical eye and insightful questions to situations and ways of doing things in education.

By way of edtech tools, Shane appreciates the features that Soundtrap, Splice, and Fusion 360 offered his learners last year. It’s clear that Shane is a fan of apps and technologies that allow students to create!

Shane’s pick for books is Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull. This title applies principles learned from the massive successes at Pixar to creative teams in other contexts.

One podcast near the top of Shane’s list right now include CBC’s Uncover, another awesome crime investigation show along the lines of Serial.

Two YouTube channels worth subscribing to include Smarter Every Day and Screen Rant. The former shares incredible scientific truths about our known world, and the latter delivers hilarious takes on popular films.

Although he doesn’t have much time for Netflix these days, Shane has enjoyed the Russian Doll series. It’s like Groundhog Day, although it goes in some darker directions than the Bill Murray classic.

We sign off on this conversation, and Shane gives us the best ways to connect with him and listen to his podcast. See below for more details!

Connect with Shane:

Song Track Credits

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

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:

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 34 – Sarah Johnson

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SARAH JOHNSON is an author, speaker, and consultant in the areas of instructional leadership and personal-professional balance. With experience as an English teacher and principal, she likes to laugh, sing, and makes a habit of running every day. She is a co-author of Balance Like a Pirate: Going Beyond Work-Life Balance to Ignite Passion and Thrive as an Educator. Her mission? Helping educators thrive at work, home, and life.

In this conversation, Sarah describes the main message and heart of her book, which describes her experience and the lessons she’s learned from living out of balance as a school principal. She talks about the personal passions and practices that support her self-care and growth today, and offers some great recommendations for books to read, Twitter accounts to follow, and more.

Follow Sarah on these great platforms:

Find the highlights from our conversation at the timestamps below.

  • 1:17 – Sarah describes her current context in education: speaker, consultant, and author living in NW Wisconsin after a career in education as a teacher and principal.
  • 3:02 – The heart and message to educators in Balance Like a Pirate. Instead of the popular 50-50 work-life concept, Sarah urges educators to think of balance in four quadrants: personal, professional, positional, and passions.
  • 6:03 – Sarah recalls a particularly low moment in her education career, and explains how she was able to move through this experience.
  • 9:13 – What really excites Sarah about education today: the incredible opportunities for authentic collaboration and creation (for students and educators).
  • 11:15 – Rise: Sarah’s ongoing personal commitment to learn how to live the most purpose-driven life possible (in part, by listening and journaling every day). Another serious passion is education around mental health and suicide awareness.
  • 13:23 – A personal habit that contributes to her success is running every single day. She has not missed a day since July 11, 2014!
  • 15:47 – Sarah’s recommendation for educators on Twitter is @BethHill2829 (Bethany Hill of #JoyfulLeaders fame).
  • 16:42 – It’s been around for a while, but Sarah’s favorite edtech tool is still Google Docs. She even used Google Docs to collaborate with her co-authors on Balance Like a Pirate!
  • 17:23 – Her book recommendation is When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi (@ParsOpercularis) and of course anything written by Brene Brown (@BreneBrown).
  • 18:39 – Favorite podcast? For the Love by Jen Hatmaker (@JenHatmaker)
  • 19:17 – We review the best ways to follow Sarah online and receive more of her content. See above for details!

SUBSCRIBE to the podcast on your MOBILE DEVICE: iTunesGoogle PodcastsYouTube

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)

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