A Message to Middle Schoolers: Stop Sweating the School Stuff

Chill is a skill: don’t let academic anxiety steal the joy from your life.

I’m a vice-principal in a small middle school of 220 students.

Our kids are awesome. And our families are invested and supportive.

It’s cool to learn in our school. It’s cool to be a tryhard. It’s cool to help others learn, too.

Something else. Our assessment system features no percentages or letter-grades.

Instead, evidence of student learning is assessed against curricular standards using a 4-point proficiency scale like the one below.

By removing letter-grades and percentages from the picture, we’re also getting rid of rank-and-sort. We’re saying goodbye to trophy culture. We’re not interested in defining winners and losers.

Instead, we’re saying that we are a learning community. We pursue proficiency together because we are all developing learners.

That’s our messaging, anyway.

Academic anxiety can persist even in standards-based grading environments

I know a couple of middle schoolers who regularly demonstrate high proficiency against learning standards in virtually every subject.

They are committed and determined learners. They’re outstanding collaborators. They’re compassionate supporters and encouragers of classmates. They’re leaders in the room and absolute joys to teach.

These students project a lot of sunshine and roses, but a silent battle rages below the surface.

They struggle with intense anxiety around their academic achievement.

It’s so saddening, and it defies understanding.

What’s at the root of this anxiety?

Here’s a bold proposition: no middle schooler should have to deal with academic anxiety. Absolutely none — I don’t care how well their learning is progressing.

When high school juniors and seniors experience academic anxiety, I don’t like it, and I can make some strong cases against it. For one, the quality of your life will not depend on which college you’re admitted to.

But with college around the corner, I can at least understand it.

In middle school — especially one without letter-grades or percentages — it’s almost inexplicable. How can our students possibly lose sleep over their academic performance?

My theories about where most of this anxiety comes from

The top-notch counselling team at my school could likely offer more insights, but my conversations with middle schoolers over the years lead me to the following theories:

1. Parent pressures.

Well-intentioned or not, it’s no secret that some parents push their children pretty hard. Report card pressure can be intense. One of the many messages: your future depends on shining achievement in school. Threats and rewards of various kinds may accompany these messages.

2. College admission.

Linked to parent pressures, this is the idea that success in one’s profession (and in life) depends on admission to the right college or university. We hear this idea from students as early as fourth grade.

College admission depends on the 12th grade transcript, which depends on stellar high school achievement, which depends on acceptance to honors programs, which depends on strong middle school performance. Ta-da! The roadmap is drawn for a decade of anxiety.

3. A fixed mindset.

Some students have been called “smart” so many times in their lives that it becomes a part of their identity. Instead of instilling invincible confidence, hearing a lifetime of “you’re so smart” can create a fear of slipping or risking the source of that sacred status. Carol Dweck lays this out beautifully in Mindset.

Others describe this student as one on defense (stick to what is safe and I’ve proven I can do well) versus offense (try new things, take new risks, engage with difficult tasks when possible).

Other theories from my professional learning network

When I reached out to my Twitter PLN for their theories about where this academic anxiety comes from, their answers were insightful.

4. Personality and Psychological Profile.

Middle school teacher Riley Dueck observes that “Some students are more inclined to perfectionism/anxiety than others (see Enneagram Type 1 & Type 6).”

Intermediate educator Maria Dawson puts some of the blame on “Undiagnosed ADD. Builds anxiety and creates internal pressures. Considerably worse in females as the SNAP assessments are all geared for previous typical ADHD behaviours. Sometimes the H can be hyperfocus not hyperactive.”

5. Peers.

Erik Murray says “I see it a lot and it comes from peers. It’s like keeping up with the mini Joneses: ‘I got ranked this in the math team — what did you get?’ That sort of thing.”

Maureen Wicken is on the same page, writing “Comparison: not only is it the thief of joy, but it also destroys our sense of accomplishment, hope, and purpose. And giving everyone participation trophies doesn’t seem to have helped.”

6. Perfectionism, Procrastination, and Paralysis.

My incredible colleague Anika Brandt points out more Ps that factor into this conversation: the cycle of perfectionism, procrastination, and paralysis.

She’s right, of course — some academic anxiety is self-induced (or at least amplified) by destructive tendencies. When this cycle shows up for students, it makes me want to ask: what fears lie behind it, and how can we unpack them?

We need to be more curious about academic anxiety

It’s at about this point that some of my education colleagues will pointedly remind me: “Why aren’t you asking the students where their anxiety comes from?”

I am, and I will. We talk a lot about social-emotional health with our students, but we need to be more direct and more curious about the extent of academic anxiety specifically and its origins.

When we know more, we can do more.

In the meantime, I want to share a message specifically to the people that matter most.

My message to middle schoolers

Dear students,

Your teachers and I love you so much. It is an incredible joy to be able to teach and work and learn beside you each day. YOU make the difficult work of teaching all worth it.

We know that the adults in your life sometimes forget how anxious you actually feel about school. We want to do a better job of supporting you.

Please let us know when you’re feeling low. Let us know when you’re worried. Let us know when you’re having trouble sleeping or eating because the school anxiety is so intense.

Your teachers want to help, and sometimes we can support you in ways that you didn’t expect or may not have thought of.

Oh, and our counselling team is awesome. Being able to talk about your worries with another person can make all the difference. We’d love to set up an appointment for you if you’d be open to that.

Finally, here’s some honest perspective.

Middle school life is difficult and complicated enough without worrying about grades and academic achievement.

You know that as teachers, we’re going to continue to encourage you to be curious, be daring and adventurous with your learning, apply yourself, use class time well, and collaborate with others.

But trust us when we say this: no matter how your work is assessed, you’re going to be fine. Really. The quality of your incredible future doesn’t depend on your middle school grades.

So keep developing yourself. Keep following your passions and curiosities. Keep having fun, enjoying good laughs, and building solid friendships.

That’s what middle school life should be about. Please don’t allow your academic achievements to steal that from you.

Stop sweating the school stuff, and enjoy every day of this crazy thing we call life.

We’ll be cheering you on every step of the way.

Mr. Cavey

Quick Tutorial: How to Remove Video Background in Canva

Riley Dueck: Faith, Learning, and Creative Work

Meet Riley Dueck

RILEY DUECK is a sixth grade teacher in Surrey, BC, Canada. At the time of our recording, he was a second year educator, speaker, innovator, blogger, and the host of the Not Many of You Should Become Teachers podcast.

“NOOOOOOO!”

In his first year of teaching, Riley and his sixth grade colleagues were trying to address some negativity among their students. Even as they planned some fun events before spring break, the complaining from some corners didn’t seem to let up.

Peak frustration came one day for Riley as he was doing his best to hype one of these term-end activities with his class. As he was speaking, one student loudly interrupted him with an obnoxious “NOOOOO!

Shocked, Riley admits to returning some verbal fire and letting this student know in no uncertain terms that their interruption had been extremely rude. But later in the day, when Riley found some time to follow up privately with the student, he discovered that the interruptor had actually been excited about the events Riley described and in fact was crushed that a family vacation would take him away from school a day before these fun events.

Riley realized that the student hadn’t been frustrated with him or his plans at all – just frustrated that his family’s travels meant that he would miss out. Thankfully, Riley was able to completely restore the relationship, and by the time they parted ways for spring break, all was well again. The incident was another good reminder for Riley that student behavior is often not exactly what it seems. There’s often more to the story.

How Can Faith Integrate with Learning?

Riley works at an independent faith-based middle school, so I put to him the question: why does faith belong in K-12 contexts at all?

Riley explains that a faith-based school wasn’t actually his original plan. Fresh out of university, his plan was to teach in a public setting where he would be able to work with underserved children. Hiring didn’t go quite the way he envisioned it, however, and months of soul-searching about his core values and mission led him to reconsider the path forward.

When a last-minute opportunity to take a sixth grade teaching position appeared, his initial misgivings melted away, and he started to see the positive aspects of teaching in a faith community as a person of faith. He thought about the ways in which his beliefs, passions, giftings, and creativity could be used to inspire students and actually “teach in ways that are authentically Christian.”

Riley isn’t interested in the traditional trappings of religion or Christian culture; instead, he’s passionate about showing students what it means to experience a real relationship with their Creator and love the world as he does. Other factors included the chance to coach volleyball and participate in international service initiatives in Africa and around the world – two other core passions that align with his values.

Finally, after taking the time to consider all angles, he decided to accept the offer to teach sixth grade in a faith-based school, and it’s been a fantastic journey so far. Every day, Riley is grateful for the opportunity to use learning experiences to lean into the life and love and restorative work of God in the world.

Not Many of You Should Become Teachers: the Podcast

Riley shares a passion for content creation. For years, most of his creative energies were directed to YouTube, but in recent years those energies have moved into podcasting. The podcast medium has become his medium of choice for discussions of faith and learning, and he enjoys doing exactly that with co-host Dave MacFarland, another former guest of Teachers on Fire.

The Not Many of You Should Become Teachers podcast takes its title from a warning found in the Bible’s book of James, where the author describes the critical importance of education. It’s an activity not to be taken lightly, the ancient writer implied. On the podcast, Riley and Dave maintain that spirit by exploring the field of teaching as a high calling and grand responsibility.

The podcast is also meant to start and continue discussions around Christian education today. What is its role and place in modern society? What should its mission be? What should a holistic study of the integrations between faith and learning include? In Riley’s view, the podcast fills a need for more critical conversations in these spaces. Although the hosts speak from the context of a faith-based school, Riley feels like public school teachers who have an interest in the intersections between faith and learning will enjoy their content as well.

How Does Content Creation Lead to Learning?

Riley looks back at his high school media classes as the catalyst for his current passions and activities around content creation. As an enneagram 7, the fun of trying new things, creating, sharing, and starting conversations easily overcomes the fear of creation and hitting the publish button that many wrestle with. Learning opportunities simply become more fun and engaging when we’re creating.

Riley’s also a believer in the growth mindset and the power of learning from mistakes; it’s when we step out of the comfort zone and take risks that we’re likely to grow the most. The people who have made the biggest impact in the world are generally those who have taken the greatest risks and overcome fears of failure, and this applies to relationships and community-building as much as it does to technology and communication. 

Another Source of Fire in His Practice: Teaching Math

Something else that is setting Riley on fire in his practice at the moment is teaching Math. He regards Robert Kaplinsky as one of his key mentors in this area. “He’s a Math-teaching genius,” says Riley. “Anything that can be made problem-based in my Math class has become problem-based.”

From Kaplinsky, Riley has learned how to offer lower floors (easier on-ramps) for engagement and learning while also offering higher ceilings and opportunities for further growth and extended learning.

A Professional Goal: More Indigenous Integrations

Riley has a couple of professional goals on the go. One of them is to do a better job of integrating First Nations content and pedagogy throughout his teaching practice. He sees a natural congruence between the Christian value of reconciliation and curricular mandates to recognize indigenous cultural values and ways of knowing. 

Learning from Travel

“I love travel and tourism and the leadership opportunities that come with that,” Riley says. He’s worked with AirBnB to offer tour experiences in downtown Vancouver, and he’s the sort of traveler that carefully researches every aspect of future trips in order to absolutely maximize his time and take advantage of every opportunity in foreign destinations.

Essentialism: Doing Less to Do More

“I have a love-hate relationship with productivity and self-help,” Riley laughs. He points to Gregory McKeown’s Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less as a book that shaped his thinking in a profound way in terms of narrowing his focus and avoiding overwhelm. Contrary to conventional thought, we can actually be more effective and productive by doing less, McKeown argues.

Voices and Resources That Spark Riley’s Thinking

On Twitter, Riley recommends following @TobyATravis. He’s the superintendent of Village Christian Academy in Fayetteville, NC, and he’s got a grounded vision for what Christian education can be. He also points to his podcasting co-host, @MrMcFTeaches, as someone who tweets a lot of valuable insights around teaching, current events, social studies, faith and learning, and more.

When asked for an edtech tool pick, Riley shouts out Google Classroom. He’s continually impressed by the ways that Classroom improves and continues to serve educators and students well. Follow Google Classroom on Twitter @GoogleForEdu

When it comes to reading, Riley spends most of his time in two genres: kids’ lit and theology. For the former, he’s recommending Restart and anything else by Gordon Korman. In the area of theology, he suggests The Day the Revolution Began: Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus’s Crucifixion by N. T. Wright.

As a podcast creator, you know Riley’s a listener. Once he’s caught up on Teachers on Fire, Riley enjoys This Cultural Moment and Ask NT Wright Anything

On YouTube, Riley still enjoys the legendary PewDiePie. PewDiePie is a reader, a thinker, and an excellent commentator on what is going on in the world. He uses clever memes to communicate his message, and he’s simply entertaining. 

At the time of this recording, Riley had cancelled his Netflix subscription. His entertainment choices were skewing old school with Survivor Season 40

As we said our goodbyes, Riley gave us the best ways to reach out and connect. See below for details.

Follow Riley

Connect with the Teachers on Fire Podcast on Social Media

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Song Track Credits

  • Sunrise Drive by South London Hifi*
  • Anthem by The Grand Affair*
  • Coupe by The Grand Affair
  • Species by Diamond Ortiz
  • *tracks courtesy of the YouTube Audio Library

Listen to Teachers on Fire on YouTube and Subscribe

Episode 132 – Kellie Bahri

Meet Kellie Bahri

KELLIE BAHRI is a 5th grade teacher at the Birmingham Public Schools in Birmingham, MI. She’s a supporter of the Sustainable Development Goals, a member of Nohea Kindreds, an Agent for Agency, and a co-founder of the @CrazyPLN. She’s also the cohost of the EDU Exchange Pod podcast and is currently working on her PhD in educational leadership. Best of all, Kellie is a tremendous elevator and amplifier of other educators.

Falling Back in Love with Education

A few years ago, the state of Michigan moved to a high-stakes model of evaluation for teachers. It turned Kellie’s world upside down, increasing stress and anxiety, isolating her colleagues, and making her fall out of love with the profession. “I wanted to walk away,” she explains, but she felt trapped in the classroom by her need for health insurance.

After taking some time to reflect on herself and her role in these circumstances, she concluded that she was actually the source of the problem. Her inclination to hoard ideas and outshine others in order to keep her job were actually the cause of her misery.

From that realization, Kellie changed things up completely: she re-opened her classroom doors, started sharing ideas and resources again, and took every opportunity to spotlight the work of others. This pivot in her approach allowed her to rediscover the joy of teaching, strengthen her friendships with colleagues, and change the culture in her team … and she’s been on fire ever since.

The EDU Exchange Podcast

Kellie and co-host David Hennel @HennelD_EDU recently teamed up to create the EDU Exchange. Their hope is to publish educator stories that resonate with the masses and push the thinking and practices within our education systems. David manages the tech side of things, and Kellie brings the perspective of a homeroom teacher. The podcast is still in the early stages of development, but Kellie and David look forward to publishing more episodes soon.

Elevating the #CrazyPLN and Nohea Kindred

ELEVATE is Kellie’s #OneWord2020, and most of her activity on Twitter does exactly that: it elevates and celebrates the work of others. Hashtags that Kellie follows closely on Twitter include #CrazyPLN and #NoheaKindreds.

#CrazyPLN began as a small group of educators who simply came together to support each other, but that small group has grown into a swelling community of teachers, authors, and leaders. It’s a community marked by collaboration and a deep belief in student agency and empowerment.

“They’ve transformed my teaching and my life,” says Kellie. If we become the people that surround us, she can’t think of better people to want to emulate. A care for kids is at the center of everything they do. 

The mission of Nohea Kindreds is to “help school and district leaders create information peace of mind, so they can lead effectively, teachers can teach joyfully, and students learn.” Kellie commends Nohea’s co-founders, Aubrey Patterson and Lori Harvey as possibly the kindest, most lovely people in education.

Nohea is built around a three-step leadership philosophy that puts special emphasis on three actions: simplify, amplify, and clarify. Much of their consultation and coaching work for schools and school leaders helps education organizations increase capacity by decluttering communication, clarifying mission, and strategically investing in leaders within their communities. The Nohea Kindred tribe is made up of givers: educators who want to freely share with educators around the world. 

What’s Setting Kellie on 🔥 in Education Right Now

“I feel like I’m on fire for every possible angle that education has to offer,” Kellie laughs. One of her many areas of passion right now include the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. She combines the UNSDGs with design thinking to transform her middle school classroom.

“It breaks down walls and brings the world right into our classroom,” she says. It’s given her middle schoolers passion and mission and some deeply authentic project-based learning. “This work has me so on fire that I could go on and on about it.”

Kellie credits Lindsay Portnoy’s Designed to Learn: Using Design Thinking to Bring Purpose and Passion to the Classroom and the work of Jennifer Williams (see Teach Boldly: Using EdTech for Social Good) for the inspiration to head down this rewarding path with her learners. Education should be about more than just coming to school and working to master curricular standards, Kellie says. It should be about working and learning that makes a difference and creates positive changes in the world.

Other Professional Pursuits

Kellie is working on a PhD, and she admits that part of the challenge to come will be narrowing the focus of her activities. She’s also enjoyed working with Evo Hannan and his Agents for Agency, an association of educators committed to changing paradigms in education that give students more agency and ownership in their learning. Find out more about Agents for Agency at EvoHannan.com.

A Personal Passion Outside of Education: Nature

Kellie has a lot going on at all times, she admits, but one thing she always makes time for is fresh air. Getting into the woods and walking through the trees is calming, clarifying, and centering, and she’s incredibly blessed to have easy access to the wilds of northern Michigan. Her summers are filled with camping and kayaking, although she doesn’t share Abigail French’s love of snakes! Getting off the grid once in a while is important, she says. It helps us get back to basics: our health, others, and nature.

A Productivity Hack: Preparing for the Morning the Night Before

Sleep is Kellie’s ultimate productivity hack, she says. “I’m a sleeper. Once my head hits the pillow, I could sleep for 13 hours. Getting up in the morning is so hard for me – I could sleep until noon if given the chance.” With that in mind, Kellie has learned that absolutely everything for her morning routine must be prepared and ready to go the night before.

Voices and Resources That Spark Her Thinking and Ignite Her Practice

Over on Twitter, Kellie recommends following #SDGwomen, @CrazyPLN, and @LPortnoy. “Lindsay has changed my teaching and how I approach learning with students,” Kellie says.

For a great edtech tool, Kellie points to FlipGrid. “Flipgrid was really great for student conferences,” Kellie explains. “It was wonderful for parents to hear their child talk about the things that they loved about the classroom and what they were learning.” Flipgrid has also offered a nice way for Kellie’s students to communicate with students in Africa and around the world. Follow Fligrid on Twitter @FlipGrid.

Kellie’s book pick is The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan. “It’s a book that I really need in my life,” Kellie says. With a lot of plates in the air and so much going on, this book has helped her clarify her focus and allowed her to achieve significant progress on her goals. Follow the authors on Twitter @GaryKeller and @JayPapasan

Kellie is a huge supporter of the Teachers on Fire podcast and claims to never miss an episode. Amazing! Another one of her podcast favorites is The Staff Room Podcast with the very charismatic Chey and Pav. They’re fun, they’re human, and they bring some great down-to-earth perspectives on the state of education today. Follow this podcast on Twitter @StaffPodcast

Some of Kellie’s recent Netflix viewing has included The Stranger and The Five. Both series are based on fascinating books by Harlan Coben, and Kellie will consume anything he puts out.

We sign off on this conversation, and Kellie gives us the best ways to follow her online. Check the links below and get connected!

Follow Kellie

Connect with the Teachers on Fire Podcast on Social Media

Subscribe to the Teachers on Fire Podcast on Your Mobile Device

Song Track Credits

  • Sunrise Drive by South London Hifi*
  • Anthem by The Grand Affair*
  • Bluntedsesh4 (by Tha Silent Partner, courtesy of FreeMusicArchive.org

*courtesy of the YouTube Audio Library

Listen to Teachers on Fire on YouTube

Episode 86 – Pernille Ripp

86 - Pernille Ripp.png

Meet Pernille Ripp

PERNILLE RIPP is a prolific blogger, highly recognized speaker, literacy expert, creator of the Global Read Aloud, and the author of several books, including Passionate Readers: The Art of Reaching and Engaging Every Child. She’s also a Danish educator living in the US, mother of 4, and soulmate to an incredible man that makes it all possible.

Pernille’s context in education is that of a 7th grade English teacher in Oregon, WI. She has the privilege of having her reality checked by 75th students each day, and she enjoys learning from them constantly. Pernille also writes regularly on her blog and frequently shares her learning with other educators around the world.

When Our Best is Not Enough

When Pernille thinks of failures in her education career, she thinks of the moments when her best efforts just haven’t been enough. Yes, she can think of lots of successes in reading and writing and the growth of her learners. But there are other stories and everyday experiences that challenge us as educators and shake our confidence in our own effectiveness.

Sometimes we don’t see the progress that we want to see, and sometimes our students will remain resistant to the passions and skills that we seek to cultivate in them. One thing we can focus on in cases like that, Pernille observes, is to make sure that we are doing everything in our power to avoid contributing to the problem. Even if we can’t be THE solution for a learner, we can strive to at least contribute toward it.

The Power of Pink

Pernille describes the incredible night when Pink asked to personally meet her daughter, a victim of terrible bullying in third grade. She explains some of the trauma that her daughter experienced during the previous year, and calls this surreal experience with Pink as a powerful moment of affirmation and self-confidence that will stay with her daughter forever. (Check out Pernille’s Dear Pink.)

Though her daughter’s story isn’t over, Pernille talks about the power of taking the time and energy to speak life into others by telling them we see them, they’re important, and they matter. The whole experience has also set her daughter on a mission to stand up for other kids who may be struggling in similar ways.

Blogging as a Form of Authentic Self-Reflection

Pernille recalls the very beginning of her blogging journey. Her purpose and intentions have remained as simple as they were at the outset, and the blog remains more about her own reflective process than anything else.

That said, years of consistent and authentic writing have taken her blog further than she could have ever imagined. Many of her closest professional connections and mentors have come from her blogging work, and she owes her speaking engagements and publishing achievements to the organic growth of the blog.

The publishing process requires a thick skin, Pernille observes, and it’s also critical that you understand your core purpose. First and foremost, blogging is about self-reflection and learning. “The reason I publish publicly is because it keeps me honest,” she says.

We actually don’t need more stories from perfect teachers – what we really need is more genuine reflections about what we’ve done, where we’ve failed, and how we’re growing, learning, and improving our practice.

Literacy and Equity in Education

Pernille has focused a lot lately on the roles that literacy and literature play around equity in education. Preserving the status quo often means perpetuating ongoing inequities, so instead of doing that, let’s make it our aim to disrupt norms, she urges. Connect with people who are doing disrupting things, like the authors of Disrupt Texts or the Twitter conversations happening at #CleartheAir.

Pernille is often accused of making her book choices political, but she shrugs that off as inevitable resistance that comes when we amplify the voices of the marginalized.

Children’s Lit Titles on Pernille’s Radar

When she thinks of recent kids’ lit or teen lit titles, a couple of books that have attracted Pernille’s attention include The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander, Redwood and Ponytail by K. A. Holt, Watch Us Rise by Renée Watson & Ellen Hagan, and Born a Crime by Trevor Noah.

These stories and others like them are finally being shared, heard, published, and it gives Pernille hope that blind spots in our culture are slowly being eliminated and students are learning to see the world through other people’s eyes.

Pernille’s Professional Goals

Pernille’s goals include continual improvement and growth as a teacher of writing – and particularly, writing as a tool for social change. She’s slowly formulating content for another book as well, and this one will come directly from the learning experiences of her students. Her students have made it clear that they would like to be in a book, and she’s more than happy to amplify their voices.

In the bigger picture, Pernille also wants to remain mindful of life balance: saying yes to large projects also means saying no to other priorities, and it’s important to her to protect the marriage, family, and professional priorities that matter most.

Personal Passions Outside of Education

Pernille is focused on learning how to relax. By nature, she likes to be busy, so she’s working hard to rewire her brain to recognize reading books, hanging out with her kids, cooking, baking, and gardening as productive time. These activities take her away from her computer and so-called “productive activities” in order to slow down and enjoy simple pleasures and relationships more deeply.

Productivity Habits and Hacks

Pernille gives her husband Brandon credit for her productivity, calling him the powerhouse that makes her work possible. He takes care of so much on the home front to create the time she that she needs to meet her professional commitments, and she’s grateful for his support.

She also calls herself a task slayer in the sense that she takes out tasks as quickly as possible. Her blogging practice is quick and efficient, and most of her published pieces are actually first drafts.

She’s also developed her ability to say no and walk away. As a teacher, there’s always more that we can do in our classrooms or on our lesson plans if we are willing to sacrifice personal happiness and relationships. But as human beings, we need to be able to walk away and be content with good enough.

Her motto right now is less learning, more BEING.

Voices and Resources That Inspire Her Practice 

Over on Twitter, Pernille shouts out a few inspiring educators worth following: @ValeriaBrownEdu, @DebReese, @JuliaErin80, @TchKimPossible, @TriciaEbarvia, and @NenaGerman.

Pernille’s favorite edtech tool? Her AirPods! As an introvert, she appreciates the power of her AirPods to give her some separation when she needs it.

Her adult-level book picks include Troublemakers: Lessons in Freedom from Young Children at School, by Carla Shalaby. She’s also been enjoying the poetry of Amanda Lovelace in The Witch Doesn’t Burn in This One.

A podcast that Pernille and her teaching team have enjoyed lately is NPR’s More Perfect, hosted by Jad Abumrad. Follow the host on Twitter @JadAbumrad.

Two Netflix shows on Pernille’s radar lately are Derry Girls and Sex Education. The latter was seriously entertaining, but don’t break it out in your middle school classroom any time soon!

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

Connect with Pernille:

Song Track Credits

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

Episode 73 – Rae Hughart

73 - Rae Hughart

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.

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