Episode 79 – Karen Caswell

79 - Karen Caswell

Meet Our Guest

KAREN CASWELL is a 4th grade teacher at a large primary school on Australia’s Gold Coast. Her favorite themes in education include relationships, reading, kindness, and global connections. In addition to being a homeroom teacher, Karen does some collegial coaching and is an indigenous champion at her school. She’s also an Apple Certified Teacher, Seesaw Ambassador, the founder of #TLAPdownunder.

Follow Karen on Twitter @kcasw1 and visit her blog at https://www.karencaswell.com/.

Taking Time Away to Recharge the Passion

Karen shares about the time that she pulled completely out of education. After teaching for twenty years, she still loved being a teacher, but she admits to feeling the wear and tear of the bumps and bruises one experiences along the journey.

As a result, she took an extended break away from school to focus on rest, relaxation, and rejuvenation. She also did some big picture reflection about where she was and where she wanted to be. She realized she was suffering from a sense of disillusionment more than anything else, and she decided that if she was to return to the profession she wanted to pour her energy and focus primarily into students. Yes, the other parts of the job were still important, but she found that putting the focus primarily on students helped to clarify her mission.

It was also during this time that she discovered the books from Dave Burgess Consulting. To start, she read Kids Deserve It by Adam Welcome and Todd Nesloney, Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess, and Be Real: Educate from the Heart by Tara Martin. Karen credits these books for showing her what is possible in the classroom, helping her become a connected educator, and recharging her vision for education.

What is #TLAPDownUnder?

After getting into the DBC books, Karen was thrilled to connect with Dave Burgess and other authors at the weekly #TLAP chat, but she quickly realized that the time slot was difficult for Australian and Asian educators. With that in mind, she began the #TLAPDownUnder chat, and it’s taken off.

She now sees educators contributing from countries all over Asia, and the relationships formed there have been tremendously encouraging. Dave Burgess has dropped by a couple of times and of course North Americans are free to join in as well, although it may make for a late night or an early morning, depending on your time zone.

Why and How Karen Uses Seesaw in the Classroom

Karen uses Seesaw as a digital portfolio that collects evidence of student learning in her classroom. Since most of her students’ work is now kept on the platform, she no longer has to cart stacks of papers to and from home each day. Parents are kept updated and constantly in the loop with what their children are learning, and students are able to give peers effective feedback and assessment as well.

Because Karen’s class is fully equipped with iPads, her students enjoy creating booksnaps and Real You snaps to represent their personalities and demonstrate their learning.

Professional Commitments and Goals

Outside of Seesaw, Karen has a tremendous passion for helping students find the joy of reading, and it makes her sad to see teaching strategies dampen that joy. She shares strategies with her colleagues about how she grows the will to read in her classroom and even how she finds the time to do more independent reading in the timetable. Recently, Karen has leveraged her global connections in education to form creative writing and read-aloud partnerships with educators like Allyson Apsey, Alicia Ray, and Annick Rauch.

One of her biggest success stories from the last year was when one boy – espousing a well-known dislike for books for some time – actually went to great lengths to find a quiet space in the building in order to finish his book. Win!

“If we’re not giving them times to read independently, we’re not giving them opportunities to practice the very reading and comprehension skills we’re trying to teach them,” she points out. Next up on her professional goals list? Growing a school-wide love of writing as well.

Personal Passions Outside of the Classroom

Bearing a strong and understandable resemblance to her professional goals, Karen thoroughly enjoys reading and has recently been pushing herself to write more often as well. It’s been a fun and rewarding process, and she looks forward to more in the days and years ahead.

Another passion is travel: she and her family look forward to another trip to the southern United States in the near future.

The Power of Routine

Karen’s biggest productivity strategy is routine. For important priorities like exercise, it needs to keep happening on a regular basis – without fail. She’s found that if she takes more of a casual approach, one miss turns into two, which turns into ten. Habits must be maintained to be effective.

Voices & Resources That Inspire Karen’s Professional Practice

On Twitter, Karen recommends following Catherine Williams @CathWilliams05 and Tamara Letter @TamaraLetter.

An edtech tool that makes content creation a lot of fun for Karen and her students is Keynote, from Apple.

When asked to recommend a book, Karen points to The Lost Man by Jane Harper. Follow this author on Twitter @JaneHarperAutho. If asked to make a pick from the inspirational reads at Dave Burgess Consulting, Karen goes back to the one that started it all: Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess.

A podcast that has really inspired Karen is the In Awe podcast from Sarah Johnson. Explore Sarah’s site and connect with this podcast at In Awe to Rise, and follow the producer on Twitter @SarahSaJohnson.

Karen isn’t a big consumer of YouTube videos, but she appreciates the work coming from John Spencer’s channel. His education-related animations are well worth the views!

On Netflix, Karen has two quirky picks that just may get you laughing: The first is Travels with My Father and the second is Upper Middle Bogan.

We sign off on this trans-Pacific conversation, and Karen reminds us of the best ways to find her online. See the links below for details!

See more from Karen:

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 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 49 – Colby Sharp

49 - Colby Sharp2.png

COLBY SHARP is a husband, father of five, fifth grade teacher, avid reader and book reviewer, runner, and self-proclaimed nerd. He is the author of The Creativity Project: An Awesometastic Story Collection and 2018’s Game Changer!: Book Access for All Kids.

In our conversation, Colby recalls the discouragement of a harsh professional evaluation and explains how he grew from the experience. He describes the heart and process of The Creativity Project, and explains how teachers can use this anthology to inspire creative expression in their English classrooms. He also shares about his passion for reading, putting books in the hands of kids, creativity, daily exercise, podcasts, Casey Neistat, and much more.

Follow Colby online here:

Find the highlights from our conversation at the timestamps below:

  • 0:49 – Colby teaches 5th grade at Parma Elementary School in Parma, MI.
  • 1:23 – He describes the experience of receiving fairly harsh reviews from his principal after his first year of teaching. Rather than throwing a pity party, he decided to learn from the experience, take steps to grow as a professional, and things improved quickly from there.
  • 3:24 – We talk about the mission and message of The Creativity Project: An Awesometastic Story Collection. Colby describes how authors were given a choice of two prompts to respond to creatively. The results were amazing, and the book offers exciting examples of where the creative process can take students as well.
  • 8:11 – Colby describes another passion he has for education today: teachers. Teachers today have incredible passion for kids and for learning. They’re in it for the right reasons. The new teachers he’s seeing come to the profession are inspiring.
  • 9:25 – Colby is also deeply passionate about improving access to books in schools, libraries, and communities – finding more ways to get books into the hands of children. Nerd Camp is an annual conference that connects young readers and authors. The last Nerd Camp was attended by 1500 educators, 1000 kids, and 50 authors. Every kid that attended left with at least one free author-signed book.
  • 10:55 – His productivity hack is daily exercise. He’s only missed about seven days so far in 2018, and he believes in it enough to spend his lunch breaks running.
  • 12:48 – On Twitter, Colby recommends that you give @SusanKHaney a follow.
  • 13:53 – One tried and true edtech tool in Colby’s classroom is Audible, which you can follow on Twitter @Audible_com.
  • 15:22 – A professional book that Colby thoroughly enjoyed and learned from this summer was 180 DAYS: Two Teachers and the Quest to Engage and Empower Adolescents by Kelly Gallagher and Penny Kittle. Follow these incredible authors on Twitter @KellyGToGo and @PennyKittle.
  • 17:13 – Colby’s top education podcast recommendation is Cult of Pedagogy by Jennifer Gonzales. Follow Jennifer @cultofpedagogy.
  • 19:55 – On Youtube, Colby recommends subscribing to master storyteller Casey Neistat.
  • 21:16 – A recent Netflix title that Colby gives both thumbs up to is To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, which embodies everything that’s good, fun, and wholesome about the teen romantic comedy genre.
  • 22:51 – We wrap up our conversation, and Colby shares the best ways to follow him online. See above for details and links!

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 46 – Katelynn Giordano

46 - Katelynn Giordano.png

KATELYNN GIORDANO is a sixth grade language arts teacher in Sugar Grove, IL. You can find more of her insights on learning, reading, and writing at CurriculumCoffee.com – “a written shot of espresso for educators.”

In our conversation, Katelynn recalls the time early in her career when a veteran colleague told her not to speak during faculty meetings. Part of her recovery from that discouraging blow involved moving to a new middle school position, where she was fortunate to come under the wing of a mentor who was supportive in every way. It was the positive energy and encouragement gleaned in this environment that helped shape her into the talented and motivated educator she is today. Katelynn also explains why she’s passionate about education and describes the activities that fuel her personal fire outside of the classroom. She tells us about the daily routines that make her productive, and offers some awesome recommendations on Twitter, books, edtech tools, and more.

Follow Katelynn online here:

Find the highlights from our conversation at the timestamps below:

  • 0:52 – Katelynn describes her current context as a 6th grade English teacher at Kaneland Harter Middle School in Sugar Grove, IL, USA.
  • 1:12 – We go back to a time when a veteran colleague told Katelynn to be quiet and not speak during faculty meetings. It was a discouraging encounter to say the least, taking the wind out of her sails for considerable time. Later, Katelynn took an open position in a middle school and was fortunate to come under the wing of a mentor who was supportive in every way. In this case, the grass really was greener on the other side of the fence, and the two contrasting experiences have given her a passion for positive mentorship in education.
  • 6:11 – Katelynn’s passions for education today focus on student-directed and personalized learning, empowering learners to take initiative, giving learners voice and choice, and teaching writing in new and personalized and effective ways. Her perspectives will inspire you!
  • 12:46 – One area of personal learning outside of the classroom has been her rediscovery of the joys of writing. She blogs at CurriculumCoffee.com, and savours the therapeutic qualities of synthesizing ideas and presenting them in ways that others can access and learn from. She also dabbles in drawing, painting, and other artistic pursuits when time allows.
  • 16:14 – A personal habit that contributes to her success is working out each day. She talks about the value of getting away from the digital noise, alone with her thoughts and the positive rewards of exercise. She also enjoys reading children’s literature and using her reading experiences to engage in authentic conversations with students around their reading.
  • 18:26 – On Twitter, Katelynn recommends following @MisterMinor.
  • 19:17 – Her pick for edtech tools is the fabulous FlipGrid. Follow them on Twitter @FlipGrid.
  • 21:15 – Katelynn is a reader, so you know these two picks are good ones. For children’s literature, check out Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rodes. In education, you want Being the Change: Lessons and Strategies to Teach Social Comprehension by Sara K. Ahmed.
  • 22:44 – When she’s got no energy left for reading or writing, Katelynn is watching a Netflix favourite: The Office.
  • 23:51 – We sign off on the conversation, and Katelynn tells us the best places to find and follow her content online. See above for details!

Subscribe to the Teachers on Fire podcast on your mobile device: iTunes | Google Podcasts | YouTube

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 40 – Kristin Hundt

40 - Kristin Hundt

KRISTIN HUNDT is a devoted wife and mother of four boys, a 6th grade teacher, lifelong learner, and global citizen. One of Kristin’s recent highlights includes being featured in The PBL Playbook, by AJ Juliani.

In our conversation, Kristin talks about her passion to provide good reading materials for her readers. An engaged reader herself, she advocates for student voice and choice, genius hour, going gradeless, standards-based feedback, and revision of work. Other passions include project-based learning, the outdoor classroom, and the 40 book challenge. Kristin also shares some awesome recommendations for books to read, Twitter accounts to follow, and much more.

Follow Kristin!

Find the highlights from our conversation at the timestamps below:

  • 0:57 – Kristin describes her current teaching role in a 6th grade integrated English and Social Studies classroom.
  • 2:04 – She talks about her passion to provide students with the widest variety of reading materials possible.
  • 5:11 – We discuss Kristin’s greatest sources of passion in education today: voice and choice for students, genius hour, going gradeless, feedback based on standards, and building classroom cultures of revision and growth.
  • 7:57 – As a mother of four boys and a teacher of even more, Kristin enjoys reading about boys’ development. She also doesn’t hesitate to suggest books for others.
  • 11:12 – Her recommendations on Twitter are @JoyKirr and @kttasch.
  • 12:56 – For edtech tools, Kristin points to the amazing communication and representation features on Seesaw. Follow @Seesaw for more information about what is possible on this LMS.
  • 13:47 – One book that has been an absolute game-changer for Kristin was Classroom Habitudes by Angela Maiers (@AngelaMaiers on Twitter).
  • 14:45 – Her podcast pick is Teachers Going Gradeless. Follow @TG2Chat for more information about the podcast, blog, and the amazing work around assessment happening on this platform.
  • 15:46 – On those late nights and early mornings with a sleepless baby, Kristin enjoys reruns of Friends or The Crown.
  • 16:40 – We sign off on the conversation and Kristin tells us the best ways to follow her online. See above for details!

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

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!