1: Embracing the awkward imperfections: the pilot episode with Celeste Kirsh

What do the first day of school, TV show pilots, and blind dates have in common? They are all awkward beginnings! Welcome to this very first episode. I’m your host, Celeste Kirsh, and we are Teaching Tomorrow.


You are either curious and jumping back to the start of this podcast or a devoted and loyal follower from our early days.


So hi and welcome. I’m all for the awkwardness. I think this is why I love teaching in a Middle School classroom. I’m so happy you are here and also that you are probably okay with checking out the first episode of this awkward thing.


This feels kind of like a cheat, because I’m actually recording this episode after I have now recorded and edited the first 14 episodes of this show! So the version of Celeste that is speaking to you, knows what you will eventually listen to. I realized pretty early into this project that I liked the idea of using this first episode as like a preview of what is coming down the pipe and what you should keep listening for. Also, I really like the feeling of talking from the future to the past but also from the time before now. You feeling the awkwardness yet?


No but really, that theme of embracing the awkward imperfections that are inherent in this teaching profession kept on showing up in many of the people that I interviewed. I didn’t even prompt for this! I just asked cool people questions about what they were into and organically they kept circling back to this idea. I love how one of my colleagues Jodi Rice put it, “It’s not necessary to be perfect in order to be good”. Jodi shows up on episode 12 and she shares with us her strategy for helping students process and track writing feedback in her senior English class. While I know Jodi was reflecting on what she hopes from her students, I think many of us (myself included) get into this teaching profession because we were really good students, we did school well, and we like being the one who knows all the things. So for me, just using this as a kind of mantra (its not necessary to be perfect in order to be good) is a pretty effective way to move through the reality of teaching.


When I spoke with Rosetta Lee, a diversity and equity trainer and teacher at The Seattle Girls School, she flipped this a little bit by saying: “It’s not about getting rid of discomfort, but managing it and knowing what to do WHEN you make mistakes”. You are going to meet Rosetta in episode 7 of the show, and while she was talking about being sensitive to that slippery notion of “Cultural Competency” (which, for the record, I have some personal issues with that term, but you can listen to episode 7 to hear more on that), I think just embracing the idea that imperfection is just a state of being and we can’t really avoid it. We actually need to just plan for imperfect in all it’s beauty and awkwardness.


So I wholeheartedly welcome you to this imperfect, beautiful, and clunky podcast: teaching tomorrow.


I started this show for a few reasons. The first was pretty simple: Cohort 21. It is a year-long professional development experience for Ontario Independent School Teachers. I have been helping to facilitate it for a few years now and I loved the idea of building a podcast to keep teachers engaged and inspired between the face-to-face sessions. You might be listening to this and are participating in Cohort 21 this year or are a Cohort 21 alumni. If this this you, hi! How’s it going? When people sign up for Cohort 21, they state a dilemma in their registration process and you might not realize this, but many of the upcoming episodes were recorded with these exact dilemmas in mind:


  • Laura Mustard shows up in episode 15 and she was interviewed to share ideas of new vs. old ways of “doing” library
  • Dr. Kathleen Gallagher will make her appearance in episode 13 and she was invited to talk about how drama can bolster the social emotional growth of young people
  • Vanessa Vanclief is our guest on episode 14 and she shares some exciting ways to deliver Social Studies content through experiences, games, and simulations.
  • Justine Cappell is feautured on episode 6 and in our discussion she shares practical strategies for teachers finding moderation and navigating the middle path towards wellness amidst a busy, all-consuming school year.


Perhaps these topics are ones that you are personally curious about, perhaps you can recognize your own educational dilemmas, or perhaps just hearing these upcoming episode teasers you only now realizing that this is also a challenge for you…well I see you and we are going to go dive deep together over the next several weeks. The other reason why I created this podcast was to open a door into the kinds of conversations that happen in the Cohort 21 community to the larger educational world. So while I am mining the Cohort 21 group this year for interesting topics and interviews to include, the show is for everyone who wants to geek out on teaching.


One of the many incredible people that you will meet pretty soon is Meg Goldner Rabinowitz. She shows up on episode 3 and Meg reminded me of the importance of claiming your identities as a teacher early on. This came up in a conversation on Decentering Whiteness in the English classroom, but recognizing that there are no neutral identities and there is no reality where our various identities do not shape and inform everything that we do was an important insight that Meg models in her pedagogy. So inspired by Meg, I thought that as we are getting to know each other it is relevant to share with you a little about who I am.


To start, I’m a white, queer, cis-gendered woman (and I use she / her pronouns). I come from a lower-socio economic background, but through sustaining quite a lot of student loan debt, I’ve moved myself into more of a middle class life. My wife is raised Jewish, and although we are not raising our son with any specific religion, I did practice Christianity during my “rebellious phase” in university and I was part of both a yoga and Buddhist community during an earlier phase of my adulting. My family mostly comes from Europe: Scotland and Holland to be exact. I am a first generation Canadian (my dad was born near Glasgow), I am able bodied, and 35 years awesome at the time of this taping. I studied drama in university and I currently teach Grade 8 English at The Bishop Strachan School, the oldest all girls independent school in Canada. When I’m not geeking out about teaching, I’m probably playing with my scrumptious golden retriever, chasing around my young child, going for a run, or making something delicious to eat. My favourite food is cereal, my weakness is coffee, I’m left handed, and my favourite movies typically involve Muppets.


It’s funny, I think this is the first time that I have just publicly declared all of these things. Especially the one about the Muppets. And while I admit that it is a little weird to be this vulnerable this soon with you, I also kind of like how there doesn’t need to be any guessing about who I am or what I might be about. I have some real privileges in this world. I know that as an educated white person with a strong body and good teeth, it’s really easy to be taken seriously as an educator. But I’m not going to lie, I’m always a little afraid that by not having had piano lessons or an overnight summer camp experience, I’m somehow less than my wealthier peers. Or I fear that by having a picture of my wife and bahbah up in my classroom, I might be at best tokenized or at worst scrutinized in my mostly hetero-school community. And yet, it actually sometimes amazes me how much I feel at home teaching in an elite independent school: I didn’t grow up with people with the kinds of resources that my students have access to, and so I feel a tremendous calling to help my students see how their power and privilege can create more social justice and equity in the world.


I see the possibility of this show as a platform for sharing what is awesome about teaching. I see it as an easy way to integrate learning with our everyday lives of driving to work, walking the dog, buying groceries, or prepping meals. I know better than anyone else the challenges of not having enough time to get better at the things I love. My hope is that this show makes us better educators so that our students may realize their fullest potential.


So if you are in, subscribe to this show and follow along in this journey. This school year, I will create 34 episodes, pushed out roughly every two weeks. I can personally promise you that after the awkwardness of this first episode, the best is very much yet to come.


Oh and Remember, we are teaching tomorrow!

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