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About the Author
Passionate and curious about technology, smiles, special education, differentiated instruction, forests, graphic novels, accessibility, anti-oppression, and warm beverages. Can often be found laughing with young people and improvising songs on the spot. @teach_tomorrow

62. How to save time and energy when teaching feels chaotic: a solo episode

How might we do less, better as teachers? Today on the show I share my top strategies for saving time and cultivating harmony when everything feels chaotic. 

Hi everyone. It is just us today with a solo episode. Since I started this podcast, I’ve kept a running list of ideas for solo episodes, but between you and me, I gravitate more towards interviewing experts in education because I would so much rather just ask the questions and highlight other people’s brilliance than take a position of authority myself (there’s nothing to unpack there, is there? Ha!). But to make my life a little easier with doing the PhD, I’m switching up the podcast schedule a bit and interviewing an amazing person once a month and bringing in a solo episode once a month. An awesome piece of feedback I got from the listener survey is that an episode every 2 weeks is way better for you, so I love that. My life these days has been about doing less, better–you know that saying, when you are tired, learn to rest, not quit? Banksy said this! That should be our motto right now as educators. 

So in this vein, I’m (finally) doing the episode I’ve been thinking of for–oh about 3 years–my favourite teacher time saving hacks. 

You have heard many of these before. I certainly didn’t invent them. Some of these I learned from veteran teachers. Some I learned through Angela Watson’s 40 hour Teacher Workweek. Some I just learned by being tired and having kids and getting to the end of my rope. But I hope that one of these hacks you might be able to try on or experiment with. Please please please, learn to rest (or go slower) rather than quit. If you are listening to a podcast about education, YOU ARE AN AMAZING EDUCATOR who cares about the practice and their students. We need to learn to do less, better rather than give up on teaching altogether. 

Also, lists make me happy and an organized list makes my heart smile. So the first 5 are things that you can do now. The next 5 take some strategy. We’ll get into that in a little bit. 

My top ten teacher time saving hacks:

  1. Automate tasks: stock responses, email replies, Calendly, report card observations, Plan to Eat
  2. Daily To-Do List: Organize your to do list into days of the week. Ideal if you can map it out on a weekly basis on Sundays. Easier to feel like at the end of the day you’re actually DONE. Consider what free time you actually have. This I learned from Angela Watson’s 40 Hour Teacher Work Week
  3. Take your email off your phone: Only check email at one time during the day. Get into flow. 
  4. Borrow / Steal / Redo lessons: Stop inventing your lessons from scratch. Other people have done this before and it’s probably better than what you could create on your own. I had a lot of shame in this earlier on. Now, I think it’s the best. Students want a caring, humane, connected educator. 
  5. Prep meals on the weekend: Easier and quicker to do 2-3 big batches of things than make dinner every night. Prep lunches for your kids and freeze sandwiches. Dinner should not take a long time. Use Plantoeat
  6. Leave your computer at work: Start with one day a week. We need time to recharge. 
  7. Send a good note home email: saves you time with parent communication. Gives you that joy back. Gives you energy. 
  8. Stop Marking / reading everything: design tasks that don’t require tons of time to mark. Give formative feedback in class. Mark beside students when they are right there. Automate feedback (Google tests / Kahoots / EdPuzzle). 
  9. Reevaluate the time it takes to write report cards: bank of report card comments, err on the side of the student, consider how long these are actually read, use the student success criteria to make it really clear what they can do and what they can’t do
  10.  Flip your classes: record a lesson, if you have 3 classes you don’t have to say the same thing to 3 different sets of students. They watch it in or out of the class. Time in class with students becomes the time you give them for formative feedback, students practicing skills, marking student work.

What’s your favourite time saving strategies for addressing exhaustion and overwhelm? Pop them into the chat or share them on the socials Twitter @teach_tomorrow and Instagram @teaching_tomorrow!

 

 

61. Seeing hope and potential in anti-racism work with Jennifer Grant

How might we embrace both the incrementalism and urgency of anti-racism growth in all of our schools? Today I talk with the amazing Jennifer Grant on the show. 

I have wanted to interview Jennifer pretty much since I met her, so now that she has been working in the realm of education since May, I have a much better excuse to talk to her than simply because I liked her and wanted to pick her brain. Jennifer Grant is the director of the Office of Anti-Racism, Equity and Human Rights Services at George Brown College in Toronto and has a background in Child Youth Care. 

We talk in this episode about both the incrementalism and the urgency of institutional change, how she manages such a big portfolio, and the realities of anti-racism in her school context. Jennifer’s approach to this work is so deeply relational and full of hope. Listening back to this conversation, this really stands out to me as so needed and necessary. Jennifer is a whip smart, compassionate, and highly effective human that blew my mind more than once during this conversation. You really have to keep listening for Jennifer’s mic drop moment when she explains how having more diversity around the table doesn’t necessarily make the work of anti-racism any easier. 

I loved getting to talk to Jennifer and I know you will get so much out of this conversation. Let’s get right to it, please welcome to the show, Jennifer Grant.

 

Things mentioned in this show:

60. The first week of my PhD: a solo episode

What has it been like to start a PhD during a pandemic? Today it’s just me on the show sharing my reflections on the first few days of this new educational journey.

If you are looking for that amazing listener survey, here is the link! Thank you for sharing your thoughts–it really goes a long way to designing the future of the show.

In this episode, I talk about:

  • Why I am even doing this PhD thing
  • A typical day in the life
  • What are the hardest parts
  • What are the best parts

I touch on a few things that have some resources and links…here they are:

59. What schools can learn from summer camp in a pandemic with Ross McIntyre

How can we as educators learn from the experience our students had this past summer at camp? Today on the show I am joined by Ross McIntyre, The Director of Community Initiatives at Camp Couchiching

You know how at the start of the school year, we as teachers will sit down with the teachers who taught our students last year and share notes, strategies, and insights to start the year ahead on a proactive note? Those meetings are often really helpful, right? So I thought for the first episode back after the summer break (hi again, by the way), we should hear from summer camp to hear how our students did over the summer. 

Now I get that not all our students go to summer camp. And I get that summer camp is an immensely privileged experience–especially this summer–that doesn’t really speak for all our learners (more on that in the episode). But for those young people that did go to day or overnight camps, I wanted to hear how they did. Was summer camp the restorative experience that so many of us hoped for? Were students able to undo some of the challenges and even trauma of this past year? How might schools bring a little camp into their pandemic pedagogy? 

So enter Ross McIntyre who will be speaking for all camps everywhere. I’m joking. But his insights about what worked about his camp this summer and how the campers at his camp fared I think tells us some important things about young people and provides some hope for the road ahead. 

Ross and I went to high school together and was a significant part of my own journey through school, so it is such an honour to get talk about many things that matter with him: young people, camp, wellness, learning joy, and of course hope. 

Click on the Soundcloud link to hear the full conversation with Ross!

 

Take Aways from the Show:

Listening to this show, I am struck by three things that Ross touched on about his experience with Covid camp: we can’t attend to all needs in a crisis. For Ross’s camp this meant that less kids got to come to camp and pausing their focus on “camperships”. Not ideal. But neither is a pandemic. I think it’s a good reminder that we can only do so much when trying to do camp or school or family or anything in a pandemic. The second is that young people are capable of doing hard things, especially when they understand the benefit and payoff will be worth it. And finally, create opportunities for joy: go outside with your students, find moments to laugh, bring magic and whimsy to your classroom, pack candy in your adult lunch to help you get through the day, play music that you and your students all love. It seems obvious, but we’ve all been there in those tough moments of school that just feel like a grind. If creating joy is a practice for those us that make school happen, it will get easier and more natural for us. 

Listener Survey

If you have been listening to the show for a little while, you might have noticed that I took a little pause during the summer months. I am very happy to be feeling more refreshed than at the end of this past school year and I’m now starting some new adventures, specifically my PhD at The University of Toronto in the curriculum and pedagogy program. More on that to come in a future episode, but part of stepping into a new thing is that I will be changing up a few things about the podcast.

 

To help with what to change and what to keep, I am getting input from you! If you have been listening to the show a few times, a little while, or are a loyal listener I want to hear from you by filling out a very quick and very useful listener survey. It will take about 7 minutes and you can enter to win an Indigo or Starbucks gift card. Link to the survey is right here. I haven’t done one of these since we launched in 2018, so I am very happy and grateful to you for sharing your thoughts on the show to make it even better. 

58. Sketchnoting for social justice with Sylvia Duckworth

How might teachers use their voice and power for social change? Today on the show I speak with social justice artist and sketchnote enthusiast, Sylvia Duckworth. 

 

You might know Sylvia as the sketchnote promoter and author of two books on the topic. Or maybe you know her as the 2015 Prime Minister’s Teaching Award winner. Or perhaps you have discovered one of her powerful images on Instagram about a social justice issue. Or maybe this is the first you are hearing about her, in which case, you are in for a treat. If you know anything about Sylvia, you will know that she is an educator with a growth mindset who is passionate about learning, not afraid to share her voice with the world, and uses her platform for good. 

 

In this conversation, we talk about Sylvia’s journey in education and how her most recent chapter as a retired, but still very active educator, is working out for her. We also talk about sketchnoting, but we really sink our teeth into how Sylvia is now using her skills in sketchnoting to educate others about social justice issues. We also get into the risk and clear benefits of teachers sharing their voice online. 

 

A theme that kept coming up for me while chatting with Sylvia Duckworth is the idea that every teacher has their own unique superpowers and there are so many reasons why others need us to share these. Sylvia has many (many) superpowers, so let’s jump right in and learn more about them. Please welcome to the show, Sylvia Duckworth and listen to the audio with the link above. 

The key takeaways that I am left with are these:

 

  1. Start small and start where you are. Sylvia mentioned this when she was talking about how she teaches others how to draw doodles, but I think this also applies to how we use our voices online, how we gradually improve with any skill, and–probably most importantly–how we further ourselves on a social justice journey. 
  2. Find your people: social media is all the things. Yes, there are trolls, and yes, there is risk in sharing your opinions online. But with thoughtfulness and intentionality, it is also an amazing tool to find your larger learning community outside of the walls of your classroom. Put yourself out there, share your teaching wins with the world, and lean on others for support. And finally..
  3. Be comfortable with making mistakes. Sylvia shared her own tricky moment in the grocery store and I’m so glad she did because I think it really highlights how even once you have started the journey to being a better anti-racist, we are still going to mess up. It’s more important how we learn from this and how we take ownership. We have all been steeped in this culture…it takes a long time to truly unlearn. 

 

If you liked this show, please subscribe to the podcast, follow me on Instagram @teaching_tomorrow, and leave me a rating and review. You don’t have to be one of those lurkers like Sylvia mentions…you can say hi and connect. I really (really) love it! 

 

Things Mentioned In This Show:

 

57. How we foster visionary leadership in schools with Angela Watson

How might we revolutionize education by streamlining workflow and designing better systems for everyone in school? Today on the show I am joined by the incredible Angela Watson.

Angela Watson is a big thinker in education and I’m so excited to share this interview with you. If you don’t know her work, you are in for a potentially life changing episode here. Angela was a classroom teacher for many years but has made a name for herself by teaching educators how to be smarter, more effective teachers by re-thinking how they use their time and shifting their mindsets. If you are familiar with her work, perhaps through her 40 Hour Teacher WorkWeek club or maybe by listening to her podcast Truth For Teachers, then you know how radically life changing her message can be: working non-stop does not make you a good teacher! In fact, excellent teachers do indeed REST! 

In this conversation, we talk about Angela’s background, but of course we go way deeper than that. We look into the origins of this profession and how we ended up in this current state of exhaustion and overwhelm (that’s not just fueled by covid, because we all know teacher burnout was a thing long before 2020). We also get into what is needed for true visionary leadership in our schools and the big, exciting projects that Angela is working on and launching! 

Click on the Soundcloud link above to listen to the episode!

Things Mentioned in the Episode:

56. When students are not turning on their cameras

How might teachers better serve students when they don’t want to turn their cameras on? Today on the show, I talk to three teachers about their wins and challenges with this aspect of virtual learning. I’m your host Celeste Kirsh and We are Teaching Tomorrow. 

 

I can’t quite pin down what has been the hardest part of online teaching this year. Some things that come to mind:

  • Hearing my children scream from downstairs while I try to pretend like everything is normal when I’m teaching my students
  • Not feeling like I have the time I need to be the teacher I am used to being
  • All the sitting and time in front of a screen
  • Missing my work friends and the doses of connection, whimsy, and stimulation

 

But something that I keep coming back to is teaching to a screen of icons. Making jokes and hearing nothing. Asking a student a question and getting radio silence. 

 

As a podcaster, I am used to just talking into a screen and getting a very delayed and sometimes non-existent response. But this is different. 

 

When people say that teachers have radically transformed how we do our jobs, this is a huge part of it. It’s not just learning new tech tools and relying less on delivering content either! Many of us became teachers because we thrive off relationships, making connections with students, getting through to the hard to reach young people, and building community. We are now trying to do all those things when we can’t see our students or often even hear them! How do you build community when you can’t experience other human beings? 

 

I wanted to talk to some people about how they are fairing with having their students turn on their cameras to help comfort myself to know that I’m not alone, to get some ideas for how I might get better at this myself, but also to contemplate what is actually going on here. 

 

You might be thinking that isn’t the best question to ask at this time.

There are for sure more important concerns we should be figuring out in regards to virtual learning. 

Many people might have come to the opinion that nobody should be turning on their cameras right now (not even teachers!) and it’s oppressive to even think about asking students. 

 

But I do believe that this deserves some investigation. 

 

Signs are pointing to some form of hybrid learning being a thing next year in Ontario and whether we like it or not, some students will be learning at home in front of their screens. So even if everyone is vaccinated by Fall 2021 (fingers crossed), we are not going back to “normal”.

 

Students keeping their cameras off, despite teacher, parent, and admin encouragement and the despite availability of concealed backgrounds should be telling us something: Is this a sign of deeper student unwellness? Is this a way of our students exerting some form of control in this terrible situation that nobody asked for? Are we asking too much of our students from a developmental lens that needs significant tech updating to better suit the age and stage of our learners? Or in the lead up to distance learning have  we completely missed what fosters truly engaged learners rather than compliant and obedient ones? 

 

As TESS WILKINSON-RYAN writes in her September 2020 article in the Atlantic, “The system does not work without their cooperation, and educators who want to meet students halfway need to understand what is happening to them.”

 

We are not going to fully understand what is happening to our students in the span of this podcast episode. The impacts of what is happening right now in education are going to be felt for a very long time. But I want to look at these questions in the hopes that we might find something new or better know what is actually happening here to learn, to grow, and to make school better for our students even when not mitigate by a screen.

 

I was able to talk to a few teachers about this and their experiences varied. Some have had classes and days that they got all their students to turn their cameras on without any prompting, persuading, or pleading…and others teachers have gotten very little buy in and their victories were few and scattered.

To listen to the full episode, click on the Soundcloud link.

Stuff Mentioned in the Show:

 

55. Using podcasts for student and teacher learning: a solo episode

How might teachers leverage podcasts to supercharge student and professional learning? Today on the podcast we get real nerdy and geek out on the SAMR model of tech integration and podcasting.

SAMR Model Picture by Sylvia Duckworth

Recently, I had the delight of presenting at the CITE conference about using podcasts for teacher and student learning. I took the key ideas about this presentation and turned it into a podcast episode for this week!

You can access the slides from the presentation here. 

I would love to hear what you think. You can reach out to me on Instagram @teaching_tomorrow or on Twitter @teach_tomorrow and of course I would absolutely love it if you shared your feedback with a rating and review on the Apple Podcast platform. I read every one of them and it is a really awesome way to let me know if you love these solo episodes, want nothing to do with them, or have an idea for a show. 

Speaking of which…I’m pulling together a show about how teachers are encouraging students to learn with their cameras on and unmuting themselves. If you have had even the smallest moments of victories with this that you would be comfortable sharing on the podcast, reach out. I would love to hear from you.

Here are things I mentioned in this show:

Limetown
Secret Life of Canada
This American Life
Radiolab

Listenwise
Angela Watson’s Truth for Teachers 
“The Long Tail and the Dip” by Seth Godin
Tai asks why
NY Times Student Podcast Contest

 

 

54. Pandemic pedagogy, one year later

How have our ideas and understandings shifted over the year about teaching in a pandemic? Today on the show, I bring back the guests that were featured in episode #30. I’m your host Celeste Kirsh and we are Teaching Tomorrow. 

Adam Caplan, Lara Jensen, Garth Nichols, and Les McBeth were the dream team that I spoke to very early on in the pandemic. Like, I want to say that I recorded the conversations with them a few days into the March 2020 lockdown. We didn’t entirely know what we were getting into, but one thing was clear: these folks would be thinking about pandemic pedagogy in an interesting way. And they did and you listened: this one is still my number one most listened to episode of the podcast! 

One year later, instead of solo interviews, we all gathered together on a Tuesday night and had a roundtable discussion about what we’ve learned in the past year, how teachers are using this moment as an opportunity, this idea of learning loss, and how we are really doing. 

As always, these four edu-superstars have powerful insights about our present tense and what the next stages of learning might look like. Please welcome to the show: Adam, Lara, Garth, and Les.

Oh and not to forget the no knead bread recipe that Adam was referencing!

53. Affinity groups for educators with Talking Together For Change

How can educators practice having brave conversations to positively affect change? I am so excited to share with you today the conversation I had with Talking Together for Change.

I had never met the three founders of Talking Together for Change before this interview and can I just say that it felt like I was just part of their friendship the moment we began talking? I think this is such a sign of all of their caring, compassionate, and inclusive ways of existing. Aparna Singhal, Lindsay Core, and Riisa Walden are the trifecta that founded Talking Together for Change and let me tell you–the work that these human beings are doing is so important and needed in education right now.

You might have heard of affinity groups, but if not, allow me to give you a little primer: affinity groups are intentional, facilitated conversations with people who share an identity. The goal is to help process what it means to live with and work against discrimination. Affinity groups can be formed on the basis of race, class, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, though Talking Together For Change focuses on two main groups: BIPOC Educators Affinity Groups and White Accountability Groups. 

I loved this conversation. These leaders drop a lot of wisdom and knowledge, but there is also so much laughter in this episode and I think this is important to highlight: while we are having brave conversations, there is also so much joy in this kind of work. Please give a warm welcome to the show: Aparna, Lindsay, and Riisa.

Things Mentioned in This Episode: