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

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:


52. Teaching spoken word poetry with Britta B

How might spoken word poetry ignite a passion for writing, language, and performance in young people? Today on the show I speak with spoken word poet, Britta B.

Britta Badour is a spoken word poet, performer, emcee, voice actor, mentor, and teaching artist. She is also an MFA candidate at the University of Guelph. I first saw her perform–more than 10 years ago–at the Toronto Poetry Slam. She has since then made a living out of words, writing, poetry, and inspiring creativity. In this episode, we talk about Britta’s creative process, the importance of mentorship, and the reluctance of self-identifying as a poet. You don’t have to love poetry or slam to get so much out of this conversation. I hope all teachers who include writing instruction in their classes can hear this interview as a framework for how to help students become better, more confident, and braver writers. 

This is a really good one that I am so excited about. Enough intro, let’s now hear from Britta B. Click on the Soundcloud link to hear the full episode! 

My three key takeaways from this conversation are:

  1. Mentorship matters: Britta saw her own potential as a writer and a leader because her teachers let her know what they saw in her. Be that teacher for your students! 
  2. It is essential to have a community of people to support us with creative endeavours. How we make our classrooms this community really depends on us! But it also doesn’t have to be in the classroom–look around and see what other communities might exist for young people to develop as writers that we can connect our students to: clubs, programs, or workshops outside of the class
  3. Representation matters. If students are going to see themselves as writers one day, bring in working professionals who exist in the world of words to your classrooms. Ensure that the writing you share with your students includes a broad array of voices, formats, styles, and backgrounds. Students will only see possible futures for themselves if they actually see them. 

Things Mentioned in this Episode:

51. Curriculum as a vehicle for change with Dr. Rob Simon

How might schools better serve and support students, especially during this time of great destabilization? 

Dr. Simon is an associate professor at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at The University of Toronto in the department of Curriculum Teaching and Learning. I asked Rob on the show to speak about the Addressing Injustices project: in this conversation, get into how the Addressing Injustices team use Youth Participatory Action Research to affect change, but we also explore teacher education, the field of multi-literacies, this concept of “productive discomfort” which I honestly had not really considered before this interview. 

I copied out many many quotes while listening to this episode when I was editing it, so this might be one that you have a pen and paper handy as you are listening. Dr. Simon is a generous, thoughtful, and deeply collaborative thinker in education that will gently nudge you towards thinking about education in a different way. 

Let’s get right into it with Dr. Rob Simon.

 I’m taking away a few key points from this episode:

    1. Curriculum is a living, breathing, and malleable thing. It’s not just something that I do to my students. I love this idea of taking the stance of a co-learner with my students–especially right now when everything about hybrid, pandemic learning for me feels so new and unfamiliar
    2. Ask myself what is the purpose of engaging with literature…what is your end goal? LITERATE BEHAVIOR! I need to keep asking myself this question with any reading task that happens in my classroom. 
    3. “I don’t think that what we had before was so perfect, so as we mourn the loss of being in classroom spaces together–which we should–we also shouldn’t think that we had it solved and now the pandemic is the problem.” What might be the opportunities of this moment? 

For those of you that are inspired and want to read more about Rob and his research he just published a book, Teaching Literature to Adolescents. Listeners of the show get 30% of this title and you can get the link to that very sweet deal right here:

Enter the Code: SS2130

That’s all the time for today folks, keep trying to take an inquiry stance, and remember we are teaching tomorrow.

Things Mentioned in This Show:

50. Addressing anti-Black racism in education with Alexis Dawson

How might we learn from the recent human rights annual report published by the TDSB? Today on the show I speak with education activist and parent advocate Alexis Dawson. 

When the recent TDSB Human Rights Report revealed that “race or race related grounds is the most frequent ground of complaint received by the Human Rights Office making up 54% of all complaints,” Alexis Dawson was an obvious person I wanted to talk to. She is the current Community Co-Chair of the Black Student Achievement Community Advisory Committee, she is a school council co-chair at her children’s school, the Former TDSB Ward 9 Trustee, a DEI consultant, and an all around thought leader in our community. 

We speak to the data in this report that shows “that students who self-identify as being Black, Indigenous and Indigenous Spirituality practicing students and gender non-conforming students are much less inclined to feel that school rules are applied to them fairly,” (p. 5) and we go beyond this document to better understand recent moments Alexis has personally experienced that highlight the importance of dismantling anti-Black racism and hatred in all its forms.

This is a powerful, honest, and important conversation about the present tense, but also the future of our schools. Please welcome to the show Alexis Dawson. 


Things Mentioned in this Episode:

49. Teachers as disruptors with Rachel Luke

How might teachers ensure that stories of oppressed and marginalized people get taught in their classrooms. Today on the show I speak with 2020 Prime Minister’s Teaching Award recipient, Rachel Luke.

Rachel Luke is the kind of teacher that we all wish we had when we were in high school. She is dynamic, kind, compassionate, incredibly positive, and obviously loves this profession so much. But beyond her inspiring enthusiasm, Rachel is a disrupter. She uses her power as a teacher to unpack and uncover stories from marginalized groups so students deeply know the past.

In this conversation we get into a lot. We talk about how and why Rachel explores the Holocaust with her students, how and why she makes sure she addresses Residential Schools with every class she teaches, and how and why she intentionally builds rest into her practice as a teacher.

If there is a word that is lingering with me after listening to this conversation, it is INTENTIONAL. Rachel Luke is an intentional teacher that thinks carefully and critically about her power and how to use her platform as an educator for justice. I know you will love Rachel as much as I do–so let’s jump right in.

Things Mentioned in This Show:

Refugee book

Broken Circle, by Theodore Fontaine

Rachel’s Prime Minister’s Teaching Award write up


48. Teacher mental health in a panoramic with Erin Imrie

What are your superpowers and how can you use those for other people in the teaching profession? Today on the show I get to talk to my friend, colleague, and Middle School French teacher Erin Imrie. 

I invited Erin on the show to talk about her mental health journey and how she shares this with the students in our school in an open, honest, and thoughtful way. And while we definitely get into how Erin sees the importance of teachers sharing parts of themselves that might be otherwise “kept behind the curtain”, we get into so much more in this conversation. We talk about the importance of normalizing taking mental health days, how schools benefit from paying more attention to the people with the most vulnerable mental health in the community, and how we can use our unique super powers to effect change. 

Erin has a candid, funny, and refreshing take on teaching and the profession that I know you will love. So let’s get to it, please welcome Erin Imrie to the show! 


Resources Mentioned in This Episode:

46. Seeing your own potential as a leader with Diane Brown

How might hopeful school leaders become the leader they want to be? Today I talk to elementary school principal Diane Brown about leadership in times of crisis. 

If you have been listening to the show for some time, you will recognize Diane from episode 31: Should I send my child to JK? Diane is my neighbour, but at this point she is much more than that: she is a friend, a role model, a celebrity figure in my 4 year old’s life, one of my dog’s favourite humans, and a mentor to me. In this show we actually talk quite a bit about mentorship and how important it is to be a mentor for others, and inspired by Brene Brown we talk about what needs to change about leadership to address the shifting educational landscape as well as different ways to hold power in schools.

Diane is a gift in my life and so I’m glad to share this conversation with you.

Things We Talked About in the Show:

How to review the podcast on Apple Podcasts App (see this link for the whole explanation from CHRISTIAN CAWLEY)

You may think that the way to review podcasts on iOS devices like the iPhone and iPad is via iTunes. In fact, you need to use the Podcasts app.

This has a purple icon and should be on the first or second screen of your iOS device. Open the app, find the search tool, and enter the name of the podcast you want to review.

You’ll see the podcast’s logo (as album art), so tap this, then Reviews > Write a Review. Enter your iTunes password when prompted, then leave a star rating, a review, and a title. Tap Send, and you’re done.

Before writing a review, it might be worth looking at other reviews from fellow listeners. This can be useful for finding well-regarded episodes of the podcast that you’ve missed so far.

(Beware expanding a previous review on the iPad, as there is no way to exit the view other than closing the Podcasts app and starting again.)



45. Calm school resources with Christi-an and Nat Slomka

How might teachers use mindfulness as a tool for developing resilience? Today on the show I am joined by sisters Christi-an and Natalie Slomka speaking about the school resources developed by Calm.

Let’s be real: this has been the most difficult year in our profession. In Ontario, we have just been told that the rest point of March break has been delayed by a month, we are just heading back into school or freshly returned, and we are not good. As a profession, we are raw, we are vulnerable, and we are tired. 

That is why I reached out to Christi-an and Natalie Slomka: Christi-an helped to develop the school resources with the Calm app and Natalie, a teacher with the Toronto District School Board, is actively using these mindfulness strategies with her students. 

In this conversation, we talk about the need for practicing mindfulness in an oppressive system, how to make your mindfulness practice trauma informed, how you can turn almost anything into a meditation, and resilience. We talk about developing capital R resilience: in our students and in ourselves and how this might just be what we really need to be focusing more on right now.

I also just want to add that this show is not sponsored by Calm–I really like their app and I personally am using it right now, but they did not actually fund this conversation. 

I really adored getting to share in the sister love between these two and I know you will too. 

Things We Mentioned In This Conversation:



44. Competency based learning with Sara Tahir

When was the last time you learned something new and how long did it take you to understand that thing? Today on the show we are talking competency based learning with Sara Tahir.

I found Sara and her writing about competency based learning, or CBL, after I did a course this summer with Global Online Academy where Sara is the associate director of professional learning. In this conversation we discuss Global Online Academy and the professional learning needs they are addressing in the pandemic, we talk about the differences between how school works and how learning works, and get into the nitty gritty of CBL and how to use it in your classroom. 

Listen, realistically you are likely not in a place to overhaul your course, your next unit, or even your next week in the classroom. So listen to this conversation not with the lens of “you are not doing it right–this is the right way to do it” but as a possibility for what learning could look like in your classroom. Perhaps after a good, long relaxing march break or summer, you might remember some of these ideas and play around a little in your own context.

I so loved getting to talk to Sara and how we might make the learning in our classroom reflect more how learning looks in the world outside the classroom. So let’s get to it. Click the Soundcloud link to listen to the episode! 

Things We Mentioned In The Show:

43. The impossible promise of online learning with Beyhan Farhadi

How might teachers use their powers of professional judgement as tools for change? Today I am joined by Dr Beyhan Farhadi speaking about the challenges with online learning.

Well before the pandemic, Dr. Farhadi was studying the Ontario government’s mandated online learning for secondary students and the systemic inequities that this mode of learning deepens. Well now that everyone is much more personally acquainted with virtual learning, Beyhan’s expertise is very (very) appreciated and needed at this time. 

In this conversation, we get into the obvious and the not-so obvious challenges that learning in this way brings up, how teachers can use their powers to disrupt and resist practices and policies that harm their students, and also how she is coping as a parent of two school-aged children.

It is clear that as an educational community, we are going to be dealing with the repercussions of this pandemic well into the future and Beyhan’s research and perspective give us all important considerations for how we might process and rebuild when we can step into the next chapter of school. 

I think you will find this conversation affirming, eye opening, moving, and–I hope–a call to action for the sake of our students. Please welcome Dr. Beyhan Farhadi to the podcast by clicking on the link above and giving it a listen! 

Things Mentioned In The Show: