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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

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:

 

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