Podcast Behind the Scenes

This week I thought I’d let you in on a peak behind the scenes of my podcast, The Kansas Moonshot Podcast. It’s been an adventure to say the least. This biggest learning curve was figuring out how to set up interviews and record over long distances along with trying to organize schedules with educators who have a TON going on.

One tool I’ve started using is a website called http://calendly.com. Calendly allows me to set up a calendar in advance with all of the times I’m available to record a podcast. When I find someone who might be a possible guest on the show, I just send them a link to my calendly page and they can pick which time might work into their schedules. The great part is, the program automatically adds an event to my Outlook calendar anytime someone selects a recording time. It also sends both of us a notification and sends update notifications any time I make a change to the recording time.

Once the recording time has been set up, I use a program called Zencastr to record the episode. Zencastr is similar to Skype without the video. I can send a link to someone and then record our conversation. It allows me to record two separate audio tracks, so I can tweak the audio on either one if I need to. (Like the time my audio randomly glitched out and I had to rerecord my side of a conversation for an episode. Any guesses on which episode?) I like the audio only feature, because it’s less likely to have WiFi issues. Again, it’s just a link the guest clicks on and joins the audio chat.

My recording set up.

After that I work some post production audio magic in Audacity and Camtasia and uploaded it to a website called Spreaker which hosts my podcast. From there it automatically gets distributed to all of you through all of the various platforms you might be hearing this on.

So that’s the cycle for recording the podcast. Check it out on your favorite podcasting platform!




Episode 21: Steven Kimmi and Gayathri Ramkumar share about Summit Learning

In this episode I had the opportunity to interview Steven Kimmi, Principal and Gayathri Ramkumar, Math teacher at Tescott schools. They share their experiences with Summit Learning.

For more information check out: usd240.org
Follow Steven Kimmi on Twitter: @principalkimmi

For more information about this podcast check out: https://mrstockrocks.com
Follow me on Twitter: @teachlikeaninja
Email me: teachlikeaninja@gmail.com

Starting the day of on the right foot

Redesign Update:

I’m still processing all the changes we’ve made this year through our redesign efforts. It’s been a chaotic, exhausting, exhilarating, whirlwind of a year. My hope is to spend then next few weeks sharing a some of the changes we’ve made and how they are impacting student success.

This week I’d love to share about our start up time. One of our primary focuses for the redesign is on Social Emotional Learning. There are a plethora of things we are doing to work on this with our students, but the one thing that we kept coming back to last fall when we were brainstorming ways to help our students was the start of the day. The beginning of the day sets the tone for everything else that happens that day and many of our students struggle to shake a rough start.

When I was a kid I hated getting up in the morning (I still do). I would frantically try to get ready at the last possible moment without being late. I’d be stressed about the homework that I probably didn’t do the night before (I wasn’t the most conscientious student), worried about if I had the right clothes, the right hair, the right amount of Axe body spray, and worried about a hundred little things that could go wrong.

Times may have changed from when we were kids, but some things never change. Kids start their day rushed and stressed. At Santa Fe Trail we wanted to make the transition from the morning commute to the start of class as smooth as possible. We changed up our schedule to allow a 15-20 minute soft start to the day. The students begin in a homeroom type class with the focus being SEL lessons, goal setting and mentorship.

Our homeroom prepared for our annual duct tape and newspaper project runway competition.

The hope is that students will have a minute to take a breath before their academics kick in. Teachers get a few minutes to build relationships with this smaller group of students. We currently use Second Step curriculum for some SEL lessons and offer additional SEL lessons as needed.

As an added bonus, students who were chronically late to school are now missing a short SEL lesson instead of academics.

We’re still assessing the impacts of the start up time, and we’re still finding the balance between a soft start vs. having too many structured SEL lessons. But overall the kids seem to have a much better day as a result of this time.

Preparing for a state of awe

Last year people around the country prepared for a massive solar eclipse. One that would be a once in a lifetime opportunity. People booked hotels in the line of totality over a year in advance. They planned watch parties and scouted out the best seats to watch this celestial event. We learned about eclipse glasses and the dangers of staring at an eclipse (including way too many pictures on Facebook of what happens to your retina when you look directly at the sun).

As a teacher we planned an entire days worth of activities including writing activities, science lessons, and a watch party. We ordered the special glasses for all of the students and staff in the building and went outside at the appropriate time. Thirty minutes before the event we went outside and set up blankets to watch the sky. The time came, we glimpsed the miraculous, and then we went back inside to reflect on what we had just witnessed. This was truly an awe-inspiring event.

I think about all of the work we put into being in awe of something. We were preparing to be amazed by this spectacular day, and it makes me want to recreate that in my classroom. It’s doesn’t have to be an every day event, otherwise it would be exhausting and lose it’s novelty. But a couple of times a year I plan out events just like that. I want moments in my class that will stick with students for the rest of their lives. I want events that will be unforgettable.

This year we’ve had two events already, a day where we took a trip on a plane complete with snacks and a flight attendant (who looks a lot like me). https://mrstockrocks.com/2017/09/21/our-flight-to-tibet/

We also took a trip up Mt. Everest complete with camp flags, hot tea, and sadly several students receiving frostbite for the rest of the day. https://mrstockrocks.com/2018/09/27/another-trip-up-everest/

These are events former students come back and ask about. It’s not the riveting lectures about protagonists and antagonists or the deep discussions about the novels we are reading. It’s the moments that leave them in a state of awe.

How do you inspire a state of awe in your classroom?

Shout-out to Pastor Isaac Anderson for his talk at the Christmas Eve service for inspiring this blog post.

Teach students to advocate for themselves

I’ve responded to 8 parent emails over the past hour, responded to 5 more before I left school today, and have been fielding questions about student grades for the past two weeks. It’s that time of year. The semester is winding down and parents are wanted to ensure their child is going to pass my class.

This post isn’t to bemoan parents. I get it. I sent my own email today with a question for my son’s teacher. As a parent, we’re all just trying to figure out what is best for our children. It’s messy and there isn’t a guidebook on how to do this thing. Anyone who tells you they have parenting figured out, should share their secrets with the rest of us. In the meantime, barring any magic pixie dust that fixes all of our parenting woes, we are left to try to figure out how to help our kids be the best version of themselves and grow up to be responsible adults.

When the deadline of the end of the semester looms, parents panic. They see the last dwindling moments of possibility closing in on their child. To be fair, I know plenty of teachers (myself included) who finally start to get caught up on grading around this time of year. Yes, kids know what their grades are and should be able to share that with their parents, but they’re still adolescents and only listen to a fraction of what I say.

One things that’s been different this year is the number of student emails I’ve received. That’s because last week I tried something new. I emailed parents and asked them to have their child send the email. I asked them to sit with them and help them write an email to me. This is a trick I picked up coaching First Lego League robotics. At an FLL competition, the judges don’t talk to the adults. They talk to the kids. They’re polite about it, but if there is a question about the score or a problem with the board, they want the kids to have ownership of the discussion to solve it. That’s something I’m trying to help the parents of my students instill in their kids.

Here’s how I frame it. I want parents to help their kids write an email if they have a question. Then I tell them they can send me a follow up email if they wish and I’ll answer both emails. This helps parents pass the baton on to their kids, while still getting the full story, because, shocker, sometimes kids lie to get out of doing work. Parents want the full story before they have a nice long conversation about why an assignment wasn’t done. It’s always helpful when they can say things like “why didn’t you get this assignment done? You’ve had three weeks to work on it.”

Ultimately, I want to work with parents to help transition the responsibility of keeping track of grades from the parent to the student. I want to help them with that transition.

More than just an echo chamber

It’s 8:58 on a Tuesday night. I’m sitting at my kitchen table with my Laptop open and Twitter pulled up, one tab for Notifications and one tab for the #xplap chat (I know Hootsuite and Tweetdeck can do this in one tab, but this is easier for me). I have a snack next to me and I’m ready for an engaging discussion about gamification in the classroom.

This has been my Tuesday night, almost every Tuesday for the past two years. By this point I know most of the people in the chat and feel like I’m at a point where I can help others in their gamification journey like others helped me a few years ago. I look forward to this chat each week.

This isn’t the only chat I’m a part of. You can find me engaged in Twitter chats on Monday nights at 8 (#tlap and #ksedchat), Thursday nights at 9 (#ditchbook), and the occasional Saturday morning (#leadlap). I love feeling like a part of a community and I glean a plethora of great ideas to implement in my classroom. Being a part of these chats is like hanging out with friends every week. It’s the source of my best professional development.

I’ve started to notice something about these chats. You have a group of passionate educators gathered around a common interest, engaged in a share session of some of their best/most creative ideas. Scrolling through the chat you’ll see affirmations galore, teachers encouraging each other, cheering others along when they start to doubt themselves and generally putting a positive vibe in the world about education. This is phenomenal and there are many days this is exactly what I need. But there’s no push back.

There are times when I need affirmation, but there also times when I need to be challenged. I need someone to tell me when my ideas aren’t on track with my classroom goals. I need someone to ask me deep questions that challenge my stance on classroom issues and helps me solidify my beliefs or alter course to something that will better suit my needs.

How do we prevent the Twitterverse from being an echo chamber where everyone agrees and we never move forward or push the boundaries of what education can be? Maybe it’s the medium itself. 280 characters isn’t enough to engage in a deep discussion.

I also see the value of positive affirmations after a tough day. Is it possible to do both?

We could all use a little grace

A couple of weeks ago I missed a meeting at school. It was one of four meetings I had for various groups I’m a part of. It’s that chaotic part of the year where everything is flying at teachers at once and many of us are trying to just stay afloat. It’s always challenging, but we’ll find ways to get through and start cruising along later in the year.

I know a lot of teachers are feeling this right now. They are feeling the pressure to constantly stay on top of schedules, grading, family lives, meetings, curriculum, and expectations. Everyone is posting reassuring memes on social media to support each other and reminding each other that you don’t need to be perfect, you can’t do it all.

I 100% agree with all of this. Teachers are bombarded with tasks to tackle and things to balance. Every once in awhile things will fall through the cracks, and we need to give one another some grace and respect.

This is where I get on my soapbox. There are teachers who share all of this and then go back to their classrooms and deny their own students that same respect and grace. How in the world can you ask for help filling out your professional development points at the last minute because you didn’t keep up with it all year like you should have (this was me this year) or show up 10 minutes late to a meeting with administrators (also me) because you didn’t understand the new schedule and then count students off for turning in late work (fortunately not me). Or you criticize students who wait until the last second to finish a project but turn an important document to administrators seconds before it’s due.

“We could all use a little reminder that kids have chaotic lives just like we all do.”

We are adults who have control over the majority of our day and yet we are asking developing minds to be more organized, more thoughtful and more together than we are on any given day.

Please don’t read too much into this. I work with amazing colleagues. I’m not trying to call out any one person. I’m just pointing out a trend in education where we hold students to a higher standard than we hold ourselves.

I just think we could all use a little reminder that kids have chaotic lives just like we all do. They could all benefit from a little grace.

GUEST BLOG: The Fellowship of the Tweet: A Grateful Member

by Carol McLaughlin

I’ve always felt a little odd. A lone wolf. I usually don’t mind, but you rarely grow in isolation. You need others to encourage you. To push you. To inspire you.

I had no idea I needed a Twitter PLN. I didn’t even know what a PLN was until 8 years ago around this time actually. I was in the last PD session before we were out for Thanksgiving holidays. To say we were all ready to go was an understatement.

The PD was edcamp style and the last session was entitled, “Building a PLN.” I went to it because the others were all on academics areas and I wanted to learn something totally different.

However, I  had no idea this session was about to change me in so many ways.

I went to the session and was introduced to Twitter. We all joined and I sent out my first tweet. I enjoyed the session but I wasn’t sure if I was going to continue using it. BUT…I was intrigued enough to give it a try.

If you like what you have been reading continue at An Educational Pheonix

Guest Blog Post: Gratitude & Kindness: Appreciating & Creating a Colossal Dose Of Sunshine One Ripple at a Time

by Jennifer Lee Quattrucci

I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the many blessings and opportunities I have had these past couple of months.  As many of you know, I’ve taken on a new endeavor and after teaching kindergarten for 22 years, I am now an extremely grateful brand new second grade teacher. I’m in the same school so some of my students are the wonderful children I had in kindergarten two years ago.

I have an energetic, inquisitive and enthusiastic group of seven and eight year olds in the inner city of Providence, Rhode Island. My second graders are always eager to come to school and love to read, write and problem solve in such thoughtful and creative ways. My students are so appreciative of each other and all we do every day. They are culturally diverse and enjoy sharing their own unique experiences with the class. We learn from each other. My school is working hard to build community among families and staff and we have a safe, respectful environment. I am grateful to be a part of the Harry Kizirian Community.

If you like what you have been reading continue at MommyTeacherFashionista.