Lesson: Impossible - An Exploration of Educational Innovation

Oct 18 2020 27 mins 3

Your lesson, should you choose to accept it, is to listen to interviews with educators who are on the forefront of innovative pedagogy or making effective changes to old practices. Being a classroom teacher can be very isolating, and your host, Aviva Levin, hopes to introduce you to “agents” who will inspire you with new ideas, or make you feel less alone as they share their own setbacks and triumphs.































PART II: Agent Aviva Levin (Reflections on Season Two)
Jul 01 2020 12 mins  
Your lesson, should you choose to accept it, is to reflect on all the wisdom shared in Lesson: Impossible’s second season. The special agent assigned to help you with this task is your host, and mission coordinator, Aviva Levin. A transcript for this episode can be found here. As many school years come to an end, so does Lesson: Impossible’s second season. I will be taking a break in July, and will be back in August with some episodes I’m really excited about, such as home-schooling partnerships, gradeless assessment, and trauma-informed teaching. However, for our last episodes I wanted to reflect on some of the wisdom my special agents/guests have shared, and pull a quote from each interview that really impacted me, and hopefully you as well. This is Part II of a two-part set of bonus episodes. Some updates for the summer from the guests of Part II:Agent Lauren Porosoff: Lauren’s book, “Teach Meaningful: Tools to Design the Curriculum at Your Core”, was delayed because of the pandemic and instead was released on June 30. Also, she’s now part of a team called Re-Set School which is helping school communities tell the stories of their struggles and achievements, and bear witness to one another’s losses and gains, as a way of reaffirming the values that make them a community.Agent Shannon Anderson: Both of her growth mindset books are releasing in August: “Mindset Power: A Kid’s Guide to Growing Better Every Day” and “Y is for Yet: A Growth Mindset Alphabet”Agent Marie Kueny: Marie is doing a ‘summer enrichment’ series on her podcast ‘The Compassionate Educators Show’. I was honored to be the first guest in this series, talking about how to engage and motivate your students, regardless of academic or language abilities, in an incredibly fun way, through improv! If you want to find out more about what innovative educators are doing around the world, check out www.lessonimpossible.com. And if you like the podcast, please consider rating, reviewing and subscribing or forwarding it to a colleague. You can also follow Lesson: Impossible on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.


PART I: Agent Aviva Levin (Reflections on Season Two)
Jun 28 2020 13 mins  
Your lesson, should you choose to accept it, is to reflect on all the wisdom shared in Lesson: Impossible’s second season. The special agent assigned to help you with this task is your host, and mission coordinator, Aviva Levin. As many school years come to an end, so does Lesson: Impossible’s second season. I will be taking a break in July, and will be back in August with some episodes I’m really excited about, such as home-schooling partnerships, gradeless assessment, and trauma-informed teaching. However, for our last episodes I wanted to reflect on some of the wisdom my special agents/guests have shared, and pull a quote from each interview that really impacted me, and hopefully you as well. This is Part I of a two-part series of bonus episodes. Some updates for the summer from the guests of Part I:Agent LaTezeon Humphrey Balentine: Her book, Fur Friends Forever, came out April 24th. She’s also currently gathering pantry items for 50 elders at her grandma’s church, which you can help with here.Agent Rita Wirtz: Rita is continuing her advocacy. Her latest blog post is “Challenging Times, Extraordinary Opportunities!”Agent Rebecca Blouwolff: Rebecca is leading some PD this summer: MaFLA Collaborative Classroom on target language use Week of July 13 (members only, register here), ACTFL Summer Learning Series on authentic resources with Leslie Grahn Week of July 6 (register here), and a live "spark talk" and a session at National Foreign Language Center's virtual summit July 21-23 (free, sign up here)Agent Kate Ames: Kate was featured on an Australasian series on online teaching. So if you want some more tips from her, check it out here. If you want to find out more about what innovative educators are doing around the world, check out www.lessonimpossible.com. And if you like the podcast, please consider rating, reviewing and subscribing or forwarding it to a colleague. You can also follow Lesson: Impossible on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.






Agent JoAnna Castellano (Conceptual Math)
Jun 14 2020 31 mins  
Your lesson, should you choose to accept it, is to explore how to increase engagement, lessen anxiety, and create real-world connections by teaching math through a Conceptual Based Instructional Model. The special agent assigned to help you with this task is JoAnna Castellano of New Brunswick, New Jersey.A transcript is available for this episode.In this episode we discuss:JoAnna’s path to teachingHer pedagogical perspective: student agency, productive struggle, teacher as facilitator, providing real-world contextAn example question using the Pythagorean theorem with Benjamin Watson’s tackle saving touchdownHow to differentiate in the conceptual modelWalking through a lesson from idea to assessment: ratio and proportions using Mayan ruinsHer biggest success: lessening math anxiety; her biggest struggle: getting teachers to buy in initiallyHow she has transferred this model online for distance learningWho to check out for math teaching inspirationJoAnna’s ideal curriculum: expanding on her work with NBPS’ Summer Bridge ProgramThe value of movement and interaction (ex. Sara Vanderwerf’s ‘stand and talks’) Links to check out:Article co-written by JoAnna: “Agency and voice: a push for greater equity and what it looks like in math”Dan Meyer (Twitter: @ddmeyer)Jo Boaler (Twitter: @joboaler)Graham Fletcher (Twitter: @gfletchy)Robert Kaplinsky (Twitter: @robertkaplinsky)Sara Vanderwerf (Twitter: @saravdwerf)Institute for Learning at the University of PittsburgActivities for students with math anxiety (no answer is incorrect if can be justified/explained): Which One Doesn’t Belong? If you want to find out more about what innovative educators are doing around the world, check out www.lessonimpossible.com. And if you like the podcast, please consider rating, reviewing and subscribing or forwarding it to a colleague. You can also follow Lesson: Impossible on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.





Agent Jorge Valenzuela (Computational Thinking)
May 31 2020 29 mins  
Your lesson, should you choose to accept it, is to incorporate computational thinking into all content areas. The special agent assigned to help you with this task is Jorge Valenzuela, of Lifelong Learning Defined, in Virginia. In this episode we discuss:Jorge’s path to becoming a teacherFour elements of computational thinking: decomposition, abstraction, pattern recognition, algorithm designWork shopping how I could apply computational thinking to FrenchJorge’s perspective on including STEM into all subjectsHis favorite unit or lessonHow Jorge’s personal pedagogical philosophy has evolved over timeWhy he thinks PBL is the best PD teachers can doJorge’s success in improving his writing and his advice on how to do the same: write about something you’re good at, find a mentor, put in the timeHis struggle with emotional intelligenceHow STEM is becoming more inclusive for studentsJorge’s hatred of buzzwordsHis ideal school system Find out more about Jorge:Jorge's bioJorge's BlogJorge’s TwitterJorge’s InstagramJorge’s Facebook Resources mentioned:Jorge’s book Rev Up Robotics (You can read the chapter on Computational Thinking for free)International Society for Technology EducationPBL WorksPark Based Learning with James FesterJorge’s inspiration: Andrew MillerEmotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradbury and Jean GreavesChristine Primomo on the gender divide in STEMThe Every Student Succeeds Act If you want to find out more about what innovative educators are doing around the world, check out www.lessonimpossible.com. And if you like the podcast, please consider rating, reviewing and subscribing or forwarding it to a colleague. You can also follow Lesson: Impossible on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.


MINI MEET A RESOURCE: Rebecca Yaffa of GooseChase
May 27 2020 14 mins  
Your lesson, should you choose to accept it, is to consider a new resource: GooseChase, an app for creating scavenger hunts. The resource specialist assigned to help you with this task is Rebecca Yaffa, Director of Customer Experience, from Toronto, Canada. This is the third installment in the ‘Meet the Resources’ series, where I feature the educational equivalent of Gecko Gloves, Smart Contacts, or Flute Guns: technology that has been created to make your impossible lessons actually possible! A reminder that Lesson: Impossible receives no compensation for featuring resources, just the satisfaction of knowing that somewhere a student might be more engaged in their learning or a teacher might be able to leave work a little bit earlier. In this episode, Aviva and Rebecca touch on a variety of topics including:Who uses GooseChase EDU? (Hint: It's not just teachers!)How GooseChase EDU makes scavenger hunts easy and automated for educatorsHow organizers can get started by using missions from the The Game Library.How educators utilized GooseChase for Virtual Learning during the social isolation period.GooseChase EDU availability for school and district-wide plans.How GooseChase handles personal data created on the platform.How Rebecca got involved with GooseChase and working as part of a fully-remote team.How K-12 teachers can take advantage of complimentary upgrades to Educator Plus until September 1st. Links:GooseChase’s websiteGooseChase’s blogGooseChase’s Instagram, Twitter and Facebook If you want to find out more about what innovative educators are doing around the world, check out www.lessonimpossible.com. And if you like the podcast, please consider rating, reviewing and subscribing or forwarding it to a colleague. You can also follow Lesson: Impossible on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.


Agent Shannon Anderson (Writing)
May 24 2020 29 mins  
Your lesson, should you choose to accept it, is to help students enjoy writing as they discover how to improve their written work. The special agent assigned to help you with this task is Shannon Anderson of Rensselaer, Indiana.A transcript is available for this episode.I’ve really enjoyed the last few weeks of episodes that were looking at some resources and grappling with some big philosophical questions about teaching: what is my teacher identity? How can I infuse meaning into my curriculum? Is there a way to prevent teacher burnout? However, today’s episode has us focusing again on something very concrete, but incredibly important: how can I teach writing? As I, and you, my wonderful listeners, will soon discover, it’s easily done at any grade, if you have the right mindset and strategies. Fortunately Shannon Anderson was willing to share some of her writing wisdom when we spoke at the end of April over zencastr.In this episode we discuss:Why training students to become good writers is like training for a marathon.An example lesson for introducing narrative writingThe biggest mistakes teachers make when teaching writingFour tips she gives students to become better writersPublishing student work and Budsies Links:Shannon’s TwitterShannon’s FacebookShannon’s YouTubeShannon’s LinkedInShannon’s PintrestShannon’s InstagramShannon’s Website If you want to find out more about what innovative educators are doing around the world, check out www.lessonimpossible.com. And if you like the podcast, please consider rating, reviewing and subscribing or forwarding it to a colleague. You can also follow Lesson: Impossible on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.


Agent Lauren Porosoff (Meaningful Curriculum)
May 17 2020 29 mins  
Your lesson, should you choose to accept it, is to put students’ own values at the center of their learning in order to make school meaningful beyond academic skills. The special agent assigned to help you with this task is Lauren Porosoff of Scarsdale, New York. A transcript is available for this episode.In this episode we discuss:Parents advocating for meaningfulnessThe three kinds of relevance: personal, practical, culturalHer favorite meaningful units: A Midsummer Night’s Dream & spoken word poetryAddressing three criticisms of making curriculum meaningful: kids need to learn that not everything is about them, there’s no time to get to know students, and young people don’t know what is meaningful to them yetWhat to do if a teacher wants to change their curriculumFeeling lonely or disempowered while innovatingACT: Acceptance and Commitment TherapyHer decision to no longer teach Sherman Alexie’s Absolutely True Diary of A Part-Time IndianHow to get in touch with Lauren Links:Lauren’s Twitter, Facebook and WebsiteBook: Two-for-One Teaching: Connecting Instruction to Student ValuesBook: Empower Your Students: Tools to Inspire a Meaningful School ExperienceArticle: “A Midsummer Night’s Gender Diversity”Article: “Why I’ll Never Teach This Powerful Book Again”For more about ACT: The Association for Contextual Behavioral Science If you want to find out more about what innovative educators are doing around the world, check out www.lessonimpossible.com. And if you like the podcast, please consider rating, reviewing and subscribing or forwarding it to a colleague. You can also follow Lesson: Impossible on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.




Agent Dr. Marquita Blades (Teacher Burnout)
May 10 2020 30 mins  
Your lesson, should you choose to accept it, is to examine the factors contributing to, and find strategies to prevent or recover from, teacher burnout. The special agent assigned to help you with this task is Dr. Marquita Blades of Atlanta, Georgia. In this episode we discuss:Marquita’s many educational projectsHer path to becoming a teacherHer personal story of burning outHow she defines ‘teacher burnout’The Mediocre Teacher ProjectHow mental health impacts physical healthThe false narrative of teacher self-sacrificeStrategies to recover from a burn outHow she thinks distance education will affect burn outHow administrators can prevent burn out in their teachersHow colleagues can help each otherThe Write Like a Gyrlfriend ScholarshipWays to contact Dr. Marquita Blades: her website, her Facebook, her Twitter, her InstagramA transcript is available for this episode. NOTE: Former guest/special agent, Charles Williams, has started his own education podcast! It’s called the Counter Narrative Podcast and its goal is “to challenge the dominant narrative surrounding our marginalized populations by highlighting the amazing work being done around the world by educators, students, and communities as they face daunting odds.” Dr. Marquita Blades also has a new podcast, Powarrful Teaching Strategies, where she recently interviewed another former guest of mine, Kwame Sarfo-Mensah, which just goes to show what a small world education can be! If you want to find out more about what innovative educators are doing around the world, check out www.lessonimpossible.com. And if you like the podcast, please consider rating, reviewing and subscribing or forwarding it to a colleague. You can also follow Lesson: Impossible on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.







BONUS EPISODE: Agent Kwame Sarfo-Mensah (Reflections on COVID-19)
May 01 2020 12 mins  
Your bonus lesson, should you choose to accept it, is to explore how you think COVID-19 will change education. The special agent assigned to help you with this task is Kwame Sarfo-Mensah, owner and founder of Identity Talk Consulting. I chose to air a bonus episode in addition to Kwame’s full-length interview about teacher identity for two reasons: one, I thought his insights were worth sharing, and two, I liked the idea of creating a record of how COVID-19 has been changing the ways teachers view education. I spoke with Charles Williams at the end of March about this issue for an entire episode, and then spoke with Kwame a little over a month later, though that month felt like it actually lasted several years. In that time, almost all districts have switched to a distance education model, especially for younger students, with mixed results. Moreover, while some parents are seeing their children struggle with distance education or miss school keenly, other parents are seeing their children bloom in a situation where they don’t need to face the racism, homophobia, or ableism that they are forced to deal with daily. Another important change is that larger issues of equity in education have been highlighted publically and sparked mainstream conversations about how learning opportunities are distributed. Many districts seem to be waking up to the fact that just because all students enter the same building every day does not mean that every one of them has equal access to technology, the Internet, and time to try and replicate the school experience at home, not to mention the 1.3 million American students who experience periods of unstable housing. All of this to say, we are having more productive national and international conversations about education than I ever thought possible, and stake holders like parents are looking critically at our education systems now that many of its faults have been exposed. This is not to imply that there are not amazing teachers and districts that are doing wonderful things, and I do want to acknowledge their incredibly hard work. However, unless we’re willing to call out the places where we’re failing students, there’s no way we can change. This excerpt from our conversation begins around at the 24-minute mark of episode twenty. Links:Kwame’s websiteHis books:From "Inaction" to "In Action": Creating a New Normal for Urban EducatorsShaping the Teacher Identity: 8 Lessons That Will Help Define the Teacher in You If you want to find out more about what innovative educators are doing around the world, check out www.lessonimpossible.com. And if you like the podcast, please consider rating, reviewing and subscribing or forwarding it to a colleague. You can also follow Lesson: Impossible on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.


MINI MEET A RESOURCE: Valerie Cerra of Lesson aLIVE
Apr 29 2020 20 mins  
MEET A RESOURCE: Valerie Cerra, of Lesson aLIVE, a marketplace that connects educators and learners to experts and motivational speakers. We discussed:Valerie’s background and her journey towards founding Lesson aLIVEHow she finds her speakersHer most recent favorite presenter: Eva PellHow COVID19 has affected Lesson aLIVE, including adding relevant content via webinarThe pricing model for speakers (including pro bono/grant options)How to contact her with new ideas and suggestions NOTE: If this is the first episode of the podcast you are listening to, just a note that this episode is different than the rest. If you’re looking for interviews with educators about innovations in their practice, you can check out the most recent episode with Kwame Sarfo-Mensah, where we discuss teacher identity. However, if you’re interested in something new… give this episode a listen! A little background: Occasionally I will get messages from businesses asking to come on the podcast. It has been my policy to say no (sorry Mensch on a Bench, aka the Jewish Elf on the shelf) but after some reflection, I realized that there are a lot of online educational resources out there, and it might make teachers’ lives a little bit easier during this pandemic if I were to highlight a few. Therefore, I’m starting a new series of bonus episodes that I’m calling “Meet the Resources” where educational product innovators can discuss the resource that they have created. To relate this to the Mission: Impossible theme, I am hoping to feature the educational equivalent of Gecko Gloves, Smart Contacts, or Flute Guns: technology that has been created to make your impossible lessons actually possible! I want to make it clear that I am not endorsing any products that I feature, though I’ll only cover them if I think they have merit for working teachings, nor am I receiving any compensation whatsoever. Please feel free to share any feedback on whether or not I should continue with this bonus series, or if you have a suggestion for a resource I should reach out to, at [email protected] You can find out more about what innovative educators around the world are doing at:Lesson: Impossible’s WebsiteLesson: Impossible’s TwitterLesson: Impossible’s InstagramLesson: Impossible’s Facebook


Agent Kwame Sarfo-Mensah (Teacher Identity)
Apr 26 2020 29 mins  
Your lesson, should you choose to accept it, is to examine how your various personal identities intersect and influence how you interact with students and colleagues. The special agent assigned to help you with this task is Kwame Sarfo-Mensah, owner and founder of Identity Talk Consulting.Kwame Safro-Mensah has over 14 years of experience in the classroom, teaching middle school math and science in Philadelphia, and then Boston, public schools. In addition to this, he has written two books and various articles, offers tutoring for students and online classes for first year teachers, and has his own internet talk show, “Identity Talk 4 Educators LIVE”, where he interviews guests about their personal stories and the specific elements that shape who they are as educators. Kwame was also named the 2019 Member of the Year by Black Educators Rock, Inc. and the 2019 Massachusetts Celebrity Educator of the Year! I talked to Kwame in early April, a little over a week after he and his family had come back to Boston, after spending a year in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia where his wife was working as a director for the Peace Corp. Kwame is obviously an incredibly busy person, however his family was in quarantine after returning to the States, which was unfortunate for them, but a great opportunity for the podcast, and I was able to speak to him over Zencastr.Links:Kwame’s websiteHis books:From "Inaction" to "In Action": Creating a New Normal for Urban EducatorsShaping the Teacher Identity: 8 Lessons That Will Help Define the Teacher in YouArticles:“Bringing a Culturally Responsive Lens to Math Class”“3 Fun Activities for Strengthening Numeracy Skills” If you want to find out more about what innovative educators are doing around the world, check out www.lessonimpossible.com. And if you like the podcast, please consider rating, reviewing and subscribing or forwarding it to a colleague. You can also follow Lesson: Impossible on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.


Agent Megan Schutt (Gifted Education)
Apr 22 2020 31 mins  
Your lesson, should you choose to accept it, is to find strategies, resources and school models that support gifted learners. The special agent assigned to help you with this task is Megan Schutt, of Blaine Middle School, in Blaine, Washington.According to the National Association for Gifted Children, the definition for giftedness is “Students with gifts and talents who perform - or have the capability to perform - at higher levels compared to others of the same age, experience, and environment in one or more domains.” Whereas many see giftedness as truly a gift, one of my education professors once described being gifted as being “cursed with an adult brain in a child’s body”. While I can see both the benefits and the challenges for gifted individuals, the more I learn about giftedness, the more I see the many roadblocks to success embedded in a traditional school system. Fortunately there are educators like Megan Schutt who are searching out ways to best support their gifted students. We discussed:Why she feels like a Jedi teaching onlineHow she has taught all core Middle School subjectsWhy the struggle of teaching online has given her insights on how students feel working on collaborative projectsHow she was stymied by gifted students at the beginning of her careerHow Sir Ken Robinson inspired her through his TED talkHow having her own children gave Megan her first tool to help gifted students: engaging authenticallyHow the WAETAG (Washington Association of Educators of the Talented and Gifted) conference blew her mindHer five favorite resources:SENGifted (Supporting the Emotional Needs of the Gifted)Inquiry PartnersKimberly Mitchell’s “Experience Inquiry”PBLworks (Project Based Learning Works)Gifted Guru (Lisa Van Gemert)Why gifted kids are not the stereotypical ‘high flyers’Why it’s beneficial for both students and teachers to use the cluster modelWhy the school system has an obligation to educate and challenge all students, including gifted studentsHer favorite Science unit: using hyperdocsHer favorite Social Studies unit: project based learning in the community (inspired by Ted Dintersmith’s “What Schools Could Be”)Why all students should have access to the same opportunities that are given to gifted students For more on what innovative educators are doing around the world, check out www.lessonimpossible.com. If you have suggestions for a teacher who would make an inspiring Lesson: Impossible guest, please email me at [email protected]


Agent Rebecca Blouwolff (Teaching Language Authentically)
Apr 19 2020 29 mins  
Your lesson, should you choose to accept it, is to teach students how to use a foreign language using authentic resources and relevant units, with the goal of making proficient speakers. The special agent assigned to help you with this task is Rebecca Blouwolff of Wellesley Middle School in Wellesley, Massachusetts. Rebecca and I share a similar background: we both started our careers intending to teach Social Studies, and we both found ourselves teaching French instead! To make a long story short: in my second year of teaching I was given a contract that included teaching French because I was the most qualified of the unqualified, and then I fell in love with it. (If you’re interested in the much longer version of this story, I spoke about my journey to becoming a language teacher on Kris Broholm’s Actual Fluency podcast.) Along with going back to school to become qualified for real, I was able to become better by finding role models online who represented the kind of language teacher that I aspired to be, and Rebecca Blouwolff is definitely one of them. And I’m not the only one who thinks she is amazing; the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (or ACTFL) named her the 2020 National Language Teacher of the Year! In this episode we discuss:Rebecca’s transformation to a proficiency based teaching modelWhy she chooses to use authentic resourcesHow she’s still learning how to let go of accuracy in favor of proficiencyHow to help parents understand new ways of language learningHer favourite unit: “Un Meilleur moi” (“A Better me”)Why she’s so generous with her resourcesHer experience (so far) with distance learningWhat she looks forward to for when she’s back in the classroomAdvice for beginning teachersAreas she’d like to improve inRebecca’s inspirations: Lisa Shepard, Amy Lenord, Natalia DeLatt, Creative Language Class, We Teach Languages, ACTFL books, Paul Sandrock, Leslie GrahnHow listeners can contact Rebecca through Twitter or her Blog Lesson: Impossible’s Website: www.lessonimpossible.comLesson: Impossible’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/avivalevinIf you have suggestions for a teacher who would make an inspiring Lesson: Impossible guest, please email me at [email protected]


Agent Andre Daughty (Social Media Connections)
Apr 15 2020 30 mins  
Your lesson, should you chose to accept it, is to use social media to create connections with, and educate, your teaching colleagues. The special agent assigned to help you with this task is Andre Daughty, educational speaker and content creator, of Oklahoma City, OK Andre Daughty has one of the most prolific online presences of any educator that I’ve seen: he’s on Twitter, Intagram, Facebook, has his own blog, multiple YouTube series, as well as an online office! Of course, he manages this all while facilitating workshops for schools and organizations. I wanted to talk to him about what being an educator that shares his life online is like, and give some perspective for others who may be considering doing something similar. In this episode, we discuss:Andre’s path to teaching, that started verrrrrrry earlyWhy Andre wants kids to have their first Black, male, teacher in elementary schoolWhy using his own kids in his workshops makes them powerfulHow teaching is 90% performing, 10% planningBringing laughter into the lives of teachers (“Laugh a Lil”)How we can build community digitally without ever meeting a friend in personWhy he prefers video communications to bloggingUsing movies to bring forth teachable moments (“Reel Moments”)Finding the lessons in life that help inform his teaching (“Chew on This”)Why he’s willing to share his life onlineCombatting racism in educationTips for starting a YouTube accountGetting positive and negative feedback from his audienceHis willingness to engage in difficult conversationsWhy he doesn’t block anyone on his Facebook pageThe many ways to engage with Andre online How to connect with Andre:Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheAndreDaughty/Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/andredaughty/Twitter: https://twitter.com/andredaughtyYouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/ardaughty/videosWebsite/blog: https://andredaughty.org/ NOTE: Lesson: Impossible listeners: I want to thank you all so much for your ratings and reviews on iTunes, as it helps others find the podcast, as well as those who contact me with suggestions for guest special agents! Due to the responses I’m getting, and the fact that my schedule is a lot freer under Washington’s stay at home order, I’m going to try to release Lesson:Impossible episodes more often, so that is why you’re getting this episode on a Wednesday instead of the usual Sunday. Lesson: Impossible’s Website: www.lessonimpossible.comLesson: Impossible’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/avivalevinIf you have suggestions for a teacher who would make an inspiring Lesson: Impossible guest, please email me at [email protected]




Agent Charles Williams (Planning for a Post-Covid World)
Apr 05 2020 30 mins  
Your lesson, should you choose to accept it, is to explore the many ways COVID-19 can create positive changes to our educational systems. The special agent assigned to help you with this task is Charles Williams, principal of Plato Learning Academy, in Chicago, Illinois. Charles Williams and I spoke at the end of March, as many schools were figuring out what education was going to look like in the coming days, weeks, and months. His perspective comes from being a principal in one of the many Chicago Public Schools, or as he refers to it, CPS. My perspective comes from being an educational podcaster as well as being a person who has a special aptitude for worrying about the future. Like many of my interviews during this pandemic, it did not follow the orderly set of questions that I had gotten used to asking educators about their practice. Instead, it became a conversation about how Charles and I hope educational institutions can be transformed. Before we began recording, we had been joking about the various methods of communication we had each been trying out, and that topic quickly launched into talks of possible positive change. In this episode we discuss how COVID-19 has the potential to positively transform educational systems, specifically allowing us to:Reconsider how we’re using assessmentsUtilize assessment in a vastly different wayExamine what the school day looks likeExplore how content is deliveredIncorporate trauma-informed teachingMove beyond hashtags to real changeFacilitate transparent communicationBe aware of the terminology that we useFigure out what is essential and non-essentialHighlight the value placed on educatorsHeighten collegial collaborationIncrease parental involvement Find out more about Charles Williams:Plato Learning Academy: http://www.platolearningacademy.orgCWS Consulting: https://www.cwconsultingservice.comCharles’ Twitter: https://twitter.com/_cwconsultingThe ‘Parking Lot Thoughts’ Videos: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCUmY7pzvEaJfXDVXgSq_YXA UPDATE FROM EPISODE 12: I wanted to say that we met our goal, and $200 has been sent to LaTezeon Humphrey Balentine. Although graduation is not going to look like what we expected when we recorded, I know LaTezeon will find a way to make sure the kids who need it get the money. So thank you to everyone who was willing to match my donation, or even just to share LaTezeon’s beautiful message of giving. Lesson: Impossible’s Website: www.lessonimpossible.comLesson: Impossible’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/avivalevinIf you have suggestions for a teacher who would make an inspiring Lesson: Impossible guest, please email me at [email protected]



Agent Rita Wirtz (Facing COVID-19) SPECIAL BONUS EPISODE
Apr 01 2020 31 mins  
Your lesson, should you choose to accept it, is to critically examine what we are expecting of teachers, students, administrators and parents as schools are being shut down around the world. The special agent assigned to help you with this task is Rita Wirtz of Eugene, Oregon. Rita Wirtz is the educational equivalent of Madeline Albright or Henry Kissinger: she’s seen it all, done it all, and weathered all the buzzwords and initiatives that have come and gone. I was honoured when she responded to an interview request made prior to COVID19, saying that she had an urgent message for teachers and administrators during this unprecedented time and it needed to be heard sooner rather than later. What follows is not a usual Lesson: Impossible episode, but an impassioned plea to do right by teachers and students in this trying time. Find out more about Rita:Twitter: @RitaWirtzFB: Rita’s FacebookWebsite: RitaWirtz.comInstagram: @ritamwirtzBooks: Stories From a Teacher’s Heart, Reading Champs BAM blog: https://www.bamradionetwork.com/user/ritawirtz/ Specific blog post referenced in the episode: https://www.bamradionetwork.com/moments-reflections-leaving-footprints-on-your-reading-hearts/ Lesson: Impossible’s Website: www.lessonimpossible.comLesson: Impossible’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/avivalevinIf you have suggestions for a teacher that would make an inspiring Lesson: Impossible guest, please email me at [email protected]


Agent Kate Ames (Online Education)
Mar 29 2020 31 mins  
Your lesson, should you choose to accept it, is to explore the diversity of engaging online learning experiences. The special agent assigned to help you with this task is Professor Kate Ames, director of learning design and education, at CQUniversity Australia in Brisbane. When I first started reading Kate Ames’ blog, and contacted her about a possible interview, distance education was a fairly niche topic. Since then, as the world has been attempting to slow the tide of COVID19, this has become a more pressing issue. My hope is that listeners who are currently facing the reality of distance and online education being thrust upon them will feel more confident as they move forward, and that those who are listening in the future where everything has hopefully gone back to normal can be equally intrigued by Kate Ames’ thoughtful practice. In this episode Kate Ames discusses how:being a life-long student informs her teaching practicedistance teaching means being a facilitator and curator of resourcesto get away from the in-class mindsetto reimagine learning time when students aren’t in classnot to overwhelm studentsstudent-centered learning engages reluctant learnersteachers can deal with criticism in student forumsonline learning promotes diversityto monitor and get energy from your classto keep expectations clear for students and teachersconnecting with students is not only possible, but enriching Links:Kate's blog: https://onlineedreflections.wordpress.com/Kate's twitter: https://twitter.com/Kate_AmesKate's research: http://cqu.academia.edu/KateAmesKate's book on time management: “Time Management for Academic Impact: Controlling Teaching Treadmills and Tornadoes” Thank you to everyone who has rated and reviewed Lesson: Impossible on iTunes! The podcast made it onto the US charts for the first time, which means more people have the possibility of discovering it and being inspired by my amazing guests. So if you were one of those who rated and reviewed, thank you very much, and if you haven’t already, please consider doing so! A quick note: I had some technical difficulties at the beginning with our voices, but it soon smooths out to normal. Lesson: Impossible’s Website: www.lessonimpossible.comLesson: Impossible’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/avivalevinIf you have suggestions for a teacher that would make an inspiring Lesson: Impossible guest, please email me at [email protected]




Agent LaTezeon Humphrey Balentine (Giving)
Mar 02 2020 30 mins  
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to examine what your students need, whether it be representative books, positive attention or hygiene products, and try to find ways to meet those needs. The special agent assigned to help you with this task is LaTezeon Humphrey Balentine of Natchez, Mississippi.LaTezeon is an incredibly inspiring teacher with one of the most open and giving hearts. I found her on Twitter where she always has motivating words, and many many books to give away to teachers and students. LaTezeon recently left classroom teaching to be an educational consultant at Education Galaxy, which provides online assessment, practice and instruction for students. She also has a children’s book, called “Fur Friends” coming out on April 24, 2020, with a percentage of her sales going to an animal shelter.This interview involved a lot of firsts for me: the first interview with someone outside of Washington or British Columbia, the first online recording I’ve done, and the first time I’ve cried with my interviewee at the end of the interview. Ms. Humphrey-Balentine’s goal is to provide two $200 book scholarships to students this coming June. Lesson: Impossible is happy to give $100, and will match up to another $100 that listeners are willing to give. So, if you donate through https://venmo.com/LaTezeon-Balentine and email me at [email protected] or DM me at @avivalevin with how much you gave, I will add that to the total I will donate. Latezeon has given so much of her own money and time constantly, let’s help take a little of the burden off of her shoulders!LINKS:Donate to LaTezeon’s book scholarship: https://venmo.com/LaTezeon-BalentineLaTezeon’s Website - www.lhbwithlove.comLaTezeon’s Twitter - https://twitter.com/LHBLovesEDULaTezeon’s is an Educational Consultant for Education Galaxy: https://educationgalaxy.com Books mentioned:Piecing Me Together by Renée WatsonWhat Momma Left Me by Renée WatsonThe Skin I'm In by Sharon Flake and Jason Reynolds Lesson: Impossible’s Website: www.lessonimpossible.comLesson: Impossible’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/avivalevinIf you have suggestions for a teacher that would make an inspiring Lesson: Impossible guest, please email me at [email protected]


Agent Christine Primomo (Science for Girls?)
Feb 03 2020 29 mins  
Your lesson, should you choose to accept it, is to examine how science curriculum for female-identifying students can go beyond clichéd ideas in order to facilitate an informed exploration of their world. The Special Agent assigned to help you with this task is Christine Primomo from Lake Washington Girls’ Middle School in Seattle, Washington. Episode links:For more about the Lake Washington Girls’ Middle School: http://www.lwgms.orgFor more about Islandwood on Bainbridge: https://islandwood.org/school-overnight-program/For more about the IBM Hack a Hair Dryer Campaign: https://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-trending-35027902For the teaching guide for “Salmon vs. Dams:
The Dam Removal Debate on the Elwha River”: https://www.k12.wa.us/sites/default/files/public/indianed/tribalsovereignty/elementary/uselementary/uselementary-unit3/unit3materials/lesson7/americanfieldguide.pdf For more on how women are othered in science research and elsewhere: Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado PerezFor more on Henrietta Lacks, including teaching resources: http://rebeccaskloot.com/the-immortal-life/ For more on the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment: https://www.history.com/news/the-infamous-40-year-tuskegee-study For more on teacher self-care: Onward: Cultivating Emotional Resilience in Educators by Elena AguilarFor more on Christine’s frequent collaborator, and former Lesson: Impossible guest, Lewis Mayday-Travis: https://www.lessonimpossible.com/#/episodesix/


BONUS EPISODE: Agent Rebeca Rubio (Censorship)
Jan 20 2020 9 mins  
Your bonus lesson, should you choose to accept it, is to consider whether a problematic book still deserves space in a school library, and whether the same rules apply in the classroom. The special agent assigned to help you with this task is Rebeca Rubio, coordinator for libraries and information services in the Richmond School District.Don’t forget to mark your calendars in 2020 for Canadian Freedom to Read Week (www.freedomtoread.ca) from February 23 – 29 or the American Banned Books Week (https://bannedbooksweek.org) September 27 - October 3.Mentioned in the episode was the Educational Resource Acquisition Consortium (ERAC) that provides guidance to teachers as a new, incorporated not-for profit society called Focused Education Resources, and can be found at https://bcerac.caI personally recommend this article when considering beloved books that, as the author tactfully puts it, “haven’t aged well”: www.tor.com/2018/08/27/problematic-classics-four-questions-to-ask-when-beloved-books-havent-aged-well/ You can follow Rebeca on Twitter @rebecarubi0 and check out our longer conversation about the changing role of the school librarian; how to thoughtfully purchase and integrate technology; why libraries are, at their core, democratic spaces; why ‘weeding’ a collection is a good thing; how to integrate Indigenous content in authentic ways; and why the future of libraries are ‘learning commons’ at https://lessonimpossible.podbean.com/e/agent-rebeca-rubio-school-libraries/ or on your preferred podcasting platform.





















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