The Teaching Bites Show with Fred & Sharon Jaravata

Because teachers need to prep for their future too. A show about surviving and thriving in our extremely busy and challenging teaching profession. She teaches 4th grade, He teaches K-12 Innovation. And yes, we're married to each other! Reach out to us at and Music by Music & by The Passion HiFi
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Jun 28, 2016

The question of the day (QTD) is: What do You do on the First Day, to Set the Tone for the Year?  Well, there are several, wait, actually many ways on how to handle this. The first day of school definitely important and can make or break your school year.

Yet, can the tone only be set on the first day only?  How crucial is it to set it then?  Can it be fixed at a later time? We'll explore this and dive deeper.

Sharon does it differently and I do it differently as our set up is different.  Hopefully, we can give you some useful thoughts on what you can do, in your own classroom.

Also, we share our newest experiment on our show.  We talk about how we plan to expand and take our show to the next level.  Join us and let's see what we got for you.

Jun 26, 2016

I interview Kira Shaw.  Kira has taught Kindergarten, 4th Grade and lead our school Drama and Musical plays this year.  Kira shares how acting is a key skill for any teacher to have.  

Share and leave us an honest rating on iTunes!  We really appreciate it!

Jun 19, 2016

Sharon and I, were able to get away from our boys with the help of our sister.  (Thanks Carmela!). We then headed out to a restaurant as we were hungry and to reflect on the ups and downs of this past school year.  We talk about our wins, our challenges and the tweaks and new goals we have for next year.  This is our time to share what we're thinking and what we want to do with you.

Share and subscribe to our podcast and leave us an honest review!  It really helps us get discovered by other awesome teachers like you! 

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Music by JukeDeck

May 6, 2016

Today, I chat with my former colleague Patricia Monticello Kievlan. She is a writer and educator based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She spent eight years working in independent schools as a teacher and administrator, and she now works as the Program Associate for Community Building at The Sprout Fund, a nonprofit that enriches the Pittsburgh region’s vitality by engaging citizens, amplifying voices, supporting creativity and innovation, and cultivating connected communities. In addition to her work with Sprout, Tricia writes and edits for GraphiteCommon Sense Media‘s website for educators, and she’s a proud member of the Pittsburgh education community as a member of the Remake Learning Network. She also works as an instructional designer and teaching consultant with local independent schools and nonprofits.

Tricia holds a master’s degree in Mind, Brain, and Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a bachelor’s degree in Plan II Honors and English from the University of Texas at Austin.

May 4, 2016

Sharon and I go over the biggest take aways I learned from presenting at the ATLIS 2016 conference in Atlanta a couple weeks ago.  I share some things that happened, how I felt, and how its important to trust teachers in major changes like having a makerspace in schools.

Apr 20, 2016

Coming live from Atlanta, GA at the Association of Technology Leaders in Independent Schools Conference! On this special episode, I interview Leigh Northrup from the Cannon School in North Carolina and Nicholas ColeFarrell from the Brandeis School in San Francisco and we discuss what maker spaces in schools is all about and why and how it can be a game changer.

I never met either Leigh or Nicholas in person prior to this conference. Leigh and I only “met” a few times on our Skype planning sessions for our deep dive presentation called “Leading Cultural Change From Within Your School Makerspace.”  Nicholas also presented, not only once—but twice!

Here is our deep dive presentation slides for you to check out!

I think you’ll enjoy this experience as we went to a local bar sitting in the beautiful Atlanta spring weather and chat about their experiences as presenters and attendees and what interesting things they saw and heard and what take-aways they had.  It’ll seem that you’re sitting with us as you hear the ambient sounds around us.

I want to give a shout Howard Levin, our Director of Innovation and Technology at our school, Convent & Stuart Hall, Schools of the Sacred Heart of San Francisco and Sarah Hangawald and Kelsey Vrooman and the rest of the team at ATLIS for making this work.  Big ups to my new friends and peers who I met at this conference. I hope to get their stories on our podcast someday.

Check out the #ATLISac on Twitter for all the tweets that came out of the conference.

ATLIS 2017 will be in Los Angeles, CA so stay tuned at

You can find both Leigh and Nicholas on twitter as @LeighNorthrup and @ncolefarrell



Fred Jaravata: Hey everyone. Fred here. I’m in Atlanta, Georgia for the ATLIS Conference, the Association of Technology Leaders and Independent Schools and today, I have two very cool guests. I’m supposed to have three but I have two right now. We have Leigh and we have Nicholas and I’m going to give them the time to introduce themselves but it’s really cool what they’re doing. They’re doing amazing things and as part of our tagline, we want to help you, you teachers out there to take your teaching to the next level. OK? So let’s start off with the first, Nicholas.

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: This is Nicholas here. Although there are only two guests, Leigh and I have the strength of 10 men or 10 people in that way. So really you’ve got like 20 guests here.

Fred Jaravata: Nice, OK. So quick intro, so tell us what you do and – yeah.

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: Sure. So my name is Nicholas. I’m Director of Technology at The Brandeis School in San Francisco, a fellow San Franciscan like my man Fred and …

Fred Jaravata: But we never met before.

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: No.

Fred Jaravata: So it’s great. This is the first time we met.

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: We’re internet friends. So this is kind of IRL time for us, which is nice. But yeah, no, we run an awesome technology program and a tinkering and making program there at the Brandeis School and yeah, we’re really excited about me being here and about the work that’s happening and about the work that Fred is doing. It’s really nice sharing our ideas on the podcast.

Fred Jaravata: Very cool.

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: And we’re just setting up a podcasting studio ourselves and we’re podcasting, so it’s good to be on this.

Fred Jaravata: Very cool. And our next guest.

Leigh Northrup: Hi. I’m Leigh. So thanks Fred for letting me be a part of this today. I’m from Concord, North Carolina which is just north of Charlotte and got the really cool opportunity to do a deep dive session with Fred. So we kind of had the coastal connection working with North Carolina and California. But I’m the Dean of Innovation and Technology at Cannon School. It’s a JK through 12 independent school. Been there for 15 years and – did I give my title? I’m the Dean of Innovation and Technology.

Fred Jaravata: Yes, you are. Right.

Leigh Northrup: And I run a big maker space there. So I haven’t always done that. I’ve been kind of the middle school tech guy for a long time. So like any teacher in an independent school, I wear lots of hats, lots of coaching, lots of everything. But really my primary focus right now is getting a really awesome space up and running and doing some cool stuff with kids in there.

Fred Jaravata: And you guys are doing amazing things. I’m watching your presentations and you guys are doing amazing things. It’s making me wanting to take my teaching to the next level.

  1. So you guys presented and Leigh and I, we presented together and actually, you Nicholas, you presented twice at this conference.

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: Yeah, one definitely better than the other. No, just kidding. So yeah.

Fred Jaravata: Tell me about the experience, the whole experience and the title of it. You don’t have to go deep in it, but at least quickly just go over what you did and how it felt.

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: For sure. So yesterday, we presented on early maker space implementation and I was like – you know, have to be teamed up with the crew from the Iolani School in Honolulu and …

Fred Jaravata: Iolani in the house.

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: Yeah, absolutely, those students. That school is just phenomenal, absolutely phenomenal. They’re doing such exciting stuff there. In a way, it was just sort of like I was kind of the – it was my presentation and then like I spent the rest of the time scraping everyone’s jaw off the floor when they saw Iolani’s work, which is super awesome.

But we talked about really like the approach behind sort of like maker space and some of the pedagogical and curricular aspects of it and then we shared three case studies based on the create-build space we have at Brandeis and then the two spaces they have at Iolani. So it was really nice to kind of get in with them and work on it.

Fred Jaravata: How did you guys connect? How did you guys – was it through Skype?

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: Yeah. So we hopped on Google chat a few days ago or a Google Hangout. But we’ve been sort of sharing on a Google slide presentation and sending emails back and forth and figuring out what that workload was like. But it was super seamless and we all just kind of jumped in and threw our slides in, put them on a common template and then checked back in every once in a while. They have to work right near each other, so I was kind of the oddball out in California.

Fred Jaravata: Hey, that’s cool. I think one of the things about teachers, we need to collaborate, right? It’s good to collaborate outside and technology has really made us closer that way.

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: For sure, for sure. And it was really good to sort of figure out what their workflow was. I kind of had my own ideas of how we would go about it and I think they did too and we kind of met each other in the middle and really worked and it was super cool. Other than the time difference which I think you guys …

Leigh Northrup: Oh, yeah.

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: It was tough to kind of schedule that out. But yeah, no, it was a super positive experience and I tell you what, an hour and 45 minutes goes so fast, right? So we were like, “How are we ever going to fill up this time?” and then after an hour and a half, we’re like, “We can have three more hours and still fill the time.” So yeah, there were a lot of great ideas generated at the session for sure.

Fred Jaravata: Awesome. All right, Leigh. We presented together but I’m going to get your perspective and how our job went.

Leigh Northrup: I think it went great and Sarah Hanawald, the Executive Director of ATLIS kind of was selling this to me last year and she’s like, “I really want you to present at ATLIS. I’m going to connect you with somebody really great and you’re going to learn just as much from the experience as you will be able to teach.”

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: And then you got stuck with Fred.

Leigh Northrup: I did.

Fred Jaravata: Yeah, I know.

Leigh Northrup: I’m still mad at Sarah about that. But all kidding aside, like she was absolutely right. The opportunity to connect with somebody on the other side of the United States and be able to share ideas with and not just learn but also have – feel very validated with what I’m doing was very – very close to what Fred is doing and we would have a lot of moments where we were saying, “Oh wow! I do something very similar in our space!” and we just had a lot of fun kind of connecting that way.

So our presentation was actually on leading cultural change through our maker spaces and a lot of maker spaces are going up and people are popping them in and a lot of school leaders are like, “Oh, we need a maker space because the school down the road has a maker space,” and anybody can go out and buy a couple of 3D printers and put some whiteboard paint on the wall and some rolling chairs.

Fred Jaravata: Like today, right?

Leigh Northrup: Yeah. Well, I’ve got a maker space. Now I can put that on my website. But it has to be more intentional than that and that’s what Fred and I were trying to convey in our session was OK, now you have the space or you’re getting a space. But what’s the point of the space? How are you going to help these kids learn in that space and what are you going to actually teach them to do? Because you know what? Just the cool stuff that’s on the table, that you’re using to make or have made, is worthless unless the kid learns life skills through that process.

So that’s where we got going and the session was interesting. I mean we planned it for three months and it didn’t really resemble what we set out to do. But we have always said part of that whole maker experience is being able to adapt to different situations and being able to get into a room and be like, “Oh, I don’t have that material. I need to make this different material. Whatever are we going to do?” That’s what we did in that presentation. We saw the room and we actually just really had a fantastic conversation with several other really awesome educators in our presentation and learned a lot from them and hopefully they got something out of the presentation as well.

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: There was a pretty good audience there. So especially there was one person there that was pretty awesome …

Fred Jaravata: Yeah, that’s the one thing. It’s like we share what we know. But what I’ve learned also, it’s also about the – you see the similar things. Everything is familiar. We’re doing very similar things, very familiar things. But it’s like not déjà vu but the other way around, [0:07:52] [Indiscernible]. Have you heard that term? It’s like you’re taking something familiar but seeing it in a new light. So it was just like that for me.


Fred Jaravata: Yeah, probably. By the way, we are at a bar drinking beers. So we’re …

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: Seltzer, seltzer, we’re all drinking seltzer.

Fred Jaravata: It’s OK. This is the unprofessional development podcast.

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: But yeah, no. Again, it’s like there’s that moment and I think you guys experienced that. I experienced it with both of my talks. It’s sort of like not only are you sharing out ideas, but you’re also kind of like, oh yeah. Like other people are saying this too. This kind of validates the work that I’m doing and we had that with my second talk today. We did one on getting things done in education and it was just sort of like one of those roomful of – yes, it’s like a roomful of nods. Just like a bunch of folks are smiling and nodding and like it was the most awesome disruptive classroom where people are just calling out and raising their hand and folks are really like well-behaved at first and they got bold and it was super cool.

It was just like – it was a really fun session that we did and that and folks really kind of were like, “This is what I needed.” Somebody was like, “This is the best session ever!” I was like, “Don’t say that too loud.” But it felt really good to have – like have other folks being like, you know, nobody is really talking about this and figuring out like, you know, that – you know, I don’t necessarily have an answer to these questions. But if we start the conversation, that’s the part.

I feel like in your session, you guys really hit on that. It’s like there is no answer. But we just need to be talking and that to me – when that theme starts coming up, it’s like, OK, the work that we’re doing is pretty righteous for sure.

Fred Jaravata: All right, gentlemen. So guys, what’s one thing or one cool thing that you saw, that you experienced besides your talk at ATLIS 2016? What’s one thing you will take back with you?

Leigh Northrup: I think the emphasis on coding and programming and I use those words a lot in my space and I’ve obviously adopted a lot of those things because all those tools are great. But unless you’re learning how they work and you’re teaching kids how to make them work, they’re kind of useless and seeing – getting a feel for what other people are doing with programming and not just sitting down and coding and making the ball go from one side of the screen to the other, but actual flying drones and making – like doing cool stuff with what we know. It’s not just making LED lights turn on and off. They’re practical application with something that …

Fred Jaravata: Some purpose.

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: Yeah, and that’s like – the plus one on that is that idea of like not only just coding by computational thinking and figuring out how – like what that looks like in a larger context. It’s like we’re – you know, we’re not going to fool ourselves and think that all of our students are going to be programmers or coders. But if they have that familiarity, but they also have done that development in terms of shaping the way that they think about learning and computational thinking. To me that was like what Dr. Stager’s session was this morning. It was like right there and for me definitely, Sylvia Martinez’s discussion, equity and access and women and [0:11:09] [Indiscernible]. That’s such an important conversation to have and like her thanking us as men for being in the room. It’s like yeah, obviously we’re going to be …

Leigh Northrup: It’s a no-brainer.

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: This is a completely important thing and it’s our responsibility as technology leaders to start that conversation and to keep that going at our schools.

Fred Jaravata: Right. OK. So how do – now I’m going to go beyond ATLIS and going back to your worlds. Quickly, how do you guys engage your students? How do you motivate your students? How do you motivate them? I think this is one question a lot of teachers want to know. They’re always asking. But how do you do that especially in today’s world?

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: Yeah, I mean I think the simplest – I’m sure Leigh will be with this too, but it’s like just this idea of asking your students questions, right? Don’t just go in and be the – try to be the smartest person in the room. That’s not the job of an educator by any means. So whether it’s like inquiry-based learning, whether it’s – just simply asking them and checking in with students, get – you know, get down on your knee and be like, “What’s going on?” and engaging with students on their level. Like to me, that’s the best way to engage your students. It’s like how is it going? We did this project with the Shadow a Student Day a few weeks ago where I followed an eighth grader around for the day and it was just the most phenomenal day.

Fred Jaravata: Oh, you did? OK, that’s cool.

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: I did gym class. I got changed for gym and I did gym class.

Fred Jaravata: The teachers knew this.

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: Yeah, yeah. Like, you know, teachers would come up and they would be like, “I’m sorry. I’m not Mr. Cole-Farrell today. I’m Nicholas. I’m an eighth grade student. I just transferred here.”

Fred Jaravata: That’s a really cool idea.

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: It was phenomenal and it was really an empathy project. But like for the first few classes, our students were like, “Oh, he’s just spying on us.” I’m like no and then the teachers were like, “He’s spying on us.” Like, no, no, I’m just trying to get a feel for what the day was like and like for me, there were so many insights of like this is like the minutia of an eighth grade student and this is what it’s like – it’s like you know what? When there’s no passing time to be – between classes, that’s really hard. It’s really hard to get to your next class on time. So yeah, so something like that to me, like engaging the students. Like the key is just like asking them questions and showing like interest in the work that they’re doing.

Leigh Northrup: Mine from like a – more of a maker space perspective is giving them opportunities to do what they want to do. One of our school focuses this year, it’s part of our adaptive expertise traits but also a big piece of what we paid special attention to this year. It was autonomy and giving those kids the opportunity to come in and just do what they want to do and if kids aren’t screwing around, they’re usually doing something pretty cool.

If you give them the opportunity and the tools and you say – you show them that there’s some worth to what they want to do. A good example of that is I had some kids that wanted to do hydroponic plants for this year. So when they came in the following week, I had over $300 worth of equipment so that they could build a big hydroponic planter. I think that they talked about it but then they were kind of almost expecting, oh, that would be something that we could do but will never do because nobody is going to believe in us and then all the piping was sitting there and now the kids have hydroponic salad bar day every Wednesday when we harvest the lettuce from their planter that they’ve created all by themselves.

Fred Jaravata: That’s awesome. As a teacher’s perspective, how do you vet that? How do you trust the kids will do that? How do you do that?

Leigh Northrup: Well, the follow-through is something big and I always put a tough task in front of one of those things. So I had some kids that wanted to do a – and this sounds a little silly and definitely not one of the most engaging maker space projects we’ve ever talked about. But they wanted to build a Pokemon website. Eighth grade boys want to build a Pokemon website.

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: Why wouldn’t you? It’s phenomenal.

Fred Jaravata: Wow. OK, cool.

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: Yeah.

Leigh Northrup: And I said to the guys, I was like, “Are you going to follow through with this?” Oh, yeah! Like, how many times have we heard, “Oh yeah! I’m going to follow through with that Mr. Northrup.” So what I made them do is write me a proposal because to get all that stuff hosted outside of like Google sites and things like that, it’s pretty expensive and they wanted their own domain and obviously I was going to pay for it. But I wanted them to prove to me that they were serious about it. So I made them do a little bit of paperwork and I made them do a little presentation and they followed through and they showed me the 350 Pokemon cards they were going to be able to talk about and all of those things.

At the end of that time, I was like, “You got me!” Like, OK, you’re good.

Fred Jaravata: You’re passionate. You love it. Yeah.

Leigh Northrup: And you know what? Even if that project falls on its face …

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: How could it though? Come on.

Leigh Northrup: Well, it can. It probably will.

Fred Jaravata: You’ve been there, right?

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: I can’t have a dot Pokemon domain. If not, we should like rally for it. That’s pretty awesome.

Leigh Northrup: We should and the other flipside of that, because that was the kind of success story. But back to the hydroponic planet, one of them was the aquaponic and I had an eighth grade boy that – he was like, “Oh, we need to do fish!” Once he saw this thing coming in, he was like, “I want to do an aquaponic planter.” I’m like, “All right.” I’m not going to use any names here but I’m like, “All right.” The exact same exercise. I want you to write me a proposal about how often you’re going to clean it, how you’re going to feed it, how you’re going to check the chemicals because Mr. Northrup does not want a fish tank in his room at all. But if the student was going to do a lot and lead a club or something like that, I’m totally in. So the first week went by. I was like, “Where’s your proposal?” I’m working on it. Needless to say, I don’t have a fish tank in my room.

Fred Jaravata: Right. OK, good.

Leigh Northrup: That proposal never amounted to anything but once they saw that – you know what? Making something awesome is hard. Like, it’s not just something that somebody is going to hand you on a plate. There’re going to be some effort involved and once kids understand that and they realize, “You know what? You better take me seriously.” I’m going to take you seriously. Cool things can happen.

Fred Jaravata: Right.

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: Yeah, for sure, for sure.

Fred Jaravata: That’s awesome. I got to try that. I got to do that. Hard work upfront.

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: Yeah, yeah. It’s like give me your elevator pitch.

Fred Jaravata: Yeah, exactly.

Leigh Northrup: Yeah.

Fred Jaravata: OK. So give me a “ta-da” moment, a “ta-da” moment that you in your teaching – something that really just like blew yourself away. Like, boom! I want to try this – something cool. It doesn’t have to be that big, but something like, OK, this is good stuff. Your “ta-da” moment.

Leigh Northrup: Right.

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: Give me a minute.

Leigh Northrup: I just say the …

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: Yeah.

Fred Jaravata: All right, cool.

Leigh Northrup: I got one that I can go with.

Fred Jaravata: OK, all right. OK. All right, Leigh. Go for it.

Leigh Northrup: So I apologize you guys because we kind of talked about this yesterday in the session. But one of the “ta-da” moments for the Cannon School this year in our space was the creation of a quadratic sound diffuser and the kids made it out of cake cups. The kids worked really hard for six weeks and this is going to be the abbreviated story. Hopefully Fred will put some email information or some Twitter stuff on there.

Fred Jaravata: Well, actually, I will put your contact information and people can get in touch with you.

Leigh Northrup: Cool. If you’re more curious about this project, I would love to talk to you more about it. But the kids built a quadratic sound diffuser out of recycled cake cups to solve some problems and turned out to be really cool and over the course of six weeks, they built a quadratic sound diffuser and they cleaned out 1800 cake cups to make this and they worked really hard and they talked to math teachers what a quadratic formula is and they made it and they had – they knew exactly what they were doing and the built it and then they tested it and they realized that it actually made the room louder.

What was so cool about that is that in independent schools, when kids work hard and they do everything right, they’re expected to be rewarded with an A and that’s not the way the world works. To teach these kids or give them opportunities to fail even though they did everything right is in my opinion one of the most powerful opportunities we can give a kid because then they finally learn that it’s not about the grade. It’s not about the validation that OK, they did it correctly. It’s about the learning that went on before the result was achieved and just some really special learning moments came out of that.

The kids, they were actually little scientists. Like – and we had the conversation. What awesome thing ever worked the first time? Like, nothing ever works the first time! And they got to experience that firsthand, which was really cool.

Fred Jaravata: Well, they got that out of the way. That failure, they got that out of the way and then they can start getting better and better and better and faster.

Leigh Northrup: How many times as adults have we failed? Like we fail constantly.

Fred Jaravata: All the time. I failed waking up this morning …

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: We [0:19:38] [Inaudible].

Fred Jaravata: That’s awesome. Really cool.

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: Yeah. That was awesome Leigh. I feel like mine – I got a rinky-dink one compared to that. But for me, we’re setting up our build space, which is our sort of woodshop high def prototyping studio this year and we’re setting up with sixth through eighth grade students who were there and elected and one of the tools we brought in was a scroll saw and some of the tools we definitely specifically designed to bring into our studio and that one was sort of like – yeah, that looks like something we should have. For my own part, I will say there wasn’t much planning behind that. But it looked pretty cool.

So we brought it in and three students unboxed it and set it up, which is awesome, followed the instructions, built it and then they said, “So how do we use it?” and I kind of raised my shoulders and said, “I don’t know.”

Fred Jaravata: I don’t know.

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: And it was like I don’t know but there’s a “how to scroll saw” book arriving next week and they’re like, “OK.” So this was Friday and the book was due to come Monday. They looked at each other. They pulled out their phones. They went on to YouTube and watched the video on how to scroll saw and like the sort of like new Yankee workshop, this old house type video came on and they watched it. They watched about seven minutes of it, put the phone down, grabbed the piece of wood and immediately started scroll-sawing and cut out their names in a piece of reclaimed redwood and that happened within probably about 30 minutes and it was like, OK, that’s what learning looks like.

It looks like me not being scared of not knowing and them taking action and knowing that they have the agency and the tools to do it. To me, that’s the “aha” moment of like, yeah, this is what learning looks like in the maker space.

Leigh Northrup: One of the things we talked about in our session yesterday was the whole maker ethos and one of those is do it yourself. Like, don’t wait for Nicholas or Fred or Leigh to show you how to do something. Just go figure it out. Like, we didn’t have YouTube when we were growing up. Like, oh my gosh, the trouble I could have caused with learning how to do different stuff would have been awesome. But now kids are just constantly waiting for the teacher to tell them what to do next and we have to stop that. I totally agree with you in that moment.

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: To me, it was like this is learning. This is what learning looks like in this space and like in hearing your session yesterday, it’s like yeah, yeah, that’s it. And that’s – to me, like that’s one of the common themes of like when you empower students, I mean you give them that agency. They’re going to take that action for sure.

Leigh Northrup: Well said.

Fred Jaravata: That’s awesome. That’s great. All right guys. A couple more questions left. All right. So time-saving tip. How do you save time? I know you Nicholas had a getting-things-done type of flow.

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: Yeah, I don’t want to waste your time with that, but yeah. No, we did …

Fred Jaravata: But give me a time-saving tip though for like teachers that they can take now or consider for next year, something that will save them time.

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: Yeah, yeah. For me, it’s about – I have two because like – you know, what? I’m not just going to follow the rules. But one of the things I do is like we like to calendar time into our schedule to do specific things. Like say, you calendar time in to do a project or calendar time in to read a book and especially with classroom teachers knowing that their time is really tight. Like be really disciplined and really like set your time and be like this is my time and it just will not be interrupted for this.

The other thing we do is like we really like to try scheduling mail. So like working towards inbox zero and if there’s a mail that you’re not ready to process, schedule and have it delivered to you at another time and that will like free up sort of your …

Fred Jaravata: Is there an app for that?

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: Yeah, I mean there are a lot of different apps. So like I use Airmail on iOS. Mailbox before it got – you know, before they put it in the ocean and that one worked really well. But any app that you can have boomerang. I think on Gmail, on the web works. But if anything that you can do to sort of clean out your inbox and get it as low as possible. The line we say is, “Your inbox is not your to-do list.”

Fred Jaravata: Right.

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: So really figuring out how you can manage. Your brain is only set to do a certain number of things and as clear as you can keep that, that’s where your ideas can come from.

Fred Jaravata: That’s awesome.

Leigh Northrup: It’s so awesome and I just got like two ideas from you because I am such a time-waster because I love to tinker and I love to play and so …

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: It frees up time for me to do that.

Leigh Northrup: Oh, the new toy comes in and I see the box come in and I’m like – I know I have to do that. But I don’t want to do that. I want to do this and being able to kind of calendar my time and I’m going to re-listen to this podcast and try and reflect on some of those things. That’s really good and I’m going to go in a completely different direction and again, I know I keep coming back to the whole maker space concept and that’s much bigger than that.

But a lot of making takes prep materials and a lot of – you don’t really have the time to cut every piece of wood, to drill every hole, to cut every piece of PVC when you have 80 kids coming in for a 45-minute class period. We talked about proving worth to teachers and things like that. They need to be able to see that their kids can come in, make something and their curriculum is enhanced and it has to be done quickly. If their impact is one day’s worth but that project takes four classes, then all of a sudden, teachers are like, well, I will dedicate one class period per year to the maker space because that’s all they can afford to give.

So I have to do a lot of that work upfront. So my kind of time-saving tip is I have a group of – and they’re boys, which I know is stereotypical but I have an eighth grade maker space prep team, which I say prep team assemble. You know, that’s always the subject line.

These little boys, they just want to do – they’re like little worker bees and they just – they come running at their study hall and they’re good students, so they can afford to miss it and they just – they’re like, “All right Mr. Northrup. What do you need?” I need 80 four by four pieces of quarter-inch plywood cut and poof! There it is like by the end – at 30 minutes and these guys are just like making widgets and they’re just so excited to be a part of it and the next day, when those kids come in and all of those pieces of Plexiglas are cut, all of those pieces of wood are cut, the holes are drilled and I’m not taking anything away from the experience that those kids are having the next day because they just kind of get to focus on the learning, on the making and the learning. But they don’t have to do the meaningless prep work associated with it.

Boys have like a sense of pride. They’re like, “I did that. I made that big pile of equipment that you guys are getting ready to make cools tuff with.” So yeah, my maker prep team saves me hours every week.

Fred Jaravata: And then other teachers are not in the maker space but they can use other – they can think of that concept and have other – their students do something else, have something else.

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: Yeah. My wife tried to have students grade her tests and that didn’t go so well.

Fred Jaravata: All right guys. Last question and this is a big one. What is the best advice you can give teachers? What’s the best advice?

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: We love you. That’s the best advice, really. No, just keep going. Keep going strong. Know that you’re supported by your administration, by your leadership and by your students. Your students really need you and the work that you’re doing is really – you’re doing God’s work really. You’re doing – teachers are doing the most phenomenal work out there. So as a school leader myself or administrator, I really appreciate all of what our teachers did and as a – about to be kindergarten parent in another district. I really appreciate what those teachers are going to do for my kids.

Leigh Northrup: I’m going to quote – because I want to piggyback off that and Vinny …

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: For the Vin.

Leigh Northrup: For the Vin. He told me last night as an administrator. Be the black.

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: Yeah.

Leigh Northrup: I was really touched by that because I – he was talking about we want our teachers and our kids to be stars and to shine brightly. But as administrators, we need to take a step back and be the black that’s behind that because those stars don’t shine brightly unless they’re pitch-black behind that. Nobody notices. Nobody says, “Oh, that star is beautiful because of the black,” and again, I’m just totally stealing his words from last night because I was really touched by that. But we have to do all of that prep work, all of those long nights so that our teachers can show up and just have these dynamo moments. Like, I – my seventh grade science teacher rolled in and there was a nine-foot beach ball in there and a 3D printing project that I had worked countless hours on.

You know, have the kid that just showed up and saw the nine-foot beach ball and he literally stopped in his tracks and he goes, “I love science!” He just looked at her and he looked at his teacher and he was like, you know, just thankful of this opportunity. He had no idea what we were going to do with the beach ball. He had no idea what was going to happen today, but he knew he was in the maker space and he knew that there was a nine-foot beach ball hanging from the ceiling and he didn’t care what he was doing.

So I felt like that was an opportunity where I got to be the black. I got to just be – I got to sit back and watch this teacher shine and watch the student be totally engaged with learning.

Fred Jaravata: That’s awesome advice, gentlemen.

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: And keep listening to Fred’s show. It’s awesome.

Leigh Northrup: Yeah, that’s actually my number one tip, that too.

Fred Jaravata: Well, OK, guys. Thank you guys very much for joining this show. But before we leave, I want – our teachers, if they need to get in touch with you, how can they do that real quick?

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: You can find me on Twitter. It’s @ncolefarrell and I would love to find you there for sure. Our maker space is at

Fred Jaravata: Cool.

Leigh Northrup: And I’m @leighnorthrup. There’s a goofy picture of me kayaking there and I’m usually in front of mountain or doing something outside. So I’m not the nerd inside. Those are the pictures I like out there. So …

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: That’s me.

Leigh Northrup: But I look forward to connecting with anybody who wants to hear more about what we’re doing over in North Carolina.

Fred Jaravata: Yeah. Thank you guys. I highly suggest you guys who are listening, check out what these guys are doing, what Nicholas and Leigh are doing. They’re doing amazing, amazing things. Connect with them. Let me know if you have any questions also and then we will get you guys started. All right?

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: Thanks Fred.

Leigh Northrup: Thanks Fred.

Fred Jaravata: Thank you guys, gentlemen, for doing this. I appreciate it. All right, cool.

Nicholas Cole-Farrell: Thank you.

Leigh Northrup: Thank you.

Fred Jaravata: All right. Next one is on me.


Apr 16, 2016

We chat with Amabelle Sze, who I worked together with as teaching associates.  Since then, she has extensive experience teaching in the lower grades and has attended several highly coveted PD projects (Lucy Calkins at the Teacher's College in Columbia in NYC, and at Howard Gardner's Project Zero at Harvard).  

Amabelle shares deep insights in being a teacher in a Quaker school and gives us a look into the philosophy and outlook of being a Quaker educator.  

Mar 25, 2016

Today, our guest on our podcast is Merve Lapus, Western Regional Education Director of Common Sense Media ( I got to know Merve a few years ago, as my school was implementing a digital citizenship program. CSM, goes way beyond from just being a program, to become a trusted resource for schools and parents on all things digital resources and media in education.

Merve and I chat about his rise from humble, but amazing, beginnings to being a director of CSM where he connects with schools all over with digital resources and getting the mindset of being an upstanding (digital) citizen.

Mar 18, 2016

Today, our special guest is Kristin Monfredini.  Kristin is the K-8 Spiritual L.I.F.E. Director
Liturgy, Interiority, Faith, Engagement at Convent & Stuart Hall, Schools of the Sacred Heart in San Francisco

Kristin shares her story from working at Tiffany & Company and her experience rising from being a teacher associate, stay at home mom and becoming part of the Campus Ministry program which focus on reinforcing and celebrating the curricular learning happening in the religion classes.

We go over her “ah-ha” and “ta da” moments that include one of her passion projects, Drama.  Join in and let’s discover Kristin’s story and make sure you share with others!

Mar 10, 2016

My former colleague, Caroline Zoba, is our guest on this episode.  She and I chat about her teaching journey from public school, private school, single sex classrooms to co-ed classroom.  An avid runner, Caroline also shares her experience teaching in Ghana, Africa for a summer.

Join us to get Caroline’s amazing insights and valuable tips on how to be a great teacher.

Mar 4, 2016

We’re excited to feature Alicia Tapia in this week’s episode! Teacher, Librarian and Pop-Up Library/Cyclist (so cool!) extraordinaire of

We chat about the importance of connecting with your students, her passion project calledBIBLIOBICICLETA and how her “Ta-Da” moment inspires her.  She then shares that one of her “Ta-da” moments with students include helping her students create digital portfolios.

Teaching in the heart of San Francisco’s Tenderloin district, we dissect how her students are succeeding in a challenging environment.

You’ll come away being inspired as we dive deep in the magical moments she sees when people interact with her pop-up library and other people.

You can follow Alicia peddling away on Twitter, Instagram on Facebook,

Feb 5, 2016

[UPDATE: Kellie Mullin is now a Head of School in the Bay Area]

Kellie Mullin is our guest today and she teaches 7th and 8th grade science.  She does an amazing class project called the 20% Project.  The students find a real-world problem and develop possible solutions using the Design Thinking process.

We talk about the challenge of teaching Empathy as part of Design Thinking process with middle school students–in particular the 7th and 8th grade girls.

Kellie shares her best tech tips and advice that helps develop the creative confidence and growth mindset of teachers.

Share and like this episode and let us know what you think!


[Welcome to the Teaching Bites Podcast. Here are your hosts, Fred and Sharon Jaravata.]

Fred Jaravata: This is the Teaching Bites Show where we connect you with people and ideas to take your teaching to the next level. I’m your host Fred Jaravata and today, we are featuring a special guest here on the show and her name is Kellie Mullin. She is a seventh and eighth grade science teacher and I worked with her for the past few years. I think – how many years is this?

Kellie Mullin: This is my sixth year.

Fred Jaravata: This is her sixth year, right, and we are glad to have you here to share your story so that we can inspire other teachers as well. OK. So real quick, I’ve been working with – I’ve known Kelly for the past six years and I’ve also worked closely with her with something called the 20 Percent Project and actually we’re going to be starting that real soon. I think this week and that’s going to be exciting and she’s going to share her story about that.

Also I know she’s getting – going back to school at the University of San Francisco and she will be sharing a little bit of that also and Kellie, welcome to the show.

Kellie Mullin: Thank you for having me.

Fred Jaravata: Great to have you. OK, Kellie. So I gave you a little quick intro and that was a really quick intro. We want to hear you fill in all the gaps that I skipped and tell us your origin story.

Kellie Mullin: So my father was a teacher, but he didn’t teach for most of my life. He actually had a landscaping business and when I was 16, he went back to school, got his specialist credential to teach special education and it was really inspired by the type of lifelong learner that he was. So I think that although I had watched my dad always read and see those things, I had a perfect model of what it meant to be a learner.

So I always loved school. I loved reading and helping people. So when I went to Berkeley, I was able to do some tutoring. I worked with a disabled students program and I was able to take notes. So I just had a love of education. So when it came to what do you do after college, I found that passion and I went back to Berkeleyand I got my master’s and my credential there in developmental teacher education. So my passion for education really started at home.

Fred Jaravata: Nice. OK, yeah, it’s very – like you, I come from a family of teachers and definitely it’s an inspiration. All right, Kellie. So what was the “aha” moment that you had, that you realized that teaching was for you?

Kellie Mullin: I think that it took me a while to get into the rhythm of teaching. But when I did, I realized that I loved teaching because it’s so relational. For me, one moment, my first year at teaching in public school, I taught sixth grade math and science. I had a student come in to me before school started and the students were not supposed to come in. But she was really concerned that she was unsafe on the schoolyard.

So that moment of realizing that although I taught her math and science, she felt comfortable enough to come in to me and to use that space just to feel safe. It was this moment of recognition that I was making a connection with her. So that was this moment.

Fred Jaravata: Right. So what was the unsafe part? What was happening?

Kellie Mullin: So I began my public teaching career in San Francisco. I only taught for two years in public school as a full-time teacher. But there’s just a lot of opportunity for unsafe things to happen. So she was a little concerned for her safety, some issues with some other students.

Fred Jaravata: Wow. What grade is this?

Kellie Mullin: It was sixth grade.

Fred Jaravata: Sixth grade. Oh, wow, that’s unfortunate. OK. So you mentioned that you worked in the public school system for a couple of years, right? What helped you decide to get – go jump to the private school?

Kellie Mullin: When I went to grad school, my intention was to stay in public school forever. I really wanted to dedicate my time to working with students from disadvantaged backgrounds and would have probably stayed in public school for much longer if it hadn’t been for budgetary differences between the city and the school district.

Fred Jaravata: Yes.

Kellie Mullin: It’s really hard to work and give your all to students every single day and not know whether or not you would have a job at the end of the school year. So every year I taught in public school, by the end of the year, we were given a warning we might not be rehired and it wasn’t because of our performance. It was just for budget reasons.

Fred Jaravata: Right, right. So did you ever get the pink slips or just the warning?

Kellie Mullin: I did. They were all rescinded but by the time I got this job here at this school, I had already made the site [0:05:11] [Phonetic].

Fred Jaravata: So how did that make you feel getting all that – like the pink slips?

Kellie Mullin: It was really hard because I knew as a beginning teacher that I was giving my 100 percent and I was not the only one. The last year I taught at public school, I remember one moment. I was with several other teachers who were also getting their pink slip warnings and it had then turned into a pink slip at that point. We were sitting with our vice-principal in that room and he was just sharing how much love he had for us and how hard it was for him as an administrator to not be able to better support us and I remember he was this really tough man and I just remember him starting to cry in that room and realizing – you know, we had – even though we worked with really challenging students with lots of needs, we loved the kids, we loved each other and so that was what was really hard about leaving public school.

Fred Jaravata: Right. What was the timeline? When would you get a pink slip? When would they decide to – hey, we will get you back?

Kellie Mullin: You know, it really varies. I think – I remember it being in early spring when you would find out that you may potentially get this warning and then …

Fred Jaravata: Like around February, March?

Kellie Mullin: I think a little – March or April.

Fred Jaravata: How can you teach when you have that hanging over your head?

Kellie Mullin: That was really difficult and then by the end of the school year, you knew whether or not you would receive the full pink slip. But most of the time, it would – the intention was that it would be rescinded. Potentially though, they were discussing consolidating positions so that you might have a job. It just might not be at this school.

Fred Jaravata: Right.

Kellie Mullin: So that was the moment when I really started thinking about let’s see what other opportunities are out there. I’m so thankful that I did because I found a new kind of home here in the Catholic school world.

Fred Jaravata: OK. And we’re glad to have you. OK, Kellie. Favorite quote or mantra, something to get you through your teaching school year, your teaching day. What’s something that you say to yourself?

Kellie Mullin: So one thing that really – one quote that really stands out to me and has since graduate school is Plato and he said, “Do not train a child to learn by force or harshness. Direct them to it by what amuses their minds, so that you may be better able to discover with accuracy the particular bent of the genius of each.”

It really is something that I’ve had on my wall since I taught in public school. Just reminding myself that as easy as it is to create a lesson plan and decide this is what we’re learning today, this is what I want to teach, to really give opportunities to our students to find what they are passionate about so that they’re really learning.

Fred Jaravata: Right. Can you share a moment in time in the past that – a challenging situation that you experienced in your professional career?

Kellie Mullin: I think in terms of the project that I’m doing with my students now, which is design-thinking-based, one of the hardest parts of this project has been the transmission of what it means to be empathetic to my students.

Fred Jaravata: Yeah. Your seventh and eighth grade students, right?

Kellie Mullin: Sevenths and eighth grade students. So for me, a challenging situation has been what are different meaningful ways that I can help them to understand what empathy is. I don’t think I’ve necessarily overcome that yet.

Fred Jaravata: Yeah.

Kellie Mullin: I think it’s something that I’m challenged with every day.

Fred Jaravata: Why is it happening you think?

Kellie Mullin: I think that especially in middle school, it’s really hard to think beyond yourself and they’re very concerned with their own identity formation, comparing themselves to the people around them but not necessarily always able to see outside of themselves.

Fred Jaravata: OK.

Kellie Mullin: So I think part of it is developmental. But I think there might be more.

Fred Jaravata: OK. Do you have any plans? I know you’re saying – you haven’t overcome that yet. Any plans or any things that you plan to do, hope to do, to figure that out?

Kellie Mullin: So I think part of it is that I’ve used several different examples of how empathy has been used in the design process with my students all the way from looking at how MRIs can be redesigned to better suit the needs of children, so that they’re not as frightening.

Fred Jaravata: Right.

Kellie Mullin: To a host of other ideas. But I think showing them ideas, but then really giving them the opportunity to reflect upon situations where they’ve experienced empathy, where they have been empathetic to others in sharing that, but creating those opportunities really for them.

Fred Jaravata: Right. OK. And I will be working with you in the 20 Percent Project and that’s going to be something we will be working on hopefully with these girls.

Kellie Mullin: Yes, hopefully.

Fred Jaravata: Hopefully it’s going to be a success and I think it will be. OK. So favorite books, movies or songs that you like that helps you again with your teaching career.

Kellie Mullin: There are two books that really stand out to me. The first was a book that we as a faculty all ready which is Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All by Tom and David Kelleyand that book really stood out to me because I knew I was interested in creativity and innovation. But this term of “creative confidence” was something that was really new to me.

Fred Jaravata: Right.

Kellie Mullin: That this idea of believing in your ability to change the world and that it was something that can be fostered in people, I think that was – this book was the first opportunity that I had had to really hear – well, what are some ideas to actually do this?

Fred Jaravata: Right.

Kellie Mullin: So that’s one and I think – and it fits really seamlessly with the other book which is Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, how can we fulfill our potential by Carol Dweck. So looking at those two ideas together, the idea of growth mindset and creative confidence, just really fit in together.

Fred Jaravata: Right. They go hand in hand and they’re – David Kelley, one of the authors and I think both of the Kelley brothers and Carol Dweck, they all are professors down at that school down South.

Kellie Mullin: The other school that’s not Berkeley.

Fred Jaravata: Yeah, they wear that reddish thing. OK. You follow Cal Sports [0:12:29] [Phonetic] right?

Kellie Mullin: I do.

Fred Jaravata: Yeah, you do.

Kellie Mullin: Hopefully our football team will get better.

Fred Jaravata: Will get better, yes. OK. So tech tools, I like to ask teachers about favorite tech tools or web resources, so that other teachers can check those out.

Kellie Mullin: Yeah.

Fred Jaravata: What are you liking and what’s helping you?

Kellie Mullin: Well, I love all of the Google Education apps. I love the world of Google for education specifically because of the collaboration that you’re able to do. So when students are working on a presentation, they can all work on the same presentation on different devices at the same time.

Fred Jaravata: Right, different devices. That’s the key thing.

Kellie Mullin: Exactly. You no longer have to have students all around one or one computer.

Fred Jaravata: Right.

Kellie Mullin: And you don’t have four students who are doing nothing, while one student is doing all the work. You can even have students in different places. So I’ve been able to have groups of students working together that aren’t even in the same class. But because of the collaboration and the sharing aspect of Google, we’re actually able to make new groupings possible.

Fred Jaravata: Right. I love Google’s stuff too. But now let me ask you this question about the whole Google Apps for Education, the GAFE stuff. In the groups especially, how do you make sure – when you have a group of kids working together, how do you make sure the other kids are doing equal work?

Kellie Mullin: I think that’s always – that’s the age-old question of group work. Part of it is only allowing group work to occur when group work needs to occur. I think sometimes as teachers, we put kids into groups and we assume they will distribute the work. But really it was not an assignment that ever needed a group.

Fred Jaravata: Right.

Kellie Mullin: So of course you get students who aren’t doing what they need to be doing because they didn’t really need to have that role.

Fred Jaravata: Right.

Kellie Mullin: So I think part of it is really making sure that each person has an individual task but also giving students the opportunity to give feedback at the end. I think when students know that they have the opportunity to reflect upon how they behaved in their group but also how – you know, allowed their teammates to evaluate in a non-grade-related way. It does kind of inspire them to get the work done, but making it more meaningful. I mean I think that’s really the most important piece.

Fred Jaravata: Now we had been using Google apps for the past three, four years now. How are the girls liking it right now?

Kellie Mullin: I think that they really like it because they are able to – instead of one person holding the document for a group, if someone is absent, if they’ve all shared it, then they’re able to access it. Things like that are wonderful and as they’ve added new templates for the Google presentations, the Google slides, it has become more and more interesting to them.

Fred Jaravata: Nice. Yes, another plus one for Google Apps for Education.

Kellie Mullin: Yeah.

Fred Jaravata: OK. So how do you get through the teaching day? How do you avoid burnout?

Kellie Mullin: I think another quote that stands out to me is from Mother Janet Erskine Stuart.

Fred Jaravata: Yes.

Kellie Mullin: And it’s about that it’s better to begin a great work than to finish a small one. I think I remember that quote a lot because we expect finished products at the end of the day sometimes or even literally at the end of a class period. But realizing that the work that we’re doing with students, sometimes we’re just planting seeds and realizing that I don’t need to get it all accomplished in one school year or in one day or in one hour with students.

Fred Jaravata: You don’t have to do that?

Kellie Mullin: I know.

Fred Jaravata: Really?

Kellie Mullin: It’s a relief to know that the work that we’re doing and that we’re investing in students is – it’s a beginning. It’s not an end.

Fred Jaravata: Right, it is the beginning. Yes. I love that quote too. I love Janet Erskine Stuart. I love her philosophy with that of schools and that’s definitely a quote I really take heart to as well. OK. So Kellie, so tell me – tell the listeners what do you want to learn more about and why.

Kellie Mullin: So I am fascinated with this idea of creative confidence and the idea of innovation. So I’ve gone back to school. I’m working on my doctorate in Catholic education leadership and the reason why I’m interested – I began in the master’s program and I decided to shift into the doctoral program because I – I really believe that when we talk about the needs of society today, creativity is one of those most important skills that we’re hearing company after company mention that we need. But why are we not creating those opportunities for our students to really become creative thinkers and innovative thinkers?

So I’m really interested in learning how and – you know, considering writing my dissertation on something along the lines of how can we set up a culture of innovation amongst our faculty that inspires that creative confidence and – in faculty members but also in the students who they’re teaching.

Fred Jaravata: Right.

Kellie Mullin: So I think I’m just fascinated in learning – continuing to learn more about how can you foster a growth mindset in students and in people that are coming with a fixed mindset about themselves and their abilities.

Fred Jaravata: Now, that’s a really good point. I think that goes hand in hand with not just in the school setting but also outside, right? Now I know – I peeked into your LinkedIn profile just before you came in.

Kellie Mullin: Excellent.

Fred Jaravata: I knew this a couple of years ago that you are also a curriculum consultant. Is that true?

Kellie Mullin: It is, yeah.

Fred Jaravata: Can you speak about that a little bit, please?

Kellie Mullin: So I’ve done some work with different organizations and also with individual teachers.

Fred Jaravata: Right. You founded this, right?

Kellie Mullin: Yes.

Fred Jaravata: Yes, OK.

Kellie Mullin: To help them not only look at just lesson plan formatting but also to do some of that integration of innovation and creativity into their lesson planning, so that you’re not just lecturing but finding opportunity – I really try and focus on finding opportunities to integrate design thinking, hands-on, student-centered experiential opportunities into lesson plans and ideas that are kind of very old school.

Fred Jaravata: OK. So Kellie …

Kellie Mullin: Yes.

Fred Jaravata: … what are you most proud of?

Kellie Mullin: I think that I’m most proud of the relationships that I form with my students and with the people with whom I work. I think Maya Angelou’s quote of, “People will remember how you make them feel,” is something that has stuck with me for most of my life because in the classroom, every lesson feels so important. But really what matters the most aside from the – you know, the lifelong love of learning I hope I’m instilling in my students is that they come into my room and they know that they are known and cared for and that they feel safe and that they’re able to be open to learning.

The same with the people who I’m working with. I hope that they know that I’m supportive and that I’m available to be there and help them continue to grow just like I know that they’re here to help me grow.

Fred Jaravata: Right. Yes, I agree with you there. We appreciate that. I know we talked about the 20 Percent Project earlier. We just glossed over that a little bit. But before we get to that, my next question is, “How do you inspire your students? Would that include the 20 Percent Project?”

Kellie Mullin: I think – I hope so. I mean that’s …

Fred Jaravata: Can you speak about that a little bit? Yeah, of how you inspire students.

Kellie Mullin: I think that the process of coming to bring a project like this into my classroom has …

Fred Jaravata: Can you explain real quick – sorry to interrupt. Can you explain the 20 Percent Project for those who do not …

Kellie Mullin: Yes, I will. I think it began with this desire to really give my students an opportunity to learn what they’re passionate about, but also to learn how to find a passion. If you ask anyone to think about, “Well, what are you passionate about?”

Fred Jaravata: That’s hard.

Kellie Mullin: It’s really hard and to ask a seventh or an eighth grader what you’re passionate about.

Fred Jaravata: Even for some adults, it’s hard too.

Kellie Mullin: Right? That’s not in the mainstream media. It’s difficult and so the 20 Percent Project is an opportunity that I give my students based on the ideas of certain companies like Google that gave their engineers 20 percent of their work week to work on a project of their choice. It was related to what their job was.

So this is my third year doing this project and what we do is I give them one day a week and there are parameters around this. But what I’m asking them to do is I’m asking them to find something that they are passionate about, some problem that they want to be involved in solving. Then we work through the design thinking process. We begin looking at the different states of design thinking with empathy, going to the process of ideation, creating ideas and it’s a little more than just brainstorming. It’s creating ideas that are different than what we already have today.

Fred Jaravata: Right.

Kellie Mullin: And then continuing through this process of looking at these ideas, choosing one idea that they really want to develop and then moving forward to prototyping and testing and then going through that process again potentially.

Fred Jaravata: Yes. Can you name a project that you liked so far or a couple that you liked so far that the girls have made?

Kellie Mullin: You know, I’m really excited about all of the projects this year. It has taken a while to get to a place where I could inspire them to choose projects that were big enough, that they felt like moonshot ideas.

Fred Jaravata: Moonshot ideas.

Kellie Mullin: That I really focus on this idea of constructive failure that it’s – I want them to think big. But I’m allowing them to think big in a safe environment. So thinking of some topics of – there are a lot of students who are really interested in food in terms of the waste that goes into agricultural production, the amount of food waste that we have that potentially could be going to better uses, all the way to projects where students are worried about how can we better support body image in young women. How can we support students that are dealing with cancer and students with – children dealing with cancer and hair loss and things like that?

Fred Jaravata: Right.

Kellie Mullin: So there’s a wide gamut of ideas.

Fred Jaravata: Now, it’s a great thing you’re doing and you’re in your third year and it’s amazing. So I think one of the shining projects in our schools.

Kellie Mullin: Thank you.

Fred Jaravata: How do you find the time to do this besides your curriculum, your regular curriculum that you’re doing? How do you find time to do this project?

Kellie Mullin: So that’s a good question. Part of what I’ve been experimenting with –

Fred Jaravata: Experimenting, keyword, right?

Kellie Mullin: Exactly. I think of it as almost my own 20 Percent Project. How do I …

Fred Jaravata: Your own 20 Percent Project. OK.

Kellie Mullin: So it has taken a lot of time outside of what I would normally spend on grading papers and creating lesson plans.

Fred Jaravata: But you don’t have to do this, right?

Kellie Mullin: I don’t have to do this.

Fred Jaravata: But you want to do this.

Kellie Mullin: I’m just passionate about it. One of the things that I’ve tried doing with my science class is I’ve actually tried flipping the classroom. I read a lot of research about how it had worked really well and continues to work really well at the university and the high school level. But I really hadn’t found much about how it impact – you know, how does it work for middle school students?

So far, it has been pretty positive. I see a lot of the students there responding well to the flipped classroom model where I am recording videos that they listen to and take notes from and do some questions. Then that makes our in-class time and lab time much more active, so that we’re able to have that time to still do the 20 Percent Project.

Fred Jaravata: OK. That’s really cool. All right. So you found a time to do this. OK. Can you share with us, share with the listener, the teachers out there, a time-saving tip?

Kellie Mullin: Time-saving tip.

Fred Jaravata: Yeah.

Kellie Mullin: I really do think that Google – all of the education apps are time-saving because when you know where your documents are, they’re in the drive. I don’t have to have my laptop with me. I don’t have to have – I can have any device. That’s a time-saving tool for me. Keeping my drive organized which is really difficult. But making sure that I’m labeling all of my documents, those little things, taking notes. I save time by taking a little extra time when I’m creating documents and when I’m saving documents.

Fred Jaravata: Right now. You’re doing it right then in the moment.

Kellie Mullin: Right.

Fred Jaravata: So that you’re trying to save time for your future self.

Kellie Mullin: Uh-huh, versus recreating a worksheet that you know you have. You just can’t find. In the long run, it takes a lot longer than the two extra seconds it takes to name it appropriately.

Fred Jaravata: And saving them all in Google Drive, right? And not just on the computer where the computer can go missing or can crash and burn.

Kellie Mullin: Exactly.

Fred Jaravata: That’s a great tip. OK. So Kellie, these two next questions are the last couple of questions about advice. Can you share with us the best advice that you received and what is the advice – it may be the same – best advice you want to give teachers out there?

Kellie Mullin: I think some of the best advice that I’ve received from anyone is about always trying to grow. So I’ve gone to some professional developments and really been struck by the ideas of failure as a first attempt in learning and …

[Crosstalk] [0:27:52]

Kellie Mullin: Exactly, and constructive failure being – you know, not allowing ourselves to be paralyzed with fear by failure. But to see opportunities for growth and how to learn from things that don’t work exactly the way they are. So I guess the advice is just that the word “failure” and “fail” isn’t negative. It’s only negative if you live in the failure, if you live in the things that don’t work rather than to use them as inspiration to become better.

Fred Jaravata: To become better. All right. OK, Kellie. So, that is all I have for you. We like to give teachers a way to – our listeners a way to contact you. They can either contact me directly or they can contact you directly. Is there an email, a website that you would like listeners to get in contact with you?

Kellie Mullin: There is. There is an email. I’m happy to communicate with anyone who’s interested in bringing the 20 Percent Project into their own classroom or is interested also in creative confidence or the culture of innovation. I’m definitely looking for classrooms and schools that feel like they are successful at bringing the culture of innovation to fruition, as I’m embarking on my dissertation process. So I definitely encourage people to contact me.

Fred Jaravata: OK.

Kellie Mullin: Should I spell it right now?

Fred Jaravata: Yeah, you could do it right now. Go for it.

Kellie Mullin: All right. Great! So my email address

Fred Jaravata: All right. Miss Mullin, thank you so much for joining our show and keep up the good work that you’re doing.

Kellie Mullin: Thank you so much for having me. It had been a lot of fun.

[Thank you for listening to the Teaching Bites Podcast at]

Jan 20, 2016

Corinne Corrigan is a fourth grade teacher who has a unique experience where she started in the classroom and moved to the computer lab, started her family, came back and established our maker space studio and is now back in the classroom–in a new grade. Whew! She has a wealth of teaching resources and tips for eveyone.

I learned everything about teaching from Corinne (and Zoe Ley) when I was her teaching assistant way back. She continues to be a mentor and friend who has always given great advice and tips professionally and personally ;).

Come listen as we chat about her experience and get valuable tips to use in your own teaching and find out what she means by telling teachers to “just don’t do it!”

Books Mentioned (Affiliate Links – at no extra cost to you!)

Great Horn Spoon

One Crazy Summer

Music by: JukeDeck

Here is the transcript for you:

[Welcome to the Teaching Bites Podcast. Here are your hosts, Fred and Sharon Jaravata.]

Fred Jaravata: This is the Teaching Bites Show where we connect you with people and ideas to take your teaching to the next level. I’m your host. I’m Fred Jaravata and today we have a special guest. This person here is a very good friend of mine and a special person where she was actually my boss. Well, Corinne was my master teacher in first grade for about two years and then after that, I followed her into the computer lab and we worked together there for the next few years. She took some time off, came back and worked in the Makerspace. She helped us set that up and she went back to the classroom and teaches fourth grade. Hi Corinne.

Corinne Corrigan: Hello.

Fred Jaravata: How are you doing?

Corinne Corrigan: Good. How are you? I didn’t know I was so special.

Fred Jaravata: Very special. OK, one of the few people in this universe that actually – is actually really cool.

Corinne Corrigan: Oh, wow. Thank you.

Fred Jaravata: OK.

Corinne Corrigan: I’m honored.

Fred Jaravata: OK. So Corinne, fill in any of those blanks – any blanks that I – the intro I shared with our listeners and let us know your teaching story.

Corinne Corrigan: OK. So my background, I taught for second, third and now fourth grades. I also had a stint as a pre-kindergarten teacher for a semester and I was a technology specialist for several years. I got into that when I wanted to do something different and I wanted to have a job that would also allow me to possibly work part-time when I was having children and it worked out. But then I missed the classroom. I’m happy to be back teaching fourth grade humanities.

Fred Jaravata: Fourth grade humanities, OK. So when did you start teaching?

Corinne Corrigan: I started teaching in 1994. It was when I started my credential program. I actually did a credential program overseas in England. I was – I had been living in England and wanted to stay there and had a boyfriend there that I wanted to stay and hang out with.

So I did my teaching credential and teaching education in England for – before I moved back to the States and then now I have a California credential.

Fred Jaravata: Now, why did you choose San Francisco?

Corinne Corrigan: I went to college. I went to the University of San Francisco and I wanted to come back. So I did a year in Atlanta where my parents lived. I moved back from England and had about $50 in my pocket and decided I needed to live at home for a while and I taught third grade for a semester and pre-kindergarten first semester and then I moved back to San Francisco.

Fred Jaravata: OK.

Corinne Corrigan: I lived here longer than anywhere else.

Fred Jaravata: Than anywhere else. And you like it so far?

Corinne Corrigan: Uh-huh.

Fred Jaravata: Yeah. I did two and here. How did you get into teaching?

Corinne Corrigan: Well, let’s see. I started college in 1989 and didn’t really know what I wanted to study. I knew I loved working with children. I bounced from one major to another. I finally ended up with a degree in psychology and religion and part of my practicum at the end of my degree was working in a school with the first grade classroom and being in that classroom, I loved it and decided that that’s where I wanted to be.

Fred Jaravata: OK, hold on. I have some sound issues I need to fix real quick. OK.

Corinne Corrigan: So I was working in a first grade classroom in San Francisco and decided that that’s what I wanted to do. By then, I was already a senior in college. So I decided the best route would be to graduate with my degree as it was and then go back to school and study education and get my credential.

Fred Jaravata: And again, you got your credential in San Francisco, in the University of San Francisco?

Corinne Corrigan: No, I did it in England.

Fred Jaravata: Oh, in England. That’s right. OK.

Corinne Corrigan: Yeah. And then I came back. I eventually got my master’s degree at USF as well.

Fred Jaravata: Oh, OK. All right. Now share with us the “aha” moment, that time when you realized teaching is for you.

Corinne Corrigan: Well, it was during my senior year in college and I was volunteering as part of my practicum for my psychology degree working at a school, working with individual students who – I was used in the classroom kind of – in the beginning, just to be there to observe and help and eventually I was given small groups and worked with children who really needed that extra support.

The teacher was great. She let me try out lessons with the whole class and with groups and just being in that classroom, I don’t think there was really one moment. I think it was that whole experience that really made me realized that that’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to work in schools. I wanted to work with kids.

Fred Jaravata: How old were you?

Corinne Corrigan: I was a senior in college. So I was 22.

Fred Jaravata: So what did you want to do before that?

Corinne Corrigan: I had no idea.

Fred Jaravata: You had no idea.

Corinne Corrigan: Nope. I knew I love children. I wanted to work somehow. I thought maybe by going into the field of psychology. That was my degree. But in the end, I really – I wanted to be teaching children and working with them in the classrooms.

Fred Jaravata: OK. All right.

Corinne Corrigan: I was directionless before that.

Fred Jaravata: You were directionless and then you found teaching. That’s good, yeah. A lot of people – a lot of teachers I have noticed that when I interview them, they kind of fell into the teaching world too and they realized that they love teaching.

Corinne Corrigan: Well, I didn’t love it at first. I mean I wanted to be a teacher and then I became a teacher. It’s hard. The first few years were really a struggle. Just a lot …

Fred Jaravata: What were the toughest parts?

Corinne Corrigan: I think the amount of work, not having enough time to get everything done, knowing – you know, really what I wanted it to be, what I wanted my classroom to be and not being able to get there just because of the sheer size of my class or the lack of time. Dealing with parents was difficult because I was young and they were all older than I was. It’s hard the first few years really. I think that – I thought about trying to find a different career at one point. Now I love it. Now I just really enjoy it.

Fred Jaravata: So what helped you get through over that hump of actually sticking with it and facing all those challenges?

Corinne Corrigan: Not knowing what else to do partly. No other choice.

Fred Jaravata: I mean you were young.

Corinne Corrigan: I was young, no choice really. Like, OK, got to stick with this. I have a job and you need to pay the bills. Quite honestly, after doing it for two or three years, it definitely – it gets easier being able – especially when I was teaching one – the first couple of years, I moved around classes. So it was always like starting over.

Fred Jaravata: Right.

Corinne Corrigan: But once I was able to stick with one grade level for a few years and build some confidence and that experience I think helped me get through that. Then I took some time off after my children were born and honestly having my own kids also I think and getting older makes things a little bit easier.

Fred Jaravata: You’re much older now.

Corinne Corrigan: Much older. I know, Fred. You’re six months younger than I am I think.

Fred Jaravata: I’m only 27. So …

Corinne Corrigan: Ha-ha!

Fred Jaravata: You’re 28.

Corinne Corrigan: Twenty-seven plus what?

Fred Jaravata: Stop it. Stop it. A couple more decades of that.

Corinne Corrigan: Yeah.

Fred Jaravata: OK. So you mentioned that you – you know, you have your children. OK. So how does that affect you now in your own philosophy of teaching? You’re a parent. You have two kids. How does that affect you with how you teach but also in talking or engaging with your children’s teachers?

Corinne Corrigan: Right. Well, I look back to when I was a younger teacher and didn’t have my own children and I used to get really frustrated with the parents. Like I send things home and no one would reply. Things would sit in the children’s backpacks for weeks. And like, what are these people doing? How can they not look in their kids’ backpacks? Just little things like that.

Now I am that parent. So I definitely commiserate with the parents a bit maybe. I understand them more. I have more empathy. So – and with family life and what these kids – what happens when they leave school and how busy they are and what life is like after school hours. I have a better understanding of these families and I think that has helped me quite a bit. Is that what you asked me?

Fred Jaravata: Yeah.

Corinne Corrigan: OK.

Fred Jaravata: You definitely understand now why parents aren’t getting back to you sooner, right?

Corinne Corrigan: Yeah. And just what – as far as even things like homework and what is appropriate for kids to work on as – with homework and how busy kids are outside of school. All of that, I have a better understanding of and how busy parents are and how hard it is to be a parent and juggle everything.

Fred Jaravata: And with that, so when you interact with your children’s teachers, you …

Corinne Corrigan: I’m usually apologizing because I’m the one that forgot to send in the form because I know what it’s like being on the other side not getting that form.

Fred Jaravata: Right. You understand that and hopefully they understand that too.

Corinne Corrigan: I showed up to a parent-teacher conference a week early once. Yeah. That’s me.

Fred Jaravata: That’s you.

Corinne Corrigan: That’s me.

Fred Jaravata: Wow, OK.

Corinne Corrigan: And she was so nice. She even did the conference right there.

Fred Jaravata: Oh, she did?

Corinne Corrigan: She did.

Fred Jaravata: That’s nice.

Corinne Corrigan: She didn’t have to, but she did. I felt so bad.

Fred Jaravata: Wow. You caught her off-guard – well, she was probably ready.

Corinne Corrigan: Well, she’s a great teacher. She knew I wasn’t, you know, going to hold anything against her for not being totally prepared since I was a week early.

Fred Jaravata: OK. Better than a week late. That would be irritating.

Corinne Corrigan: I have not shown up too. That has happened.

Fred Jaravata: OK. Quote or a mantra. What is your – if you have one. Do you have a quote or mantra or a saying or whatever it can be that helps you with your teaching? What would it be? What is it? I need a drink. That’s a quote.

Corinne Corrigan: That’s …

Fred Jaravata: I can’t wait until it’s over. I can’t wait until June.

Corinne Corrigan: June, July and August are the best months of the year. Now, there are a couple of things. One I would say is – when I was a senior in college working at that school in San Francisco, when I decided to become a teacher, the teacher there, she said something that has kind of stuck with me. She said – she was like, “You know, they learn in spite of us.” So I tried to remember that, that I can’t do everything, that I can’t get everything done. I can’t have a perfect running classroom the way that it’s all shiny and happy and perfect and trying to create that kind of classroom is impossible and just creates too much stress. So I just do my best and I say to myself, “Well, they learn in spite of me.”

Fred Jaravata: They learn in spite of you.

Corinne Corrigan: In spite of me. And also the other thing I try to remind myself is to have fun. I spend more time here at school than I do …

Fred Jaravata: Anywhere.

Corinne Corrigan: Anywhere else and it better be fun or it’s – it can be miserable if you let it.

Fred Jaravata: You’re going to go crazy.

Corinne Corrigan: You will. You will go crazy and you can be totally stressed out and miserable or you can decide, “I’m going to have fun. I’m going to enjoy myself and not worry if I don’t get everything done.”

Fred Jaravata: That’s a good one. That’s good one. They are learning in spite of you, right? In spite of all of us.

Corinne Corrigan: I hope so.

Fred Jaravata: OK. What I ask a lot of our guests also and a lot of the listeners like to hear the answers to this or the tips and ideas, can you name or can you share a moment in time of a challenging moment that you had with a student or with a parent and how you overcame that?

Corinne Corrigan: Are parents going to listen to this?

Fred Jaravata: Parents are probably not. But they may.

Corinne Corrigan: I won’t name names. I won’t name names and it was a long time ago.

Fred Jaravata: OK.

Corinne Corrigan: But if this person does hear it, she might know who I’m talking about. So this was several years ago and I had a child in my class who like to go home and tell stories that weren’t always true because they would experience something that a six-year-old – or he would experience that a six-year-old would experience and whatever that experience was would then go through his six-year-old filter in his brain.

Fred Jaravata: This is first grade?

Corinne Corrigan: Yes.

Fred Jaravata: Was I in this class?

Corinne Corrigan: No.

Fred Jaravata: OK.

Corinne Corrigan: That narrows it down, doesn’t it?

Fred Jaravata: Yeah it does narrow it down.

Corinne Corrigan: And so things would go through this six-year-old brain. It filtered through and come out as not really what happened, right? I don’t think he was outwardly like trying to fib. But his version of events wasn’t quite accurate.

So he went home and I honestly can’t even remember what he told his mother I said. It was something that was criticizing her, that I had criticized her to him, which I wouldn’t do.

Fred Jaravata: Right.

Corinne Corrigan: Right? Who would do that? So this was a time before email really. I mean there was email but it wasn’t used as much as it is now.

Fred Jaravata: As communication with parents.

Corinne Corrigan: Right. So I would get voicemail messages. So I had a voicemail from this parent within half an hour after dismissal, which was a usual thing with her, but this especially. So I talked to her and I tried to reassure her that I would never criticize her in front of her child and she basically accused me of lying. Yeah. So it was hard. This was about a week before parent conferences.

Fred Jaravata: Ouch. How did she approach you?

Corinne Corrigan: She phoned and left a message for me to call her.

Fred Jaravata: Oh, OK.

Corinne Corrigan: So I called her back.

Fred Jaravata: OK.

Corinne Corrigan: And was accused of lying when I denied that I said what he had said and I don’t remember what it was exactly. So that parent conference a week later was not so much fun and I just decided to – and I’ve done this a couple of times where I just – I’m very direct with the parents and just take it head on and I just said, “You know, I’m really having a hard time getting past our phone conversation where you basically accused me of lying.” So then it didn’t work out too well. The conversation went downhill from there. I wasn’t super delicate with her.

Fred Jaravata: But she insulted you.

Corinne Corrigan: She did and I wanted to clear the air and I wanted her to understand that I wouldn’t have done that. I wouldn’t have criticized her in front of her son.

Fred Jaravata: Right.

Corinne Corrigan: It worked out in the end. She kind of blew up and left and the next day wrote me an apology letter. So it – and from that point forward, we got along very well. So it’s – sometimes being direct with the parents helps and works really well and other times, you have to finesse it a little bit depending on the personality of that parent.

Fred Jaravata: Interesting. OK.

Corinne Corrigan: Yeah, that sticks out as probably the biggest event with a parent that I’ve had.

Fred Jaravata: That’s probably common also with teachers and parents, the whole dynamics. That probably is pretty common. But I’m glad it worked out. Good.

Corinne Corrigan: I ran into her probably a year ago. We had a nice conversation and yeah, I think she has obviously moved past that her son is now …

Fred Jaravata: Do I know this parent?

Corinne Corrigan: I’m not naming names.

Fred Jaravata: OK, no names.

Corinne Corrigan: You may have heard of her. I don’t know.

Fred Jaravata: OK.

Corinne Corrigan: No, she’s a lovely lady and she was …

Fred Jaravata: You worked it out.

Corinne Corrigan: She was looking out for her child and herself.

Fred Jaravata: Exactly.

Corinne Corrigan: I understand that.

Fred Jaravata: You would do the same thing.

Corinne Corrigan: Uh-huh.

Fred Jaravata: OK. OK. So I know earlier, before we stepped into the sound room here, you didn’t have a book or a song or even a movie that kind of inspires you. You even questioned. Like, what is this question about? But is there anything that inspires you, something in pop culture? Let me put it that way. Something in pop culture.

Corinne Corrigan: Pop culture? Like Kardashians or something? No.

Fred Jaravata: What was the other one that you kept on talking about before, you and Krista? It was the Honey Boo Boo thing?

Corinne Corrigan: Oh, Honey Boo Boo. Yeah, no.

Fred Jaravata: That’s a big one.

Corinne Corrigan: Not so much.

Fred Jaravata: It doesn’t inspire you?

Corinne Corrigan: It inspires me to do other things. It’s a hard one. Honestly like the books I read, I find myself reading a lot of children’s literature since – this is only my second year teaching fourth grade. So I feel like I’m constantly trying to read things that they’re reading.

Fred Jaravata: Can you name some books at least in your fourth grade?

Corinne Corrigan: Books in my fourth grade. So …

[0:17:22] [Crosstalk]

Corinne Corrigan: Some of them read that, yeah. I read those a long time ago. But I was reading the summers. I really enjoyed reading. It was called One Crazy Summer. It’s about in the 60s in Oakland and these children that move out to the Bay Area to be with their mother for the summer who is involved with the Black Panthers. So it’s an interesting read. I read a lot of books that revolve around the gold rush, California gold rush. So there’s the By The Great Horn Spoon that my students read. I’m always looking for new things about California history or that tie into California history so that I can integrate the subjects. I find that’s the best way to get through the most amount of curriculum is to try to integrate the reading and the writing and the social studies.

Fred Jaravata: OK. So you have a very unique experience. You started in the classroom. Then you went to the computer lab and then you took some time off to be with your family. Then you came back into the computer lab, which we transformed into the Spark Studio. Now you’re back in the classroom.

Corinne Corrigan: Right.

Fred Jaravata: This is a question. How – from what you know now, from all the experience that you did that, is there a tip or trick or – how do you integrate technology in the classroom now being …

Corinne Corrigan: Not as much as I would like. It’s interesting.

Fred Jaravata: Right, because you were one of [0:19:01] [Indiscernible] and you went through that. One of our jobs is to help teachers start using technology and innovate, right?

Corinne Corrigan: Uh-huh.

Fred Jaravata: From your point of view now, as a classroom teacher, what’s your experience with that?

Corinne Corrigan: Well, you think I would go in and be using technology left and right just from my background. But being new to a grade level and really trying to learn all that curriculum and learn where the students are at this age and piece it all together has been a huge overwhelming task and I do use technology. We have – the children all have one-to-one iPads that they use. I would like to use it more. I find myself sometimes forgetting to use the technology in that. I will be like, oh, I could have done that. Why didn’t we use the iPads for that? It’s not coming to me because I’m too busy trying to get everything else together at this point.

So one of my goals actually is to – this year and especially next school year, my third year in fourth grade, is to really use it more and use it how I really want to use it. But it kind of goes back to what I said earlier about having this perfect classroom that has everything like the way it should be. Like, in my mind, I know what it should be. I just can’t get there right now.

Fred Jaravata: Right. The reality gets in the way.

Corinne Corrigan: Reality gets in the way, definitely.

Fred Jaravata: OK.

Corinne Corrigan: So I do use it. I do use technology. The students – I try to let them have as much choice as they – as I can. Technology is always one of those choices. So some children have ideas of ways to use it and I usually let them go with it.

Fred Jaravata: Can you share at least one way that kids are using it?

Corinne Corrigan: Well, we are …

Fred Jaravata: The iPads.

Corinne Corrigan: The iPads. Yeah. So sometimes what I will have them do at the end of reading a novel is have them do some kind of report using the iPads and I leave it kind of open. So they can make a movie about it. They can do either an iMovie or an iMovie trailer. They can use the audio. Oh gosh, what is that app called? Is it Audio where they do like a little slideshow and their voice in – I can’t remember what it’s called. I think it’s called Audio, isn’t it? Anyway, they can do that. There are lots of choices. They can make a little book about it using Book Creator.

Fred Jaravata: So you’re giving this as an option for them to do it.

Corinne Corrigan: Yes, or they can make a poster or they can not use the iPad.

Fred Jaravata: So that’s a key thing, what you did. You’re giving them the choice to do that and I think that’s one of the things that I think some teachers have – are struggling with technology, using the iPads or Chromebooks or whatever, is that they would have to know everything of using the technology. Of course you’re unique where you have that background. You know how to use iPads and so on. But what’s one tip you can share with the teachers struggling to use technology?

Corinne Corrigan: Right. I think what’s important is to decide, “Well, why do you want them to do this project? What is it you want them to show?” You want them to show their learning and what they know. So that can be done in a variety of ways. You have to just be open to letting them show their learning in different ways. So I don’t like to get 22 – or in this case I have 42 students. I don’t like to get 42 projects that are all the same. That’s boring.

Fred Jaravata: Right.

Corinne Corrigan: So I like leaving it up to them. They can still show their learning in multiple different ways and it could all be different. But they’re still showing me their learning. I think you just have to kind of let go and be able to do that. I don’t know if that’s a really good piece of advice or a tip but that’s – you have to get to that point where you – and you can still give them parameters. If making a movie is one of the options, well then, give them parameters within that, that your movie has to have X, Y and Z in it. That way, you still have some control over it.

Fred Jaravata: What’s your favorite tech tool?

Corinne Corrigan: My favorite tech tool.

Fred Jaravata: Tech tool, resources, websites that you actually like using.

Corinne Corrigan: You’re going to laugh.

Fred Jaravata: I’m already laughing. What is it?

Corinne Corrigan: Yeah, I like my phone. My new watch.

Fred Jaravata: An Apple watch.

Corinne Corrigan: An Apple watch. No, I really actually like Pinterest. Very simple. There’s so much on there. I can always – if I’m stuck for an idea, and I do a search, nine times out of ten, it’s on Pinterest.

Fred Jaravata: Right. It’s true.

Corinne Corrigan: And I know it’s – I knew you were going to laugh at me. But it’s true. I can always get different ideas or I get an idea and I tweak it and make it my own and take it off from there.

Fred Jaravata: Sharon, she loves that. Last year she …

Corinne Corrigan: There’s everything on there.

Fred Jaravata: There’s everything on there, right? I mean you just type in like kitchen stuff or whatever.

Corinne Corrigan: I don’t have time to make my own Pinterest page. Who has time for that? But other teachers …

Fred Jaravata: You’re pinning stuff or you’re subscribing to boards or whatever. I don’t know how it works.

Corinne Corrigan: Yeah.

Fred Jaravata: But yeah, Sharon loves it. I don’t. I don’t like Pinterest and maybe just the layout, how it works out, and it’s not really geared for my style of consuming things. Yeah, I just know there’s a lot of – I’m going to say it. Women love Pinterest and men, I don’t – very rare do I find …

Corinne Corrigan: The only thing I look on there, for teaching things and gardening. That’s it. I get ideas and all I do is look at the pictures and if it’s something interesting, then I click on it and try to find it. The other site that actually is often on there is Teachers Pay Teacher.

Fred Jaravata: That’s a big one.

Corinne Corrigan: I like that site too because that way I don’t have to recreate something that’s already out there.

Fred Jaravata: And people making money with that too.

Corinne Corrigan: I know and I thought about putting things on there. But again, I don’t have time.

Fred Jaravata: You don’t have time.

Corinne Corrigan: I don’t have time to make my own stuff to sell.

Fred Jaravata: Exactly. But if you make something and then it’s a hit, you will have more time to do the things you want.

Corinne Corrigan: Yeah. Maybe at some point I will give it a try.

Fred Jaravata: OK. So what’s something happening now that you’re excited to learn about more or about?

Corinne Corrigan: Something I want to learn about. One of my regrets is not learning another language and I took a lot of Spanish in high school and college. I really don’t remember much because it was all just written and reading. Not a lot of conversational Spanish and I didn’t really use it.

So I really want to learn. I want to go back and study Spanish and really learn it. I would love to find a way because my students take a semester of Spanish. It would be really great to find a way to do more of an immersion style, like parts of the day in Spanish, even if it’s just like the morning meeting or trying to incorporate that into the classroom to help them with learning Spanish as well.

So I have this idea kind of rolling around in my head and I need to find a way to go and do it and do like an immersion myself and learn Spanish. So that’s kind of one of my future goals is to get on that and learn a language.

Fred Jaravata: That’s cool. That’s a very useful thing.

Corinne Corrigan: It also ties in because I teach about Spanish colonialism in the 1500s and all of that kind of ties together. So it would be kind of cool to bring it into the history that I teach as well.

Fred Jaravata: OK. What project have you done in the classroom that you’re most proud of?

Corinne Corrigan: Oh, gosh. I don’t know.

Fred Jaravata: I’m guessing it’s not the Spanish.

Corinne Corrigan: I didn’t look at that question. I didn’t see that one. I didn’t think about that. Project that I’m really proud of in the classroom. Oh, I know. So I did this thing last year. I called it the California Showcase and this year I changed the name to California Bonanza. I think it sounds better. So basically it’s kind of a culmination of all of the history that my students learn. They take that. I divide them up into groups and they research a topic or a period of history, so that they’ve already learned about it but they dig in deeper.

As a group, they write a play. So we do a little bit of playwriting with it and they perform the plays for the parents at the end of April. So we start with the early Californians, the Native Americans, so there’s a skip with that. Then we move into the explorers and Spanish California, Mexican California, the gold rush and statehood. So they take and create plays about each of those periods of history or periods within California history and then perform them. They write the plays themselves. They make the props. They create all of it. It’s a huge project. They have – they bring in things for costumes. We will even do some sewing if we need to.

It’s really child-centered, child-made, the whole thing with the teachers kind of – we’re the guides to make sure that they stay on track.

Fred Jaravata: So when will you start this project? You said they present it in April?

Corinne Corrigan: Yeah. So this is only my second year doing it and we’re starting it now. I wanted to start it earlier but it just didn’t happen. This year, I’m incorporating it into our writing, our informational writing unit. So they are – I’ve divided them into groups. They’re getting their topics. They then individually have to choose a topic within that period of history to work on during the informational writing unit that we’re doing.

So that way, they’re getting all their research done and they really feel that they understand that period of California history, so that when – in about a month, they sit down to write the play as a group. They will have a lot more research and information in their heads and in their work that they can share to write a play. Then we practice and practice and rewrite and rewrite and revise, revise, revise. It’s a lot of work. But the kids love it and they perform it and the favorite topic last year was the Donner party of course.

Fred Jaravata: The Donner party.

Corinne Corrigan: Oh, yeah. I tried to just keep it about pioneers and people coming out to settle in California.

Fred Jaravata: So they’re reenacting the whole …

Corinne Corrigan: They decided to …

Fred Jaravata: The beef jerky.

Corinne Corrigan: There was no beef jerky, Fred. We kept it tasteful.

Fred Jaravata: Using it as a prop? No?

Corinne Corrigan: We kept it tasteful. They – so they wrote – the one group that did about the pioneers, wrote their skit about the pioneers definitely talked about the Donner party in there. So it was pretty funny. We kept it – it was appropriate.

Fred Jaravata: OK.

Corinne Corrigan: That’s where we step in and make sure the teachers step in at that point.

Fred Jaravata: OK. So how do you inspire your students?

Corinne Corrigan: How do I inspire them? I don’t know. I try to use humor as much as possible. They’re here just like we are, more than they are at home, and I think it’s important that they feel safe and happy at school because they can’t learn if they don’t feel safe and happy. So I try to tell stories. I think teaching history is – can be dry. So I try to create stories out of it as much as possible.

Fred Jaravata: One thing that I learned also is to get to know your students, right? And I know you’re doing that. How about the other way around? Do you share what’s going on with you with your students?

Corinne Corrigan: I do. I think it’s important that they feel a connection with the teacher and in order to feel a connection, you have to really know a person and I definitely – I share little tidbits. They know about my family. I have children their age and I talk about them and they love that. They love hearing any little tidbit I can throw out there that’s about me.

Fred Jaravata: Right. And hang on to that.

Corinne Corrigan: So yesterday, I actually blow-dried my hair and used a flat iron and it was the first thing they noticed this morning. Mrs. Corrigan! Your hair looks gorgeous. Any little difference, they notice.

Fred Jaravata: Well, that’s a good one. I mean otherwise …

Corinne Corrigan: It is good.

Fred Jaravata: The other way around, sometimes they will just criticize you.

Corinne Corrigan: Well, they will. Yeah.

Fred Jaravata: Your hair is ugly today.

Corinne Corrigan: Well, they’re not quite like that. The girls are more subtle. They look and they will say things like, “Wow, you must really like those shoes.” Like why? Because I wear them a lot? Yeah, you do. You wear them a lot.

Fred Jaravata: So wait a minute. You kids are in dress uniforms. You guys are always wearing the same thing.

Corinne Corrigan: I know, I know.

Fred Jaravata: OK. So we have a couple more minutes left in this interview.

Corinne Corrigan: OK. I’m scared. What else are you going to ask me?

Fred Jaravata: Time-saving tip.

Corinne Corrigan: Time-saving tip.

Fred Jaravata: To …

Corinne Corrigan: Don’t do it. That’s the time-saving tip. Just don’t do it. No. I don’t know.

Fred Jaravata: That’s a good one. Why do you say that?

Corinne Corrigan: Well, sometimes you have to decide what’s important and if you – I could be here until six o’clock every day and still not get everything done. So I have to decide what’s important right now and get that finished. Some things don’t really have to be done. I have to decide. Do I really need to do this? Does this have to be done? Maybe in a perfect world, I want it to be finished. But sometimes I’m like, no, I don’t have time. It’s not needed and I need to focus on other stuff.

Fred Jaravata: You are prioritizing things.

Corinne Corrigan: Yes.

Fred Jaravata: Right. What needs to be done.

Corinne Corrigan: Yeah. I think early on I tried to do everything and wanted everything to be perfect and I would be at school so late every day and neglecting my family and I try not to do that anymore. I try to get out of here and pick up my kids and enjoy time with my family.

Fred Jaravata: Good. That’s very good advice. Speaking of tip, advice, would that be the best advice you would have for teachers or is there another tip or advice you want to share with teachers?

Corinne Corrigan: I mean I think going back to what I was saying before about you – there’s not enough time in the day and you ask teachers often. Like, what is it you really want? And they often say more time, more time. Well, it’s not going to make any difference. You’re still not going to have that perfect bright and shiny little classroom that has everything you want done and it’s impossible.

So it’s hard as a teacher because you know what it should look like and you just can’t – reality sets in.

Fred Jaravata: Because you’re looking at their Pinterest. That’s why.

Corinne Corrigan: Yes, because I’m looking at Pinterest.

Fred Jaravata: Why? Looking at the perfection.

Corinne Corrigan: May be true.

Fred Jaravata: You don’t see the work behind all that stuff.

Corinne Corrigan: Yeah. Yeah. I think prioritizing, choosing what to do and what not to do, being OK with it not getting done. I think you have to get to the point where you’re OK with that. Like, oh well, I didn’t get it done. It doesn’t look like what I wanted it to look. Oh well, move on.

Fred Jaravata: Oh well, move on.

Corinne Corrigan: You know? And try to use humor and have fun.

Fred Jaravata: Very cool, very cool. All right.

Corinne Corrigan: Anything else.

Fred Jaravata: I think that’s – well, I’m done. I’m done with all these questions.

Corinne Corrigan: Well, thank you. I’ve enjoyed it.

Fred Jaravata: Did you really enjoy this?

Corinne Corrigan: I did. I did. I was a little nervous. I didn’t know what it was going to be like. But it was fun.

Fred Jaravata: OK, Corinne. Thank you so much for joining our show.

Corinne Corrigan: Thank you.

Fred Jaravata: Thank you.

Corinne Corrigan: Thank you. Thank you for having me.

Jan 8, 2016

I interview a dear friend, who happens to be an ex-roomate who also happens to be an Associate Dean and Director of Academic Development and Technological Innovation at the University of San Francisco, Dr. Charlene Lobo Soriano.

Charlene shares with us so much valuable ideas and stories that it was a mind blowing experience.  

We go over her story of being finite to infinite.

I learned that its important for students and teachers t "embrace the cactus," and what "adulting" is!

We then explore what it means to be a lawnmower parent vs. a helicopter parent.

And so much more!

Jan 4, 2016

We had the wonderful opportunity to interview Stef: our dear friend, former teacher, godparents to our boys, stay at home mom, awesome chef and knitter!  Talk about talented!  Fred met her in college and we become godparents to her two girls.  She recommended me to her principal and I got the job I currently have at my school, what a blessing!  We watched each other's kids grow up while living next door to each other- we are family.

Stefanie's a-ha moment that inspired her to teach was listening to her first grade cousin read to her.  She was so amazed that she wanted to be a teacher!  She spent most of her teaching career as a 5th grade Language Arts and Social Studies teacher and made her no regrets decision to be a stay at home mom to her two girls.  Now 8 years removed from teaching, you can hear her passion for education and how it has helped her when it comes to homework time with her girls.

Follow Stefanie on her blog: and check our her knitting projects on (you must already be a Ravelry member to access). Enjoy!

Music from Jukedeck - create your own at

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