A “new-ish” podcast (at least to me) has been added to the voicEd Radio broadcast team. Called The Staff Room Podcast, it’s hosted by educators Pav Wander and Chey Cheney. They took a break from the heat to agree to be interviewed. So, thanks!
Doug: I always start with the same question – do you remember when we first met – face to face or digitally?
StaffRoom: We know for certain that we first met you on Twitter by seeing your Follow Fridays featuring Active Ontario Educators. It was such a pleasure to be featured on that list for the very first time by you!
Doug: And, why would you ever want to follow me on social media?
StaffRoom: Doug, we think of you as a big “connector” of people. We have made so many valuable and incredible connections because of you and your recommendations. We feel like you will be promoting teachers and educators that have so many good things to say, and this is very valuable to us, as relative “newbies” on the scene!
Doug: For those that don’t know you, can you give us a little background about yourselves?
Pav: I’m an elementary school teacher in the northern part of Toronto, Ontario. I’ve been teaching for 15 years, most of which has been in the middle school area, all in the Rexdale area of Toronto, which is also where I was born and raised. I will be teaching a grade 1/2 split this year for the first time, which is a huge change! An interesting tidbit is that my very first teaching job was in the very same middle school that I attended as a student! Many of my teachers from that time were (and ARE) still teaching there! It’s all come full circle!
Chey: I’m from the Ottawa area and moved to Toronto when I was offered a chance to interview with the Toronto District School board. It was my first interview, and I got it right away. It was a blessing to be able to move to such a richly diverse place to start my teaching career, but it has taught me so many things in my 20 years of teaching. I teach middle school Health and Physical Education, and I teach 8th grade core subjects.
Doug: What was your inspiration for creating your own podcast?
StaffRoom: The podcast was essentially born out of an idea to do a podcast as a culminating task for a Genius Hour project in Chey’s class. Pav has a friend she attended middle school with that has a very successful podcast, complete with a copy editor, a producer, a graphics designer, and full-fledged professional studio, that was interested in giving back to the community in which we teach. He asked if we would be interested in collaborating and we agreed without hesitation! We did a small interview with him first to set the scene for the listeners before the students did their podcasts, and we fell absolutely in love with the idea of being able to talk about teaching so openly and freely. We thought for sure we needed to start our own – and we did!
Doug: What is your intended audience? And what’s your inspiration for topics?
StaffRoom: Our intended audience was teachers when we first started. And although that still is our major intended audience, we have received lots of feedback from educators working in central roles, administrators and even parents that have found our insights to be very helpful in assisting them in understanding what is happening in education and in our schools day-to-day.
Doug: Since your show is relatively new to me, I did some research and saw that you’re all over the place as noted here – https://linktr.ee/StaffroomPodcast. Do you have an idea as to where your biggest fans come from?
StaffRoom: Firstly, we don’t like to think that we have fans. We KNOW there are people out there that share our thoughts, and our messages often resonate with teachers because we are often going through many of the same obstacles. We like to be able to have these conversations with as many educators as we can from all over the world. We have really grown our professional learning network (PLN) since we’ve been on Twitter, and I think it’s in part due to the fact that we love to have conversations with educators from all walks of life.
We have built a huge network from participating in chats – almost nightly – so that we can meet as many teachers as possible and interact with their content as much as they have interacted with ours. The Drive on VoicEd Radio has really been doing so well consistently since we started the show, and it is growing every week, and we have a very strong and consistent following with The Staffroom Podcast as well. We love to see interaction with every avenue we go in, and it’s really always been about sharing in the experience together, rather than collecting a particular following. We think we are doing pretty well with that goal.
Doug: Given that you have a great deal of experience in this field, the million dollar question is – just how does one learn to be a podcaster? And why would someone want to be a podcaster?
StaffRoom: We will answer the first part of this question first. Why would anyone want to be a podcaster? To share your voice. We all have a story to tell. We all have personal experiences and anecdotes that allowed us to become who we are today, and that is something that is ever-changing. We decided that podcasting was the way that we were going to archive our thoughts and feelings, but this isn’t the only route that individuals can go with sharing their voice. Many teachers and educators also share their voice through blogs, poetry, video blogs on youtube, short video clips on youtube, and other means as well. Regardless of what method we choose to express ourselves, it’s important that we do, even if we are the only ones reading this work. Reflection is a beautiful byproduct of podcasting and it has ultimately made us better teachers and citizens along the way.
Doug: I have really slow internet access so often streaming doesn’t work that well but I did listen to your show The Drive live (at least until it gets unlistenable). I did hear most of one of your dedication shows and have had to just download the others. So, some questions about the shows …
Where do you get your energy?
Chey gets his energy from scoops and scoops of pre-workout in the mornings, and Pav just feeds off that energy. We are both exhausted by the end of the show! All jokes aside, we really do feed off of the audience. The adrenaline starts pumping the night before The Drive, when people are sending in their requests. The fact that we know people will be listening in to hear their requests really gets us amped up and ready to give the audience an amazing show.
Do you ever have creative differences?
We do, but often we can communicate through them to find a happy medium. We are usually not so far off that we can’t find a center for all of our conversations. The differences really do offer us some additional talking points. Usually, it just means that there is a perspective that we haven’t considered and so we always bring it into the mix. The show would be very boring if we both thought in exactly the same way. So far we have done a pretty good job with staying afloat, so we think it’s working!
What kind of equipment do you use for the show?
We use a macbook and the software “Audio Hijack” for recording and also for broadcasting. We use two Apex Condenser mics with portable booms and pop filters. Our most prized piece of equipment is a RodeCaster Pro, the ferrari of soundboards. It allows us to be able to record 4 different mic tracks, plus we can attach our computer as an input device, a cell phone, and any other bluetooth device. It has made our lives so much easier when it comes to recording and broadcasting.
How do you handle copyright issues?
Stephen Hurley, the founder of VoicEd Radio, has taken care of the copyrights for the music. The license belongs to him, and as broadcasters on his station, we have the creative permission to play what we like.
Do you have a scripted show?
We only use an outline for the Podcast, and we usually develop that outline 30 minutes before the show. We really prefer an authentic and raw conversational feel to the podcast, so often times, our topics and points will arise during the recording, and we think it adds to the quality of the show.
For The Drive, we decide on a topic together, we release that topic to our Twitter audience on Thursday evenings so that people can send in requests, and then on Friday morning before the show, we make a few notes on talking points. There are no scripts anywhere, and we think it works better for us that way.
Do you listen to other podcasts? Which ones?
For educational podcasts, we love Teachers on Fire, as Tim Cavey has given us so much direction and has helped us out so much along the way. We also listen to Teach Better. Jeff Gargas and Rae Hugheart have been so helpful. We also listen to some non-educational podcasts like “Revisionist History” by Malcolm Gladwell, or Pardon the Interruption, just to get some ideas on how to build on our authentic conversations the way the hosts do. We really wish we had more time for more podcasts.
Doug: Were you inspired in style or content by someone else?
StaffRoom: We would say our biggest inspiration was probably the “Pardon the Interruption” podcast, which is a sports podcast, but we really liked the way the hosts provide analysis on so many different topics. We try to do something similar on our podcast.
Doug: Since we’re all working at a distance these days, what impact did that have on your show?
StaffRoom: Working from home actually gave us a little more opportunity to record and broadcast a bit more, since our timing was a little bit more flexible. The Drive used to be a 30 minute show from 8:00-8:30 on Friday mornings, and now we broadcast from 9:00-11:00 on Fridays. It will be quite tough to go back to a 30 minute format once face-to-face school starts again!
Another impact was the fact that we had so much more content to talk about with distance learning. We really were in crisis at the start of it, and many teachers were expressing frustration that they were struggling and so were the students. The podcast and radio show really gave us an outlet to express not only our own concerns, but the concerns that so many educators were also expressing.
Doug: As middle school teachers, you lived the teaching/learning at a distance life these past months. I think we all know of the challenges that everyone has. Feel free to comment on that but I’d be interested in knowing if your past experience as podcasters gave you a leg up on others. How so?
StaffRoom: Podcasting didn’t necessarily give us a leg up, but the network we have developed on Twitter really did. We have made so many great connections that we have really utilized to help us navigate through our feelings, and create a plan on how to get through distance learning effectively and efficiently.
Doug: What lessons from podcasters could educators learn if they’re back to Learning at Home at least in some way, shape, or form for the fall?
StaffRoom: We all need to be reflecting on our practice more. We need to have more conversations with other teachers, not just in our building (although that’s a great place to start) but also within networks that we can build outside of our buildings. Now is such an amazing time to connect with people across the country or the world, and so we should try and do as much of that as we can so that we can continue to better our practice!
Doug: Thank you so much for the interview and I wish you continued success with your podcasts. If people were to follow you on social media, where would they go?
We are on Twitter:
Staffroom Podcast: @StaffPodcast
The Drive: @TheDriveVoicEd
We are on Instagram & Facebook: the_staff_room_podcast
Periodically, I interview interesting people like Pav and Chey. You can visit all the past interviews here https://dougpete.wordpress.com/interviews/