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  • Writer's pictureKaren Caswell

Twelve Months of #TLAPdownunder

Updated: Oct 14, 2019

Have you ever been stunned when you see something in front of you, written in black and white? Even something you knew was momentous, but it still didn’t really hit you until you saw it? That’s how I felt when I drafted this blog post. I‘m conscious that this post may come across as a bit braggy (especially by Australian standards - I don't want to appear 'up myself'), but that’s not my intent. I’m just completely blown away by the experiences I’ve had over the past 12-18 months, as well as proud of what I have achieved. It has been one of the most profound periods in my life professionally, and I want to acknowledge that, as well as the people who’ve had an impact on me during that time.

The first birthday for #TLAPdownunder is on October 21st. A few events of note occurred prior to that first Sunday, the most significant being that I finished reading ‘Teach Like a PIRATE’, by Dave Burgess (@burgessdave), on Wednesday 5th September 2018. On Thursday 6th September I posted this on Instagram.

You can read my blog post about the impact that book had here.

That was the first step in an extraordinary period in in my life. The other notable events that occurred prior to the birth of #TLAPdownunder were participating in my first #tlap chat on Tuesday 25th September (Monday 24th in the US), with a ‘Make Learning Magical’ theme hosted by Tisha Richmond (@tishrich); and the other was having Dave Burgess Skype in to talk with the teachers at my school. As anyone who has seen or heard him speak before would know, that was an experience! All three of these events made such an impact, that I was inspired to start #TLAPdownunder, in order to provide the opportunity for a #tlap chat in a friendlier timezone for those of us not in the US.

The chat started as a “Teach Like a Pirate’ book study, then evolved from there. For forty-five out of the last fifty-two weeks, I have been fortunate enough to spend half an hour on a Sunday evening learning from, and being inspired by, a group of awesome educators from around the world, as well as being honoured to have many outstanding guest hosts.

Thank you to guest hosts: Tara Martin (@TaraMartinEDU) – author or Be REAL: Educate from the Heart and Cannonball In; Sharon McCormack (@teacherasleaders); Danny Summerell (@ponderingDan); Sarah Johnson (@SarahSajohnson) – co-author of Balance Like a PIRATE; Tamara Letter (@tamaraletter) – author of A Passion for Kindness; Nili Bartley (@nbartley6) – author of Lead Beyond Your Title; Allyson Apsey (@AllysonApsey) – author of The Path to Serendipity, Through the Lens of Serendipity and The Princes of Serendip; Tonya Gilchrist (@Mrs_Gilchrist); Lisa Johnson (@TechChef4u) – author of Creatively Productive; Darren Ellwein (@dellwein) and Derek McCoy (@mccoyderek) – authors of The Revolution; Angie Taylor (@Angie8881); Justin Hill (@jedjnr); Cass Lowry (@cass_lowry); Claire Seldon (@claireseldon_ed); Cameron Ross (@CameronRoss3); Matthew X Joseph (@MatthewXJoseph) – author of Modern Mentor; Josh Velez (@MrVlaminates); Alicia Ray (@iluveducating) – author of Educational Eye Exam; and Levi Allison (@levi_allison42). Plus, upcoming guest hosts as we head towards the end of the year: Andrea Greer (@Japandrea02); Catherine Williams (@cathwilliams05) and Steven Kolber (@steven_kolber). Wow, what a list!!! I really think we need to get the Pirate Captain in there though! What do you say Dave?

I’m so grateful to the #TLAPdownunder crew for jumping on board to build a community, and becoming important members of my Professional Learning Network. In addition to the guest hosts listed above, I would like to thank these amazing Aussie educators: Michele Pikunic (@mmap73), Anna (dothinkeducate); Nadiene Cameron (@NadieneMCameron); Heulwen (@skymazef3); Kath Boon (@kath_boon); Carl Di Stefano (@GruntledChalkie); Marion (Mazz) Ellery (@Lv2teachNtravel); Mel Smith (@Miss_Mel_Smith); Rachael Lehr (@rachellehr); Emma Enticott (@Emma_On_Tap); Ralf de la Mare (@mrdelamare); and Rob Kelly (@robkellytweets). In addition, these international educators are also valuable #TLAPdownunder members: Donna Maccaroni (@donnamaccaroni); Matt Weimann (@MrWeimann); Laurie Higgins (@laurie_higgins5); Bronwyn Commins (@ThankyouMrA); Teresa Ronco (@MrsRonco); Steve Sostak (@insiprecitizen1); Kevin O’Shea (@MadForMaple); and April Padalino (@apadalino).

Creating #TLAPdownunder was the beginning of an unprecedented period of growth for me, with many other firsts during that time. I’ll speak about each of them briefly below.

My first blog post, titled 2018: A Watershed Year, was published on the 24th November 2018, recounting the events of the year leading up to #TLAPdownunder. This post will be my thirty-sixth. You can find my blog at

In February I facilitated a Twitter Kindness Read Aloud, inspired by Annick Rauch (@AnnickRauch) and Nycol Didcote (@nycoldicote) and their Mindset Read Aloud. Four books were read over four weeks, hosted by Ramona Meharg (@MegargsVikings) in Canada, Emily Bray (@ebray26) and Roxy Parker (@rspar0) in Australia, Alicia Ray in the USA, and myself. A total of twenty five classes participated, ranging from Kindergarten to Middle School (Grade 8). Next week we begin an Empathy Read Aloud, with hosts Emily Bray, Ramona Meharg, Alicia Ray and Donna Maccaroni.

May saw me successfully securing the position of Teaching and Learning Co-Ordinator at my school. I’d worked hard to grow to be ready for a leadership position (which you can read about in Personal Growth, Perseverance and a PIRATE Philosophy Pay Off!) and I’m enjoying the new opportunities and challenges it offers.

An Empatico (@EmpaticoOrg) Fellowship followed in June, awarded in conjunction with The World’s Largest Lesson (@TheWorldsLesson), with a focus on connecting educators and students around the world to #SparkEmpathy.

August was a big month, with two professional learning events two weeks running. Hosting Trevor Mackenzie (@trev_mackenzie) for his full day #InquiryMindset Workshop at our school was the first event. It was a fantastic day, and what we learnt has helped guide our school team with our vision for the direction we are heading next year. Read Inquiring About Inquiry to find out about our day. The best part of the workshop however, was connecting with Trevor himself – not only is he an inspiring educator, but a warm, caring and encouraging person as well.

The following weekend, I had the incredible opportunity to present my workshop, “It’s All About Authenticity”, at the Deeper Learning #iOnTheFuture6 national conference, facilitated by Paul Taylor and his tremendous team. Over two days, I spoke with six groups about authenticity in education – authentic self, authentic relationships and authentic learning. This was the first time I had presented to an audience who weren’t my school colleagues, and it was an exhilarating experience. The conference keynote addresses by Ron Berger and Scott Hartl from EL Education, John Larmer and Suzie Boss from PBL Works, and James Knight and Bernie Shakeshaft sharing the story of the ‘Backtrack Boys’, were all inspirational from start to finish, and a powerful call to action that we must do better for our kids. Read my reflection of the weekend here.

During the last ten months, I’ve been privileged to be a guest on four podcasts, something else I’d never done before: Inspiring Teachers Show (@ShowTeachers) with Danny Hauger (@DannyHauger) in January; I Wish I Knew Edu with Ramona Meharg in April; Teachers on Fire (@TeachersOnFire) with Tim Cavey (@MisterCavey) also in April, and In AWE to RISE with Sarah Johnson in August. It was truly an honour to be asked to share some of my personal story and my journey as an educator with these respected fellow educators.

My colleagues and students have been able to share in the benefits from some of these amazing experiences as well. Our staff have been lucky enough to spend time with three of the phenomenal Dave Burgess Consulting Inc authors – Dave Burgess, Tara Martin and Sarah Johnson, and learn from and by inspired by them. My students may have gotten the best deal though, enjoying five, yes five, marvellous read alouds with Dave Burgess, Allyson Apsey, Tamara Letter, Catherine Williams and Tara Martin! So grateful they made the time for us, and how lucky are we that they could zoom in virtually from their part of the world?

I mentioned at the start of this post that the catalyst for this remarkable year was reading ‘Teach Like a PIRATE’. Reading that book led to so many astonishing things, including the fact that since January last year, I have read forty-one professional and personal development books, which have all contributed to my growth over that period of time. There are simply too many to list here, but about a third of what I’ve read are published by Dave Burgess Consulting Inc (they release new ones so quickly my ‘have read’ percentage keeps dropping!); Trevor MacKenzie’s two books, Dive into Inquiry and Inquiry Mindset are published by Elevate Books; and then the rest are essentially Brene Brown and Rachel Hollis books!

The most recent accomplishment that I’m proud of, was my nomination for The Queensland College of Teacher #TeachX Excellence In Teaching Award. Whilst we become educators to make a difference, not for any accolades, it’s lovely when the meaningful work we do is recognised and acknowledged.

I want thank each and every person mentioned in this blog post (and probably several I’ve forgotten – if you are one, I apologise) for your participation, support, encouragement, and inspiration – you’ve all made me a better educator, as well as a better person. If you are looking to add value to your #PLN, then I highly recommend following these exceptional educators!


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