73. Reignite Your Passion for Teaching & Kick Outdated PD to the Curb with PopPD

Sep 26, 2023

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Have you ever been to a professional development that was totally not relevant to what you actually teach?  Spent time in a PD where they discuss engagement or differentiation, just read off the slides word for word.  Those stale workshops and training sessions that seem to zap your energy rather than fuel your passion for teaching. It's time for a something more personalized, actionable, and relevant to your teaching goals.  That's why in this episode, we dive into the power of teacher autonomy, discuss how to break free from the chains of outdated professional development, and introduce you to the dynamic world of PopPD.

Alissa McDonald and Megan Kensington are the cofounders of PopPD, a dynamic online learning platform that makes it easy for creators to develop and share an impactful experience. PopPD's marketplace and community for K12 educators connects teacher leaders and peers with the practical support they need.


  • The power of autonomy in the teacher burnout recovery process
  • The Need for Better Professional Development: Addressing Teacher Burnout and Reigniting Passion through Autonomy and Relevant PD

  • Harnessing Technology for Autonomy in Teaching through strategic and relevant professional development

  • Fostering Autonomy and Passion Rekindling through Tailored PD
  • Creating a Supportive Learning Environment for Teachers

  • Overcoming Overwhelm and Implementing Strategies:

  • How to Empower Yourself to Take Action During Boring Professional Development
  • The PopPD FREE Pop-Up PD Party Invitation








The Resilient Teacher Podcast is the show that will give overwhelmed educators the support, tools, and mindset to reduce teacher burnout and keep teaching sustainable. Each week, Brittany Blackwell, M.Ed. & her guests will share inspiration and actionable steps to avoid or recover from the dreaded teacher burnout. You'll be inspired to individualize self-care and learn to prioritize your well-being and mental health, all while making a bigger impact on your classrooms and community.



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Introduction and Background of Alyssa and Megan

[0:00] I'm so excited to have Alyssa and Megan here with me on the podcast today. Hey, Alyssa and Megan.
Hey, Brittany and everybody listening. We're so excited to be here.
[0:11] Hello. Yeah. So I would love for you guys just to start us out with a little background. You are both teachers and now you've embarked on this POP PD dream. Can you share a little bit about what led you to this endeavor? Because it is so needed and you guys know I love me some POP PD.
[0:29] Yes, thank you for being one of our biggest supporters and how much time do you have for our stories?
We got all day. There's no quick way to get there, but I'll try to be as brief as possible.
I taught fifth grade.
I'll let Megan tell her story. I taught fifth grade for 14 years and I would say I was one of those burned out teachers by the end for sure.
I think right around the 10-year mark is where I started to feel that burnout.
I was also having babies by that time, so I was thinking about having my third baby.
Paternity leave was a big issue with my first two because I had a lot of postpartum anxiety.
As the teachers listening know, we usually only get six weeks, which is ridiculous, horrible, something I'm really passionate about fixing. But for me, with the third baby, I just knew I couldn't just do the six weeks for my mental health.

Meeting and Starting POPPD: Combining Teaching and Marketing Skills

[1:19] So I needed to do something about it, and that's when I started my online business because I needed to just get some money in our pocket so that I could stay on maternity leave.
And I had a background in marketing, so I started helping teachers market their online businesses and find joy again in creativity and building online.
And then that's where I met Megan, and we decided to, yeah, start POPPD so Megan can chime in with her story.
[1:45] Yeah, I was a high school English teacher for a while and then in that work and teaching in high school, I was that kind of, I was that teacher, to reference Alyssa and I's podcast. I was that teacher who was, you know, really excited and enthusiastic and wanted to try the new technology and the different initiatives and I just got really fired up about, that's kind of what kept me going and inspired. As overwhelmed as I was as a new teacher, as a young teacher.
[2:11] I really got a kick out of kind of exploring new things and trying different things.
And so I kind of took on a couple of those roles at my school and tried to actually get some more official leadership roles and was turned down for them because I was, you know, did have less seniority and wasn't, you know, kind of established there.
There and that was a little discouraging, you know, wanting those opportunities to, you know, kind of lead and, and, you know, channel that, that energy and enthusiasm for, you know, really exciting and different approaches was kind of shut down in that way. So that's where I kind of exited stage left of high school and kind of, you know, started teaching in college, was floating around doing that, and then kind of had those ideas of, well, maybe I should kind of do my own thing. And that's where I found Alyssa and her teacher Hussle University. And so I joined in thinking like, what is an online business? Like, I don't even know what that is, but maybe I could do that. And again, that kind of creative energy of just trying to take my love for teaching and my interest in education and creating great learning experiences. And I started doing that for my online business, helping people, you know, kind of craft and audit and edit their courses. So I joined Alyssa's program to start my business and then actually worked with Alyssa on her business.
It's called bartering. Yeah.
My business. There's a lot of like reciprocal support going on there.

Starting a Company with Alyssa

[3:35] And ultimately Alyssa, you know, sits me down after a couple of months of working together all virtually, we had never met in person and says, so I have this idea.
Do you want to start a company with me?
And I looked around like, me? I, she wants to meet me.
Can I, can I start a company? Should I call my mom and ask her if that's okay?
Like, I just was like, but Alyssa had the idea and we met in person like two weeks later for the first time and POPPD, the idea was born and we've been going since, I think it's about two years now almost since that first call.
[4:12] You know, a lot has changed, a lot has adapted from there, but yeah, kind of turning our teacher experiences into, you know, our own pursuits and then kind of boomeranging back around to think like, how can we make that teacher experience better because we were so passionate about teaching, ended up leaving the field, but still kind of feel pulled towards helping teachers.
Yeah, I think a lot of people will say, you know, if you're not in education anymore, then you don't make any decisions.
But I think once you've been an educator, you have that passion just burning in you to do something to change the narrative of something that didn't go right.
And I just really love what you guys are doing with POPPD because it is such a needed platform.
And I think, you know, we talk on this podcast a lot about teacher burnout.
Of you know that I'm, you know, a big proponent of helping teachers with that, because I coach, you know, on POPPD for that. But I asked you guys specifically to come on to the podcast because one of the things that we know supports teachers in their burnout recovery is autonomy, like getting to be able to choose their own path, be able to choose their own resources and pull what works for them and, you know, really be able to do that. And I think something that you guys can kind of help out with is that.
So what do you think makes professional development such, I guess, a mood killer, but also how can we start using it to harness our passion for teaching?

The Need for Better Professional Development

[5:41] Oh my gosh, I love it. It is totally a mood killer, isn't it? Yeah.
[5:46] Unfortunately, PD has just this negative feeling around it because we've all had such terrible experiences and maybe there's a few good ones in there.
We've certainly had good ones. I've had good ones myself, and Megan has too, but at the end of the day, we need support, and we need it on demand, and we need it to be relevant to what's going on in our classroom, and these broad professional development trainings where we all go sit in a room, and there's no windows, and there's no food, and you had to get a sub, and you had to plan for that sub, and the person that's running the PD, taught 25 years ago and then retired and is now a consultant and then the school had to spend all the money on the consultant and then they can't afford follow-up support so you're just supposed to just put it into place somehow on your own, it's just another thing on your plate.
It's just all adding to stress and not taking that stress away.
It's not making anything easier and I think everybody has the best of intentions.
A consultant wants to help but the school doesn't have the resources.
The school, I would like to argue, in most cases, wants to help and they're trying to get you some sports, but that model is old.
Like, we don't teach that way to our kids, so why do we do that for adults?
It just doesn't make any sense, and it's a massive problem that needs to be fixed.
And Megan and I hope we can make a tiny dent in that problem, and we're working to do that.
Megan, what are your thoughts on that?
[7:13] Yeah, and that's why, you know, for POPPD, I think there's kind of the intersection of, really empowering teachers and making them feel like they can be in the classroom and also lead and share their expertise with others and kind of provide that support for others.
And then also for the people on the receiving end, that they can have a great learning experience online, on their own time, with something that is relevant and that will actually support them.
Is that level of autonomy for that teacher leader who wants to be in the classroom, who doesn't necessarily maybe want to only deliver PD, or maybe they wanna do that part-time or transition into it, but they have that current relevant experience they wanna share, but they can't be traveling around to schools and preaching in auditoriums for hours on end, right?
And on the flip side, those learners want access to those resources right away, and maybe it's not from the person that their school hired, And maybe it's not even from the person next door.
As wonderful as often the person next door, the teacher next door can be in your school.
[8:17] Maybe you need the person who's across the country or across the county or wherever it is who might have that insight or that experience, that relates to you or that speaks to you in some way that can give you that spark or that sense of energy or that tip, that trick that is gonna make the difference for you in your classroom.
So our approach, I think the initial vision was really inspired by empowering teachers.
That was like a really important concept for us.
And as we've continued to build Pot PD for us, it's really about the learning experience, and how it feels to sit down and really feel energized and motivated and capable of executing training and strategies and professional development.
[8:58] As opposed to just sitting through it.
Because that's really what we say professional development as we joke with people who are not in the education world when we're kind of talking about our business.
We say, if you say professional development or PD to a teacher, it's like a swear word.
You're gonna ask them what it is, right? They're gonna be like, oh, that's the general reaction.
They say, the first word you're gonna hear is not really a word, it's just a sound, it's like, oh, LAPD.
[9:22] We wanna kind of redefine what that is and kind of take that word back for teachers because teachers need it. Teachers deserve to get training.
They deserve to get the support that they need.
And it's really about reframing what PD means and offering a better experience that Alyssa said is not based on those old, outdated models that don't really serve anyone, but it's about harnessing the technology and the capability we have online and this connection that we can establish throughout networks of schools, whether or not they're actually connected, you can now reach teachers, not only next door, but all over the place. And we think there's a lot of power in that. So So that's where for us, you know, getting that sense of autonomy, we think is now possible.
It's just about kind of breaking down some of the traditional approaches that are kind of currently in place in a lot of schools.

Harnessing Technology for Autonomy in Teaching

[10:08] Yeah. When I think about my life as a teacher, I have always learned more from teachers down the hall or even, dare I say, TikTok.
Like TikTok is where I have learned so much. I mean, like we joked around about it a couple of years ago that we should just get PD credit for some of the TikToks that we've watched, because you learn so much from other people, but if you're just learning from the teacher down the hall, you're not getting that same power that maybe across the country, somebody has learned something that maybe hasn't reached that small town area that you're living in or something like that.
And so it's really cool what POPPD is doing. And just one of the parts that I really love is the ability for those teachers to connect with other teacher leaders, get that practical support. Can you talk a little bit about maybe the POPPD community, who it's for, how this can really help reduce that stress and overwhelm that I know that teachers out there are experiencing?
[11:15] Yeah, we are really intentional, excuse me, about setting up a community that will be supportive of teachers and will not feel like one more thing. It'll be the place they turn to to get their questions answered in a very low stakes environment. You know, if you're a new teacher, and you need to ask a question that feels a little nerve wracking for you to ask, and you're like, Oh, am I gonna? What am I gonna sound like if I ask this question? And you don't want to ask your colleagues, or you don't have a supportive school environment, you can come into our community and ask someone else, a peer that is not, you know, at your school. And we also want to be really intentional, because I think sometimes, you know, we go to Facebook groups, and that seems to be sort of the default, but those can tend to be just these like giant venting sessions where it can be like depressing and draining.
We really want to build a community that is supportive and uplifting and intentional and is also built around these learning experiences and strategies.
One of the things we love about TikTok.

Creating a Supportive Learning Environment for Teachers

[12:18] Is that you can quickly and easily access ideas and strategies that you can take and use tomorrow.
But we also want you to feel empowered to save those strategies in a place where you're going to be able to remember next year that you tried it and loved it, and also get support with implementing that strategy if it doesn't work. It's about bringing together the people and the strategies and the learning in one place that actually feels good to be in and feels like it's it's built for teachers and not for administrators.
That is what we're really passionate about.
Yeah, like when you were talking about that, I was thinking about these folders that I originally set up on TikTok and I would be like, save, save.
I can't tell you when I actually looked at them.
I mean, and I know that there's a million teachers out there that are thinking that same thing.
They're like, oh yeah, I should probably go look and see what it was that I really actually wanted to do.
POP PD has these workspaces that give you like actual to-do lists almost, like you can check them off if these are things that you want.
The other part of it is you're not actually having to, like we've all been to that PD session where you're sitting through that session and you're like, all right, get to the good part.
All right, get to the good part. I already know this part. Oh my gosh, I already know this part.
Let me doodle in my journal or whatever. And I think it's really cool that you can actually get to the part that you want if you already know certain parts. Can you talk a little bit about that?
[13:47] Yeah, so one of the things that was important to us in thinking about this platform was making that learning actionable, right?
That's the key is if, obviously the content needs to be good to begin with, but it also really needs to point to, well, how am I implementing this?
It doesn't, it can't just be something that I bring back to my classroom and throw it in the file cabinet and never look at it again.
I mean, you gotta nod along with me right now realist thing and you've done that.
I feel like most of us have. Or same thing with your Google Drive.
Yeah, Google Drive is what I was going to say.
Google Drive graveyard, as I call it. And that's where documents go to die, because Google Drive organization is hard for anyone, even me, who's an organization freak.
[14:28] And those things kind of just float away, and nothing actually comes of that if you don't have specific actions and to-dos. And so that's one thing that we're testing and building into our platform is that sense of, if I'm going to go through a learning experience, I'm going to have a very clear list of things to do. And that's why we've developed these, you know, learning experiences that are kind of project-based and have tasks associated with them. And in building that, you know, one example of how we're trying to keep teachers in mind with this, and speaking to your point before, Brittany, is one of the options, you can kind of move your tasks to different statuses, right, to kind of mark them as done. For us, one of the statuses that is considered as complete is don't need.
So you're able to label something and say, you know what, I actually didn't need to do this.
Because we're all different, right? A teacher who has been in the classroom for two months is different than one who's been in two years, 20 years, whatever.
We all have different needs.
[15:22] Those teachers may have already done something or have decided, you know what, that's not the right choice for me. I actually don't need to complete this task, but I need to focus on this other one.
So it's an ability for not only our teacher creators to set up learning experiences in a way, that they feel like people will be able to engage with them.
They're not gonna just check something off because they want it checked off and because we're teachers and we have to check off every box, right? Right.
We can check it off and say, I don't need this and feel very intentional about what they are doing and not doing that's gonna move their practice forward.
And it's those kinds of things that are really important for us.
And I think important for.
[15:59] I need teachers who's listening and who feels that sense of burnout and who wants to maybe try all the things or do all the things but is feeling so overwhelmed that they can't even start or they're looking at that TikTok folder of ideas of things they saved and they're like, oh, there's a hundred videos in here. I just can't do any of these.
It's really about picking one or two things and trying them, discarding what you don't need.
That is giving yourself the permission to do that, the ability to do that is really hard.
I know I'm I have a hard time with that. I'm a rule follower. I'm a checkbox. You know, I'm a person who wants to check the box. But it's really important to kind of take a step back from that to reduce the overwhelm and really make sure you're trying to implement what you can and giving yourself a break and stepping away from the things that you can.

Overcoming Overwhelm and Implementing Strategies

[16:43] Yeah, I love that. I absolutely love that, because that is so true. And, you know, we've, we've all been in those PDs where you're like, I don't need this information. Let me move it over to the I don't need, and let me get to the good stuff. Let me get to the stuff that I actually want to do, or that I actually want to try. And I want to, you know, talk to somebody about this, because so often we're in a PD session, and we can't actually have a conversation with the presenter, not that we'd want to sometimes, because, you know, like they're, they've been out of the classroom for 25 years or whatever, or they've never been in the classroom at all, which is even better, I guess. So for that teacher who's like, really, they're in that PD, they don't want to be there, and they're, you know, they're not really learning a whole lot from it. Do you have any advice for them to kind of get something out of it.
[17:31] Yeah, first tell your administrator about POP PD so that you can get the training you actually want and get it in bite sizes and in differentiated and personalized for you. And then I'm sure Megan has a tip because she's the learning and design expert, learning and development.
Yeah. So I think, first of all, take a moment, take a deep breath because you've, you deserve it. So take a moment to yourself, maybe in that PD to have a mini mind break.
[17:55] And then I think the goal in there is if the person who's leading that PD is not going to to make it actionable for you, or you're kind of struggling to find the way to make it actionable.
To me, that's your one job in your brain as you're maybe kind of participating or watching or listening is thinking, how could I take one piece of this?
Even if it's very small, how can I take one thing that I've learned or heard and hear and implement it in my classroom in the next couple of days?
I think there's one, it's the kind of the challenge maybe of doing that for yourself and saying, how can I translate this?
And how can I use my brain maybe if I were, Sometimes I try and ask my students to do this, or how can I kind of challenge myself to create an actionable step from this?
And then the other part is actually making that commitment to it.
I know that for me, nothing exists if it's not in my Google Calendar.
Right, same. It might as well not have happened if it's not in my Google Calendar.
And it was the same way when I was teaching, right? So it's like, if it has to go on my planner, it has to go on the calendar. And so even if it's a very small thing, it might even be like a 15 minute thing.
I know when I was trying to get better about grading, I really struggled with my grading timing as an English teacher and I went to a PD.
[19:04] And I took one little thing about blocking grading time away.
Like block 15 minutes to grade one paper in the morning. It seems like it won't make a dent, but it really does.
And once I learned that, like I said, I got to put that on the calendar for tomorrow morning when I get into school to do that.
And I started doing that. And I actually started it, and then I actually continued it.
And it might be something that you start and you don't continue because it doesn't serve you. That's fine.
But I think the act of putting it down and scheduling it for yourself holds you accountable in that sense that you can try it and you can test something out, because that's really what I think training and PD and all of this experimentation that we do as teachers is all about, is trying something, seeing if it works, and continuing on from there.
We know that's what all of your amazing teachers are doing in the classroom already with their students.
And I think taking that mindset and applying it to PD and your own strategies, kind of your own process is really useful, right?
And so that's how I would kind of challenge people to say, if you're in a PD and you're struggling with it, you're not seeing the value in it, is can you find one thing, or maybe even can you find the anti thing of like, I don't like that strategy, but you know what?
It makes me think of this other thing I could do.

Empowering Yourself Through Positive Action

[20:13] I'm gonna focus on that instead. Turning it into some kind of positive action that you can do for yourself is maybe a way to feel like you were inspired in that session, whether it was externally or even just internally from that thought that you took and then made it into action.
Yeah, oh my gosh, I love that. I love that so much because I have been in those situations where I've wanted to just kind of be like, I'm done, I can't do anything.
If I had just listened for that one little thing, I might would have got at least a little something from it and felt a little more empowered to do something differently in my classroom.
So I just love that you brought that up.
[20:47] Thank you guys. And make sure you have all the snacks that they have there.
And then you've definitely at least two things out of it. Yeah, and I just wanna add to like, don't feel guilty about the stuff you didn't do or didn't get from it.
Don't feel like, you know what? oh, I went to that PD, I should have gotten more out of it, or I should have taken more notes, or I just never got to those.
So don't feel guilty about it. If you took one thing out, that's great.
Yeah, absolutely.

Join the POP PD Community for Free Resources and Support

[21:10] Yes. So I wanna thank you guys so much for coming onto the show because I really, I believe in what you guys are doing and I think it is so powerful and such an impactful way to make a change in the system of education.
So before you guys go, would you share just a little bit about where listeners can find you, where they can learn more. I know there's some free challenges over in the POP PD website, so I'll definitely put those in the show notes, but can you share a little bit?
Yeah, absolutely. Well, we'd love to have you join our community. It's totally free.
You can just go to community.poppd.co or just go to our website and click community. It's free and then there are spaces for each different teaching area. So you can go find your people.
And then there are a couple of spaces based on interest. So if you're interested in classroom management or you're interested in AI tools, you can join some of those interest based spaces to talk with other educators there and connect. It also has like a really cool feature where you can find educators who are located near you. So we envision that you'll like actually meet up with teachers in real life, which would be so cool. And then on our site itself, you can find free challenges where you can have tasks that you are crossing off, and you have resources and projects that you're working through to help, you know.
[22:26] Just work on that passion area that you're excited about honing in on to keep that not to add more to your plate, but to keep you inspired and creative and motivated and moving, around the topic that you're really passionate about. So you can go to poppd.co and click discover to see all of the free offerings we have. But it's free to even just start a workspace and just sign in and like, look around and save things to your workspace. So we'd love for you to get in there and try it out and let us know how we can help and be supportive and we're building all the time. So it's getting better every day. So we love your feedback. And we would just love to have you you join us in this mission.

Closing Remarks and Gratitude to Guests

[23:05] Yes. So I'm going to put the links for everything down in the show notes.
But thank you again, Megan and Alyssa, for being here on the podcast with me today.
It was such a pleasure to get to hang out with you guys in video form, or in.
We'll call it real life. Yeah.
Thank you, Brittany. Thanks, everyone. Thank you.

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