Writing is Innovation


Reading By Example

As an idea, innovation is getting tossed around a lot in education lately.

Anytime I see something accepted en masse, I get suspicious. I find it helpful to go back to the meaning and origin of these concepts. Merriam-Webster defines innovation as “something new or…a change made to an existing product, idea, or field”. The Latin root of innovate is innovatus, meaning “to renew, restore; to change”.

Given this understanding, I believe innovation is used too loosely in the context of teaching and learning. Will Richardson aptly points this out in his article for The Huffington PostStop Innovating in Schools. Please.:

Our efforts at innovating, regardless of method, idea, or product, have been focused far too much on incrementally improving the centuries old structures and practices we employ in schools, not on fundamentally rethinking them.

I would continue this argument by stating that innovation should not be limited to science…

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Coach to Personalize Student Learning


This morning I read an article posted to the Getting Smart site entitled, Instructional Coaching for Secondary School Transformation and I’m intrigued by the idea of the use of coaches in the process of building personalized learning pathways for middle and high schools. My high school’s current problem of practice is centered around the notion of real-world and authentic learning experiences so our teacher leaders could definitely benefit from seeing the possibilities of designing personalized learning.

During a vision-setting day, the coach was able to lead discussions to determine teacher understanding of the concept of personalized learning, student need as evidenced by data and potential directions for building their instructional model of personalized learning.

“..the teachers began by identifying the differences between teaching for achievement and teaching for growth.  Through reflective conversation Lori asks probing questions to guide teachers towards a model of personalized learning to address both teaching for achievement and growth.”


“After much discussion and brainstorming they determined as a team that students will move through tasks or learning zones based on student formative assessment data. This is the foundation for teaching both achievement and growth.”

After the initial vision setting, the teachers implemented the plan and the coach used questioning and data to support professional growth among the teachers. The coach also monitored teacher growth by outlining the currently reality for each teacher and, in an adjacent column, the next steps the teacher had committed to trying to move the plan forward.

“Early in the semester a veteran teacher was inspired–she moved desks and launched a station rotation model the next day. The teacher told Lori, ‘In one day I met one-on-one with more students than I talked to last week in my classroom.'”

That first step of changing a simple practice led to adding another simple change and another with one teacher then another then another – over time, those small steps added up to big gains in achievement and shifts in culture.

“The simple classroom innovation served as a slingshot, others saw her success and it helped propel the culture shift. “

For me, the following quote is the takeaway from this article which provides the direction and encouragement to determine the vision, start small and press forward.

“Think Big, Start Small and SCALE FAST.”


Increase Grit through Growth Mindset


Enjoying reading Grit this morning… 🙂

“Students who graduated on schedule were grittier, and grit was a more powerful predictor of graduation than how much students cared about school, how conscientious they were about their studies, and even how safe they felt at school.”- Angela Duckworth, Grit

“Grit is about working on something you care about so much that you’re willing to stay loyal to it.” – Angela Duckworth, Grit

Motivation trumps intelligence. Duckworth TED Talk

“The highly accomplished were paragons of perseverance.” – Grit


Talk to Think?


A few days ago, if you had told me that talking can lead to thinking I would have said, “Uh, no. That’s stupid to believe that talking would promote thinking. Talking gets in the way of thinking! You need to be quiet to really think deeply.”

Uh, no. I’m wrong. Well, partially wrong.

Yes, there are times that thinking requires quiet contemplation but there is brain research showing that talking through an issue or problem with someone, who is asking you the right questions and giving you space to think, activates more of the brain than thinking alone.

“Talking about an issue activates more parts of the brain than just thinking about the issue. When people speak about their thinking, it increases the speed of learning, as well as the ability to apply the learning” (Rock, 2009).


Shut the front door!

Photo Credit: flickr

This week, I attended days five and six of Cognitive Coaching (CC) Training and this is where I had my revelation about talking to think.

Let me back up here and give you some insight into the CC training. I have to say that in January on days one and two I knew CC was going to be a good way to coach others and would definitely challenge me to use skills that were underdeveloped. On days three and four, which took place in February, I was pretty sure I was not going to be able to do this. But, by the time days five and six rolled around this week I had studied my handbook, practiced CC, had recorded video of myself engaged in CC with a teacher, viewed my video several times so I felt like I just might be able to do this.

My really big Aha! moment (cognitive shift) happened during a practice session with one of the other participants in the training. She and I practiced by taking turns presenting a small life issue for which we were currently grappling and unable to make a decision.

As I coached her, it was so powerful watching her figure out the answer to her dilemma. After she introduced the issue, I paraphrased her statements to ensure I understood her and once I was clear about her statements, I could pose questions to generate more thinking.

Her answers came as I posed questions and left ownership with her – not as I told her what to do or gave her examples of what I would do. As she coached me, the same thing happened. The answers and my action plan for what to do next evolved with each question she asked and during the moments I talked about the details.

I’m blown away by the power of questioning and being quiet so the other person can think and talk out the answers to their own problems. This is SO foreign to my personality and the way I typically operate. I am very action oriented, impatient and anxious to get things resolved so it’s a huge test for me to actively listen and respectfully be quiet and patient as the other person finds their way through their own thoughts. (Translation: I tend to be extremely bossy and confident that I know the answers for you – just let me tell you what to do.)

On the other hand, it’s extremely freeing! As the coach, I don’t have to carry the weight of having to know or find all the answers. My job is to relax in the fact that, with the right support, others can draw their own conclusions and come to their own realizations without me dictating it to them. I can trust in the journey each coachee is going through and that they too will have an Aha! moment.

Now, I feel like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz. You could have told me all these things about the power of CC – the power of listening, the power of higher-order thinking questions and the power of talking – but I wouldn’t have believed you. I had to learn it for myself.


Cognitive Coaching is challenging to implement. But, just like anything else, I can do it by starting small.

“It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.” – John Wooden


I am really excited to continue practicing CC and anytime I have an issue to sort out I want someone to coach me! So, fair warning to my friends, family and colleagues – I’m coming to coach you. And, to my peers who are CC trained, I’m coming to be coached. 🙂

Photo Credit: flickr

Start Again?


“20-30 years of doing one thing is enough.” – Lucy Kellaway


As a 46 year old woman who has worked in the education field for 20 years, I can relate to Ms. Kellaway’s ideas. I’ve always felt overwhelmed in this field because it IS so overwhelming. Many don’t make it this long. Too many others stay who should have left a long time ago. Is it my time to go? Is it time to start again?

I was aware when I started this new role as an instructional coach that I would really need to focus. Focus is necessary in order to get things done and to improve. Sadly, in education, focus is almost impossible and becoming overwhelmed is inevitable.

Now that over half of the school year is over, I’m finding it nearly impossible to focus my efforts toward professional learning and growth, I’m stretched in so many directions that my work and results are inadequate and ineffective. I not only blame the system and circumstances but myself as well. I constantly think about all that I need to be doing, I try to do too much and worst of all, compare myself to others who are further along in their journey, rendering my self cognitively overloaded, tired and eventually defeated.

In a YouTube search for “instructional coaching and feeling overwhelmed”, I discovered this video of a coaching session between a tennis coach and his coachee. I think it’s safe to say we could use this title for anything; leave out the word “tennis” and insert whatever it is you are learning.

Don’t overwhelm yourself when learning _______________________.


“Number one rule: Do not overwhelm the player. You must be very careful in how much you load your brain with information and thinking.”

So, as I move forward to coach myself and others, I need to adopt this rule. I’m overwhelmed, the teachers are overwhelmed so I need to Focus like a Leader and Stop & Reflect every day so I can Do More.

Also, I need to remember my own advice…

  • Listen with your eyes as well as your ears. Not everything you need to know will be said with words; be very observant.
  • Keep moving forward. You will make mistakes; keep believing in the process and learn from it.
  • Be vulnerable. You are not an expert; you are learning along with your colleagues.
  • Admit your weaknesses. Cultivate an environment in which it’s ok to admit your weaknesses; we can’t improve until we are totally honest with ourselves.
  • Develop strength. Be brave enough to look at yourself through the lens of your struggles which highlight your weak points. (Thank you to the teacher who showed me that bit of wisdom during our debrief session.)
  • Have some fun! Live a balanced life every day. Laugh at yourself; in a hundred years from now, no one will remember the little details that are bringing you down.

Even though I discovered the number 1 rule of coaching – do not overwhelm the player – and I’m certain it will help me focus for the remainder of the school year, I’m still left with the question of whether or not it’s time to start again, in another field outside of education. Maybe a simple life reboot instead of an extreme reboot would do the trick?

Any suggestions from fellow burned-out educators or from those who have gone through an extreme reboot? Leave a comment and share your ideas and experiences – I could use the advice. 🙂

Photo Credit: flickr

Be Grateful for the Gardeners


“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” – Marcel Proust

Photo Credit: flickr

Integrate Disciplines


Why Should Schools Embrace Integrated Studies?: It Fosters a Way of Learning that Mimics Real Life, Edutopia

“Integrated studies, sometimes called interdisciplinary studies, brings together diverse disciplines in a comprehensive manner, enabling students to develop a meaningful understanding of the complex associations and influences within a topic. A happy by-product of this approach, which is often coupled with project-based learning, is that it makes school more interesting and productive for students and teachers.”

“Creativity, adaptability, critical reasoning, and collaboration are highly valued skills. When it comes to fostering those skills in the classroom, integrated study is an extremely effective approach, helping students develop multifaceted expertise and grasp the important role interrelationships can play in the real world.”

Photo credit: Flickr