Believe in the Least of These

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I had such a blessed day today and the highlight was working with a student from creative writing class. This student struggles academically and has an IEP but with support in a quiet setting and the promise of a reward for working for a certain amount of time he was able to complete his story. I had no idea what reward I would give him if he actually completed the assignment. 

When he did finish the entire piece (working twice as long as his teacher and I required) he asked,”Do you have any candy?” Luckily, I had tucked away a Snickers bar into my purse the night before so I happily gave it to him.  He deserved it along with lots of praise. I want to remember this day and how proud this student was to return to his class and tell his teacher he had finished his writing piece. 

ALWAYS believe in every student. Give them your BEST. (And if you have one, give them a Snickers bar.)

“…’Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'” – Matt 25:40 NIV

“Then before I left class, Ms. Gruwell told me something that would change my life forever. She told me she believed in me. I have never heard those words from anyone… especially a teacher.” – The Freedom Writers Diary

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Dialogue like a Coach

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While preparing this week for my next coaching cycle, I ran across an eye-opening quote in Diane Sweeney‘s book, Student-Center Coaching. She quotes the authors from the book Difficult Conversations and it opened my mind to how I would move forward this cycle – I will journey forward with a sense of curiosity, not certainty that I have the full picture of teaching and learning in these teachers’ classrooms.

“Certainty locks us out of their story; curiosity lets us in.” – Stone, et al.

Today, I searched for more on this topic of being curious instead of certain and I found this great post in which the author explains how keeping an open mind is the avenue to meaningful dialogue and the way to engage in learning conversations.

“Instead of seeing our role as that of delivering a message to the other party, we need to engage in a ‘learning conversation.'” – Aruna Sankaranarayanan

Since instructional coaching is built upon the foundation of relationships with teachers, meaningful dialogue is a key principle for coaches to keep in mind. Teaching is a very personal endeavor so even when we engage in professional conversations, a teacher’s “sense of identity might be threatened by the conversation.”

For days I was heavy with thoughts about how to deliver a certain message to my teachers about my class visits this week, so when I discovered this idea of curiosity not certainty my world opened up! My job was not to deliver a message from a standpoint of judgement and certainty but to dialogue with each teacher through inquiry so I could better understand why the teachers were doing what they were doing in their classrooms during my visits.

“All people and relationships, especially intimate ones, are complex and layered. Acknowledging that people have different shades to their personalities will shield us from black and white judgments. By shedding our inhibitions but holding back on judgments, we can venture forth to have productive exchanges that can alter the quality of our lives.” – Aruna Sankaranarayanan

Go forth and alter the quality of coaching with a curious mind open to each teacher’s story! 🙂

*Photo Credit: flickr

Coach & Learn

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Reflections on the first week of my first intensive coaching cycle.

Monday, Sept. 25th, marked the first day of my implementation of an intensive, educator-centered coaching cycle and 8 of the 9 teachers chosen for this four-week cycle are engaging in the process. The process is fully described in the book, Instructional Coaching in Action.

During the cycle, my coaching roles and responsibilities will continue with all teachers in the building, but the educator-centered model provides a structure for focused coaching in which teachers can experience leading the coaching partnership. Teachers have the final say on the purpose and activities of the four-week cycle and coaches ensure that teachers have what they need to meet their PGP goals for the year.

During the initial meeting, we developed background knowledge about the model, outlined a plan of action to support the teacher’s professional growth plan (PGP) and scheduled observations and debriefing meetings for post-observation reflections. Each meeting went well, as measured by teachers who were prepared with their PGP goals and my facilitation of the meetings; we accomplished meeting goals and kept within the timeframe (30 min.- with the exception of a couple of meetings).

During this first week, I was also able to get in an observation followed by a reflective conversation with the teacher so that this teacher will be ready to implement a new classroom management plan after fall break.

In between meetings and other duties, I was able to combine block scheduling ideas and learning strategies into a guidance document (it’s in draft form as others review and provide feedback on it). Once it has been reviewed, I will share the document with all staff. Hopefully, it will support the implementation of classes within a block schedule as well as supplying ideas for differentiating instruction.

Now, I’ve given a brief overview of intensive, educator-center coaching and some of my experiences during the first week, but what did I learn?

What did I learn?

  • 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.

Give Thanks

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8292524381_b60676ca4f_mI am taking a moment to give thanks for all the great people I work with and who are helping me become a better instructional coach. On the days that are a little more challenging, I can look at this and remember to give thanks in all things and that the dark times are only temporary.

I can count on the dark to give way to the light and sooner than later if I will focus on the positives and be grateful for the blessings. Even the struggle has a purpose and will make me stronger and wiser if I choose my attitude.

So, if any of my WC colleagues read this post, THANK YOU! I’m so glad to be working and learning with you. 🙂

Photo Credit: flickr

 

Inspire with Passion

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As I reflect on my new role as an instructional coach, I’ve noticed that my most powerful tool is passion. I’ve been in classrooms these last few weeks and have seen excitement become contagious – excitement for learning, writing, creating and for sharing.

“The best partnerships aren’t dependent on a mere common goal but on a shared path of equality, desire, and no small amount of passion.”  — Sarah MacLean

If a coach can bring an energy of hope and passion into a classroom or into a conversation, she can ignite or renew a passion in the heart of teachers and students. I’ve not only brought that energy with me but have received energy given by those teachers and students who are passionate and driven to learn. Together, we are creating a synergy that I hope will spread to others inside and outside of the school!

I’ve seen it happen several times this past week and today – bright-eyed excitement at the prospect of creating an online portfolio, enthusiastic planning of a school website, smiling faces finding joy in the writing process, thoughtful reflections on how to make learning more accessible to all students and satisfaction in learning new things like setting up a video camera.

Seems really easy, right? Yes, it is easy to inspire others to passion and excitement when you possess those things yourself. You can’t give away what you do not possess. I believe the best instructional coaching is inspirational coaching. And so my mission continues…

My mission in life in its purest form is to inspirePrompt to extraordinary actions – that’s the definition of inspire and that’s what I most love and value doing. In order to best inspire and serve those with whom I work and do life, I apply the following.

Inquire

Nurture

Support

Play

Imagine

Risk

Encourage

My Mission Statement

Trust the Process

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Photo Credit: flickr

It’s been a while since I’ve posted but with good reason. I started a new job July 31st and have been very busy. I am now serving as the instructional coach at Washington Co. High School and I absolutely love it! 🙂

I can’t express enough thanks to all of my family and friends who have faithfully encouraged and blessed me during the process of getting here. And most of all I thank You, Lord Jesus, for teaching me who You are and for loving me in the most amazing ways as I stumbled and doubted You.

As I continue to learn new things, meet great new people and serve the wonderful staff and students at WCHS, I am amazed at how life works out. Here are some things for me to remember…

Never count yourself out. You are strong and capable.

You have family and friends you can count on – let them help you.

Continually surrender it all to the Lord and He will guide you.

NEVER lose hope!

Always believe the best is yet to come.