Foster Fellowship

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help-community

As I reflect on this week and my coaching program up to this point, I need to remember the following.

  1. Continue co-planning, co-teaching and building relationships with the willing
  2. Continue sharing pictures, videos and brief insights from classroom visits in my SharePoint Coaching site IC-SPsite
  3. Create opportunities to communicate: invite staff to the Google Classroom Teacher Community (includes a Digital Pineapple Board)

Coaches “need to begin by cultivating strong relationships, collaborating on a regular basis, and demonstrating that every teacher has some expertise to share…” – Instructional Coaching in Action: An Integrated Approach that Transforms Thinking, Practice and Schools

“Coaching creates a relationship in which a client feels cared for and is therefore able to access and implement new knowledge. A coach can foster conditions in which deep reflection and learning can take place, where a teacher can take risks to change her practice, where powerful conversations can take place and where growth is recognized and celebrated. Finally, a coach holds a space where healing can take place and where resilient, joyful communities can be built.” – How Coaching Can Impact Teachers, Principals, and Students

encourage

Photo Credits: taken from Pinterest and Instagram – no credits listed
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Listen

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Reflections

This week I was fortunate to participate in a professional learning experience in which participants studied and practiced Cognitive Coaching strategies. The foundation of effective coaching is having a trusting relationship with the coachee and relationships are built upon open communication. Therefore, if I want to be an effective coach it’s imperative that I become proficient in the area of listening and fully attending to the person with whom I’m engaged in conversation.

Like many of us, I tend to focus on my own thoughts and ideas and listen with the intent to speak instead of understand the speaker. I’m also very action oriented and impatient so often I want to rush to a solution. (Because, my gosh, there are so many problems to solve! We’ve got to get busy… Hurry up! Solve those problems! There’s no time to waste!)

“You cannot listen when you have an agenda. You cannot listen when you are just waiting for a pause in the conversation so you can insert your opinion. You cannot listen when you presume to know what the problem is before it has even been explored.” – Jesus, Life Coach: Learn from the Best, Laurie Beth Jones p.210

“They [poor listeners] listen only long enough to get the topic of your conversation, and then they proceed to tell you all the thoughts in their mind regarding that topic. Or, if you present them with a personal struggle, they will quickly move to give you an answer by telling you what you ought to do in that situation. They are adept at analyzing problems and creating solutions. But they are not adept at sympathetic listening with a view to understanding the other person.” The 5 Love Languages: Singles Edition, Gary Chapman p.85

Human beings are very social and that entails talking AND listening. Now, we’ve got the talking part down pat. Most of our problems stem from not listening or simply listening reflexively.

Reflective listening takes place when you not only pause and consider what has been said, but are able to repeat it back accurately to the speaker. Reflexive listening is waiting simply for your chance to insert something into the conversation.” – Jesus, Life Coach p.211

Ouch! Many of us in the Cognitive Coaching sessions felt this sting; the sting of awareness that we are not fully attending to the speaker or listening with the intent to understand but only to give our own point of view.

“If there is any one secret to success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle as well as your own.” How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie

Actions

If I intend to fulfill my professional and personal vision and mission with a servant heart, then I must PRACTICE until I perfect my listening skills. If I want to improve my coaching and “mediate thinking,” then I have to COMMIT to becoming a better listener.

“…whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” – Mark 10:43-45 (ESV)

“If I can listen to what he tells me, if I can understand how it seems to him, if I can see its personal meaning for him, if I sense the emotional flavour which it has for him, then I will be releasing potent forces of change in him.” Barriers and Gateways to Communication, Carl Rogers and F. J. Roethlisberger

In addition to the Cognitive Coaching strategies, I will practice the following skills.

Sympathetic Listening – The 5 Love Languages: Singles Edition

  1. Maintain eye contact when you are listening to someone.
  2. Don’t engage in other activities while you are listening to another individual.
  3. Listen for feelings.
  4. Observe body language.
  5. Refuse to interrupt.
  6. Ask reflective questions.
  7. Express understanding.
  8. Ask if there is anything you might do that would be helpful.

Effective Listening – 10 Steps to Effective Listening  

  1. Face the speaker and maintain eye contact.
  2. Be attentive, but relaxed.
  3. Keep an open mind.
  4. Listen to the words and try to picture what the speaker is saying.
  5. Don’t interrupt; don’t impose your “solutions”.
  6. Wait for the speaker to pause to ask clarifying questions.
  7. Ask questions only to ensure understanding.
  8. Try to feel what the speaker is feeling.
  9. Give the speaker regular feedback.
  10. Pay attention to what isn’t said – to nonverbal cues.

As I practice listening, I need to be sure to focus on PAUSING. During some of our Cognitive Coaching practice activities, I was reminded of how much I detest silence in conversations. (Eye contact makes me nervous, too, but for now I’ll focus on pausing. 🙂 ) During our planning-conversation practice, a colleague and I really struggled to keep a straight face as we made eye contact and tried to paraphrase and pause. I felt so exposed as I tried to keep eye contact, juggle all these different thoughts, paraphrase AND listen! (This is going to take a lot of practice:/ )

“From the time Americans are small children, we are taught to dislike silence. The punishment of being sent to one’s bedroom for “quiet time” or “time out” causes children to plead for mercy and promise to be good. And what is the dreaded sentence they wish to avoid? Silence.” – Fierce Conversations: Achieving Success at Work & in Life, One Conversation at a Time, Susan Scott p.222-223

Conclusions

All things considered, I am excited, hopeful and prepared to continue this journey – the journey of not only becoming a better coach but also becoming a better human being. It’s tough, but we’re all in it together and we need one another and if listening makes the journey better, then just do it!

“If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.” – Proverbs 18:13 (ESV)

“…let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak…” – James 1:19 (ESV)

“A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.” – Proverbs 18:2 (ESV)

Photo Credit: flickr

Encourage Reflection & Action

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Reading the Kentucky Model Curriculum Framework this morning got me to thinking (that was the earth tremor you felt earlier)…


My Reflection on Reflection 

“The connection between experience, reflection, making meaning, and learning is clear. Reflection is an essential part of the learning process because it can result in extracting meaning from the experience. Participants who reflect on an experience are better able to extract lessons from the experience, to understand themselves in relation to the experience, and to apply the learning to other areas of their lives” (Reflective Practice Sugarman et al 2000).” KMCF p.39

How can I ensure that my learning designs always promote reflective thinking?

How might I foster reflection in all professional learning?


question-mark-faceAcademic discourse to promote reflective thinking?

“Discourse is inherently dialogic, that is, containing both authoritative and internally persuasive discourses (Bakhtin, 1981). However, in schools, discourse is often designed by the teacher to be more monologic; to support airing of the authoritative perspective alone.” – Video-Based Response & Revision: Dialogic Instruction Using Video and Web 2.0 Technologies

“Teachers who engage in dialogic practices convey to students through a variety of pedagogical choices that they are curious about students’ words and ideas.” – Video-Based Response & Revision: Dialogic Instruction Using Video and Web 2.0 Technologies

question-mark-faceInquiry to promote reflective thinking?

“In an instructional setting, inquiry-based learning can give instructors the opportunity to allow students to fully explore problems and scenarios, so that they can learn from not only the results, but also the process itself. They are encouraged to ask questions, explore their environments, and obtain evidence that support claims and results, and design a convincing argument regarding the way they reached to the end result.” – Instructional Design Models and Theories: Inquiry-based Learning Model

“But open-ended problems result in idiosyncratic solutions, derived from a process of exploration in which students practice evidence-finding, thoughtful exchange, and creative design. During that process, they change and grow as people, not just as test-takers. It will take thoughtful development of new metrics, some strange to education, to develop an assessment system that captures the richness of inquiry-based education.” – The Challenges and Realities of Inquiry-Based Learning, MindShift

The challenge: Effective collaborative inquiry requires that students learn how to perform in a team, not a “group.” New scaffolds include listening, brainstorming, and appropriate body language. But the skills issue is secondary. Teams depend on positive relationships fostered through communication, openness, and shared values. Team building will have to be built into the curriculum.” – The Challenges and Realities of Inquiry-Based Learning, MindShift


My Aha Moment – PBL and PoP!

smiley-got-ideaProject-based learning to promote reflective thinking for students.

Project Based Learning is a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to an authentic, engaging and complex question, problem, or challenge. ” – Buck Institute for Education

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My investigation into how to best encourage student reflection leads me to conclude that project-based learning provides the framework and design for incorporating all the aspects I had in mind for planning curriculum and instruction for students.

smiley-got-ideaProblems of practice to promote reflective thinking for educators.

Think Critically about Practice – The Teaching Channel

Also, my reflective thinking investigation leads me to the process of using problems of practice as professional learning. The PoP process engages educators in inquiry to identify aspects of instruction in which they want to collect and analyze evidence for the purpose of taking action to improve the problem.

[take deep breath]


My Action

walking-emojiNext steps for improving my instructional coaching practices.

  1. Finish co-planning our high school public speaking course based on the principles of project-based learning.
  2. Continue to engage in the problem of practice work taking place within my district in order to better support our Teacher Leader Cadre.
  3. Use what I’ve learned today to fully engage in our upcoming ELA and Math lesson studies.

If you have ideas or suggestions about PBL and/or PoPs that might be helpful as I move forward, please leave a comment below. 

 

Learn from your Students

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My aha’s from today’s classroom observations, co-teaching and two students’ critique of a teacher’s lesson:

  • Talk with students, not at them. Notice what they are saying – verbally and with their body language.
  • Listen to kids. They have valuable things to say.
  • Trust kids. They can engage in in-depth conversations, deep thinking and problem solving about meaningful topics.
  • Learn from kids. Ask and they will share insights that will help you improve your teaching.

Frost by Robert John Meehan

Sometimes a moment
Stands out in time
A new life discovered
By a lesson in rhyme

Everything changed by
A single selection
A turning point made
In a moment’s alliteration

A new way to continue
Discovered in rhyme
One moment that changed
My life for all time

In that moment of time
A difference was made
My turning point reached
A life’s validity laid

My life’s road discovered
By a lesson in rhyme
The road less traveled
Was that selection of mine

And that too has made
All the difference

(copyright1993-2007)

Photo Credit: Pinterest

 

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