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.
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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

 

Tell the Story

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While most Americans celebrated Independence Day today, I spent the day finishing Cole Knaflic’s book Storytelling with Data. I’m sure that spending my day like this today makes me the queen of all nerds. 

I’ve never been a numbers person, but I got involved with strategic planning several years ago at work and added data analysis to my professional growth plan, which has taken up residence there. Do you ever really get to a point of taking data analysis off of your growth plan? Maybe for some, but I’m sure it will always be an area of growth for me. Both professionally and personally, data analysis will always be one of my growth areas that will require focus and dedicated time spent learning how to better collect, analyze and share data in a narrative that invokes action. 

What drew me to Knaflic’s book was this video. In the video clip, she speaks to the need for creative and artistic data visuals that help you tell the story you’ve discovered in your data.

Leverage design to indicate to your audience how to use and interact with your visualizations.

As I read the book, the importance of pretty and functional visuals was not lost on me. I’ve seen some graphs and visuals that did nothing to help me understand the purpose for which they were intended; a lot of bars, lines and dots colorfully displayed but devoid of a conclusion that I should reach. 

If there’s a conclusion you want your audience to reach, state it in words.

By keeping it simple, highlighting what the audience needs to see and framing the data in a story that the audience can emotionally connect to, you help the audience understand the importance of what you’ve discovered in your data analysis. 

In conclusion, if you bother to take the time to collect and analyze your data don’t lose sight of the most important part – design visually appealing data communications that pinpoint a call to action for your audience. 

If you know any data visualization experts who might have time to mentor or coach me as I practice what I’ve learned, leave me a comment or send a private message via email. melsuzfer@icloud.com

View Strategically and Learn Authentically

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Photo Credit: flickr, turkeychick

Student Learning

For years, I’ve been interested in video production not only for the enjoyment of the process and the resulting content but for the implications it has on the learning process. As a teacher, I used video production with my students to parallel the writing process as well as to motivate and engage students in the development of a writing piece for their portfolios.

A related topic to video production is video use within the classroom and today I read an interesting article that outlines 40 strategies for viewing comprehension. An accompanying link within this article takes you to a post on “how to YouTube your classroom” which has many awesome ideas on how to design your curriculum and instruction the way YouTube would if they ran your classroom.

Each article explains how to move teaching and learning from disconnected activities in which students are passive consumers to engaging interactions that are designed to

…promote self-awareness, meaningful collaboration, and cognitive growth. — How to YouTube Your Classroom

Teacher Learning

Whenever I think about or talk about the subject of video and learning, my mind always goes to the use of video to enhance professional learning for educators. What better way to coach yourself or be coached than by using video you’ve captured of yourself teaching and then to critically analyze what you see (or don’t see).

For so long, it was impossible to use video then it was too labor intensive and too expensive for everyday purposes like observations and coaching. Now, multimedia and video are everywhere so educators at every level need to be thinking about how they can utilize and benefit from video to enhance learning for both students and teachers.

Your Learning

As you ponder this post and the accompanying links to information about video and learning possibilities, what will you do next? Now that you know how to strategically view video and use video for teaching and learning with students as well as for professional learning with educators, take a moment to outline how you can use video as a part of teaching and learning in your situation?

How might you implement one strategy for viewing comprehension in your classroom or in the instructional design of an online learning experience this year?

How might you use video footage (of yourself or others) for professional learning purposes to plan and monitor your professional growth this year?

Keep Moving Forward

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Momentum –> strength or force gained by motion or by a series of events


When you stall out on making stuff, creating the things that feed your passion and giving your best to the world, STOP and FOCUS. Encourage yourself and speak life into the situation. Take action so you don’t stay stuck. 

Keep moving forward by taking ACTION because…

The more momentum you have the more motivation you’ll feel. 

Reframe your thoughts so that you…

Start thinking about how to RISE to another level of SERVICE.  

And most of all…

Challenge yourself to SERVE with full JOY and full heart!

Gain momentum, strength and force right now by taking ACTION that will move you FORWARD, make you happy and help others on their journey. 

The quotes in this post are taken from Turning your Defeat into Success by Brendon Burchard.

Photo Credit: Brett Lohmeyer, Flickr 

Build It for Yourself

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I’ve been tweaking some minor things on this online portfolio today, and while viewing resources from other blogs, I ran across this post in The Rapid E-Learning Blog:  Here’s How an E-Learning Portfolio Builds Your Skills.  Not only does a portfolio highlight your skills, but it can drive you to improve skills and stretch your professional limitations as you document new projects and use a blog to reflect on practices and your own learning.

Keep it simple and focus on just yourself. Don’t worry about getting likes or views. – Tom Kuhlmann

Now that I have my portfolio built, I need to outline my next cycle of professional growth goals and focus on specific projects that I want to design and document for the portfolio. I can make that determination by reviewing the qualifications and skills that employers want to see.

On one side, I listed all desired qualifications and on the other, my corresponding experience. Needless to say, there was a big gap between what companies wanted and the skills I had. So I went out and acquired the skills by volunteering or participating in projects. Then I created a portfolio to document what I was learning and the types of projects on which I worked.  -Tom Kuhlmann

This blog post gave me confirmation that I’m on the right track in creating a portfolio and reflective blog to record not only my work experiences and skills but my thinking and learning about the work.

How has a portfolio and/or blog improved your professional skills?