Coach to the Next Level

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Phot Credit: Flickr 

“Imagine you hired a tennis coach to help you improve your game. Then you showed up for the first lesson and he suggested that you observe as he played for the next hour. You’d probably ask for your money back. What if he suggested that he spend the hour observing you? He’ll take some notes and then the two of you will go through it later. Again, you’d be wondering why you are paying this guy. What if he suggested that you focus on your game and, since you are so busy, he will help you out by picking up your balls? You would be wondering when this guy actually planned to provide you with some coaching. By now you may have recognized some of the most common practices used by literacy coaches; modeling, observing, and serving as a resource provider. While each of these methods offers some value to teachers, there are other ways we can take coaching to the next level.” – Diane Sweeney, Student-Centered Coaching

I love this analogy! This quote was taken from Sweeney’s article Moving Beyond Modeling with Student-Centered Coaching in which she highlights techniques to help coaches really move beyond simply watching teachers, being watched by teachers or providing resources. 

My goal now is to refine my coaching plan so I’m incorporating student-centered coaching which focuses on student learning, student performance and learning outcomes in every coaching session (driven by an analysis of student work). This coaching model marries well with many of the takeaways I gleaned from last week’s Assessment Conference in Louisville and the Novice Reduction workshop in Lexington. The sessions and the workshop contained a central focus on analyzing student work/performance in order to make better instructional decisions – assessment FOR learning. 

“Classroom assessment that involves students in the process and focuses on increasing learning can motivate rather than merely measure students.” – Stephen Chappuis and Richard J. Stiggins, Classroom Assessment for Student Learning (CASL)

Photo Credit: Flickr 

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Build Resilience | Be Grateful

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I listened to a podcast this morning on Success Talks – a podcast presented by Success magazine – and it really supports my professional learning in the area of growth mindset. In Building Resilience Through Gratitude, Anne Grady outlines the research on neuroplasticity and how we can rewire our brain to be less reactive and more positive by being grateful.

Growth-mindset-blueNow, she never used the term growth mindset in this episode but throughout it I kept thinking about the growth mindset work I’m doing right now to earn a microcredential. I’m wondering how we might incorporate this idea of gratitude into our growth mindset lesson/unit.

I also kept thinking of this same concept in terms of my spiritual walk as well. Blogger Ann Voskamp challenged herself to be more grateful by documenting 1,000 things for which she’s grateful. A focus on the good can conquer our debilitating negative attitudes.

I want to remember the following as I continue to retrain my brain to be more appreciative and receptive to all the good in my life.

“Resilient people process their emotions and give themselves time to recover from them, while being grateful for the lessons they learn.” —Anne Grady

*image taken from the Warrior Mind Coach blog in the post 8 Growth Mindset Ways to Develop Mental Strength

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.

Innovate or Replicate?

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Innovation: Something new and uniquely useful – Asymco  1) the introduction of something new 2) a new idea, method, or device : novelty – Merriam-Webster

Transform: to change in composition or structure; to change the outward form or appearance of; to change in character or condition : convert – Merriam-Webster

If you hear anything positive about public school systems these days, it probably includes the term “innovation” or a derivative thereof – districts of innovation, innovation labs, innovative schools, innovative practices, etc.  Are innovative practices best practice? Once a practice has been deemed innovative, how long should that practice be identified as innovative?

After reading Kristin Anthony and Tim Klapdor’s posts this morning, I wonder if it’s innovation that’s taking place or is it replication of the innovative acts of others. Does it matter? If kids are making the necessary gains, do we care whether or not it’s innovation or replication?

Real innovation requires change… That’s where the complexity lies – it’s not about coming up with something new, it’s about convincing people to change. To let go of traditions and to trade in status, comfort and power from the old model to embrace something new and different. It’s for this reason that true innovation is exceedingly rare. – Tim Klaptor

Klapdor proposes that innovation requires change therefore time and retrospection is necessary to determine whether or not an act was innovative. In other words, you can’t just say you’re going to innovate; that determination is made later when the results are evident.

Innovations are therefore the most demanding works because they require all the conditions in the hierarchy. Innovations implicitly require defensibility through a unique “operating model”. Put another way, they remain unique because few others can copy them. – Horace Dediu

If uniqueness, change and reflection are necessary components of innovation, is your district or school actually innovating practices and transforming the system? Can novel, inventive or creative actions within a traditional education model lead to deeper learning?

If you read Dediu’s post and some of the accompanying comments (so many I couldn’t read them all!), you’ll see that several folks disagree with his take on innovation. Whether you agree or not, perhaps the focus should be on answering questions like these.

  • Why does innovation matter in public schools?
  • How will defining innovation lead to better school systems?
  • What steps can schools take to design actions that have the potential to be innovative – new, unique and a way to sustain necessary change?
  • How can we keep the focus on creating intentional, well-designed learning experiences instead of feeding a societal desire for something NEW?

What do these ideas on innovation mean for P-12 educators? I was almost convinced that this discussion/debate was not relevant until I read Dr. Max McKeown’s post on innovation and determined that some key elements he mentions will support guidance on this subject.

Based on my knowledge and experience as an educator coupled with the information outlined in this post, I believe the following might be useful during planning and implementation phases. Of course, I haven’t created a comprehensive guide to planning for innovation by any stretch of the imagination here, but this process might help start (or continue) a conversation and dialogue with your colleagues about innovation and system transformation.

  1. Define Innovation: What is innovation in P-12 education?
  2. Establish Need: Why do we need to innovate?
  3. Create a Vision: How will we innovate?
  4. Choose an Innovative Focus: Which area(s) do we need to focus on based on the evaluation of our need?
    • Process Innovation – new ways of doing something in the areas of instructional practices, professional learning, etc.
    • Organizational Innovation – new ways of people working together in the areas of teacher and leader collaboration within and across districts, professional development, etc.
  5. Measure Progress: How effective is the innovation?
  6. Adjust: When will we make adjustments and changes if we see that our actions aren’t producing the results we anticipated at the rate we need?
  7. Iterate: How often will we measure progress and make adjustments throughout the school year? How often will we cycle back to step 1?

After examining these ideas for some time today, I believe that the semantics of the term “innovation” matters little to the work of systems change for P-12 public schools. It doesn’t matter whether or not your school’s innovation efforts are categorically innovative as long as academic outcomes are improving at the right pace and kids are happy, socially successful and safe. Whether your efforts are innovative, inventive, creative or merely novel doesn’t really matter as much as designing a system that engages your kids in a meaningful, productive, thought-provoking and empathy-centered curriculum.

 

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?