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.

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?

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?

Keep Learning

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Photo Credit: Ann Davis 773, flikr

I’ve had a super time the past couple of days scouring the internet for free online classes or courses and have been pleasantly surprised. I’ve found everything from professional to personal offerings as well as mini courses, more in-depth courses, and even pathways to certification. Of course you pay for some of the more popular and in-depth offerings but many of the fees are reasonable.

I discovered that there are many self-paced options as well as facilitator- or instructor-led courses which take place at specific times throughout the year. I spent time this morning engaging in a few of the short, introductory, self-paced materials and not only have I learned about some things of interest, but the experience has sparked some ideas and creativity to put toward other projects.

For years, I’ve used YouTube as a resource for learning about new things or how to do things I’m interested in or need help with so I can finish a household chore or task at work. Needless to say, I’ve been on board with anytime, anywhere, any pace learning for my professional (and personal) learning needs for a while so this search for more free learning opportunities is a natural progression for me.

These days, my search goes beyond YouTube because I’m trying to determine whether or not to pursue formal learning by working on another degree. And, I need to make sure it’s the right field to pursue not only for the short term but also for any long-term plans after retirement. I have a BS, Master’s certificate and Master’s degree so, to be honest, I keep wondering whether or not I want to spend time and money for another formal education experience. I hope that by utilizing all of the free resources available through the web I can determine which route to take — formal education with a degree or informal learning with certification and badging options.

Based on this new information, I’m leaning toward developing my own learning plan and acquiring or developing skills that will help me to do work that I love and give me more options professionally. The trick is to have not only the motivation but the commitment to complete the learning plan and demonstrate proficiency. This leads me to wonder whether or not I could create a plan using the professional growth format I’ve used in this portfolio. Of course, it would need to be expanded, but the great thing about doing this would be the connection to and improvement of my portfolio pieces and blog. All of these components could work toward showcasing my learning and abilities.  Hmmm…. something to keep pondering. 🙂

I am anxious to participate in some of the live courses too so I can build relationships with instructors and fellow participants, but I plan to use the self-paced resources first. I’ll return to this subject in a future post(s) to update you on my decisions about which learning route I will take to expand my skills as well as my thoughts on my online learning experiences with these new resources I’ve found. I’ll also expand the list of course providers as I discover more options.

If you are looking for informal ways to learn and like self-paced and on-demand learning opportunities, take a look at the following sites.*

Coursera

edX

Udemy

Udacity

*I’m also looking at possible courses and learning paths on Lynda.com which is a fee-based service, but you can gain free access through some public libraries.  Check with your local public library, or surrounding county libraries that collaborate with your library, to see if they have a subscription that you can access.

Please leave your comments and tell me what you think about online learning, self-paced modules, free internet courses or designing your own learning plan. Thanks!