Celebrate!

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learningXhibit-1000VIEWS-1-14-18I promised myself recently that I would celebrate once I surpassed 1,000 views on my professional blog and portfolio. I just checked and today’s the day.

CELEBRATE! 🙂 

Thanks to everyone who has viewed, commented, followed or shared my posts and encouraged me to keep writing. This online professional blog and portfolio has been one of the best professional learning experiences of my career. If you are thinking about building an online portfolio or blog, I suggest you read my post Work | Create | Share.

I’m so HAPPY! Sing along with Pharrell and me. LOL! YAY! HAPPY day! 🙂

Photo Credit: flickr

 

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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

Stop & Reflect

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“The easiest form of reflection, in my opinion, is to keep a journal. Just the act of writing can summon ideas that may not otherwise have surfaced just noodling around in your head. It allows you to dump everything out on paper (or a screen) and then sort it out and make sense of it.

It’s a good idea to do this once a day or once a week for five to ten minutes, or whatever time you have to spare–I’m sure you’ll find the experience beneficial. The idea is to get into a habit so that, for example, every Friday at 2pm you’ll stop and make some notes. The important thing is that you state the situation and what you learned from it. And it’s ‘the what I learned from it’ that’s the important part.” – Take a Look Back at Your 2014 Year With These 5 Questions, Geil Browning

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

blog_epde_gspbl_2

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. 

 

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 

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.