Saturday, November 28, 2015

5 models of PD that provide time and space for teachers to share and learn from each other

I have been really enjoying my second year as a Digital Learning Coach.  I have noticed some huge differences from Year 1 to Year 2:

1. I actually know a little more about what my job actually entails and how to be successful at it.  I've been through an entire coaching year and had a much better vision of where to start and where we are headed.  I'm still trying new things and tweaking a lot but don't have to fully experiment from scratch.  This allows me to focus less on figuring out how to do things and the flow of the year, and more on just co-planning great lessons and supporting these awesome teachers in effectively implementing the tool or strategy. 

2. Trust and relationships are completely foundational to the success of anyone in my position.  While I realized this last year, it has become so much more evident this year.  The openness of the teachers and their willingness to try new things and "jump in the game" seems to have increased drastically. The culture is shifting with regards to technology use and it's exciting.  I have had several teachers tell me that "they'll try anything I suggest to them", and that is a huge testament to the trust I have been able to build with them over the last year.  Teachers won't "jump in" if they don't trust what you are suggesting or offering.

3. I have been given much more time with the whole staff at staff meetings and PD days, which has allowed me to try out different models of "professional development".  This has allowed my "reach" to greatly expand from the 20 teachers I have worked with closely (9 last year, 11 this year that were "fellows") to the entire staff of 102 teachers.  As more teachers are trying new things and sharing with one another, more and more reluctant teachers are becoming willing to try out small things.  And while sometimes it seems like it's a "new tool" to learn, it's really about purposefully using the tools that are out there to have an impact on teaching and learning.  We want things that makes a teacher's work more efficient, teaching more effective, and learning more engaging.  It's an added bonus when students really enjoy it because they like using their technology.  I want each teacher to see themselves on a Technology Journey, with the focus not necessarily on where they are at now, but on continually growing and moving forward, improving their practice by purposefully using technological tools to improve and enhance teaching and learning.

There are five specific models of "professional development" I have implemented this year, all that serve different purposes yet have a common theme of teachers sharing and learning from each other.  Some are optional and outside the school day, whereas others are embedded within mandatory meeting or staff development time.

These are listed in the order that I began implementing them.  None of these ideas were my original creation - I learned a lot from my other DLC colleagues as well as from ISTE this past summer.

1. JOT Sessions

JOT stands for "Just One Thing" and these are 30 minute, after school workshops focused on a specific tool.  They are meant to be more instructional and don't allow for too much individual playtime within the 30 minutes.  I will usually talk about the tool and its purpose, show a little bit about it, and have the teachers participate as students while modeling the teacher end.  For certain tools there may be time for participants to log in as teachers and create something.

Last year, I offered JOT sessions every Tuesday with a different topic every week.  This year, I am picking one topic a month, and each month there is one JOT session and one PlayDate session (see #2 below).  This gives the staff a little more of a focus and common language behind new tools many are trying.  For example, this year I did Google Classroom in October and GoFormative in November.  Those are two tools that a lot of the staff is now familiar with and has played around with.

The JOT sessions are currently led by me.  I would love for these to be teacher-led, but it is difficult to ask a teacher to plan a session that is after school in addition to all their own work.  I usually get a variety of experience levels in JOT sessions though, so I maximize the experience of those there that have already tried it to provide insight and feedback for the newbies.

Because these are optional, I will get anywhere from 3-10 teachers in attendance.  I would love more, but since they are only offered one specific day after school, a lot of schedule conflicts get in the way.  I am brainstorming ways to increase attendance and will be asking for feedback from teachers in a survey going out this next week as I plan for 2nd semester.  Speaking of the survey, this is also the way where I will decide on topics for Feb-May, based on teacher experience and interest.  While I would love to have the whole semester planned out, I think it is more wise to see how things are going and what new things have spiked in interest over time.

2. PlayDates

I started PlayDates this year in partnership with my JOT sessions.  They are very loosely modeled after the real Playdate unconference style.  Simply put, it is a structured time for teachers to come together and "play" with a certain tool and have support and guidance as needed.

I have done PlayDates in two different ways.  First, as I already mentioned, there will be one PlayDate per month corresponding to the topic for the JOT session.  This will occur a week or two after the JOT session, and teachers are told to come to either one or both.  Some teachers just want the instruction, so they come to the JOT.  Some already know the basics, but still want to learn a little more, so they come to the PlayDate.  Others will come to both to learn and then to play.  It is a very low-key, low-stress environment.  I don't plan anything except a time and place for the teachers to come and try things out.

The second way I have offered PlayDates are on Teacher Work Days.  These are mandatory days for teachers but nothing formal can be planned - they are days for teachers just to work.   We have 1-2 of these a year.  I am still on campus those days and last year would open my calendar up for individual appointments.  Unfortunately, that means I can only work with 7-10 teachers throughout the day if I get booked up (which I did last year).  

So, this year, I put a schedule together of PlayDates for topics I knew most teachers would be working on.  I offered hour-long increments of time for them to come and "play" and ask questions about that specific tool.  This year, I did Google Drive (Docs, Slides, Sheets, Forms, Drawings), Google Classroom, and GoFormative.  Next year, I may add one that is just "open PlayDate" as well for the teachers who want to work on something else.  Even though everything this day was optional, I had around 20 teachers (20%) come for one or more of the PlayDates.

3. Mini-TeachMeets

I attended the TeachMeet at the ISTE Conference and really fell in love with this style of "unconference".  I'm not a huge EdCamp fan, as I do like learning from others in the "tell me what you do and why it's awesome" format without the pressure of "nobody is supposed to be running the show" that I get at EdCamps.  I don't think my site is quite ready for a full-on TeachMeet of 1-2 hours, varied sessions from 2 minutes to 7 minutes to 15/20 minutes.  However, I was given 10-15 minutes at a couple of staff meetings and decided to host "Mini-TeachMeets".   I chose three teachers (fellows or former fellows) and asked them to pick one thing they do in their classes with technology and put together a 2 minute schpeel on "What It Is" and "3 Reasons Why It's Awesome".  I put together a SlideDeck for the day that they added to.  For the staff meeting, I would introduce the teacher and then step off to the side to start the timer.  It was engaging, informative, and fast-paced.  It was exciting because the teachers (and audience) knew they only had 2 minutes to make their point.  Three teachers sharing is a "sweet spot" that I have found.

It's purpose was completely different than a JOT and PlayDate.  It's not meant to explain everything that the tool can do (I suppose if we did a full TeachMeet with longer session options, that could be a part of it).  It's just meant to pique interest, spark an idea, fan a flame, and hopefully convince teachers to try something new.

I should also mention that I was fairly intentional with the topics.  Google Classroom, Google Drive, GoFormative... do those sound familiar?  We also had some "random" ones like Class Dojo, Haiku, and Verso, but my goal was not to throw out 3 new tools for them to try every staff meeting.  Rather, I wanted them to see a few tools multiple times over the couple of months and hear about different ways that different teachers were using them, and different reasons why they were awesome to that teacher.

My goal is that every teacher get the chance to share at a Staff Meeting in TeachMeet style.  I have a roster and am marking teachers off each time, trying to balance teachers from different departments, males/females, and "old tools in new ways" with some fresh ideas.

You can see samples of the SlideDecks below.

4. Teacher-Led Choice Workshops

We had an afternoon of mandatory Staff Development in October, and I was given the privilege of planning the afternoon for the teachers.  We started off with two rounds of 3-teacher TeachMeets.  Then, teachers were able to choose from one of six workshops on Haiku, Google Drive Basics, Google Drive Forms / Drawings, Google Classroom, GoFormative, and Verso.  Every one of the topics had been talked about in at least one (if not more) TeachMeets over the last month.

What was unique about this is that I was able to get 12 teachers to co-lead each of these six workshops with another teacher who had used the tool in their classroom.  We found out about the structure of this day with only a week's notice, so I prepped the basic slide deck for them and "cheat sheet" for the participants, and then they could add screenshots or specific examples from their class.  It was absolutely amazing to walk in and out of the six rooms and see these 12 teachers take the lead and share best practices and new ideas with their colleagues.  What was even better is that the teachers all got to choose where they wanted to go, making it a meaningful experience.  The feedback we got at the end of the day was overwhelmingly positive, with several comments of "I wish there was time to choose two workshops".

On the feedback survey, I left a question for participants to write a note of gratitude for their presenter(s).  I then passed those on to the presenters.  I feel like that was an important part of the picture - teachers need to know that their time, energy, knowledge, and sharing is valued and appreciated.

5. Speed Geeking

My latest adventure was to try out "Speed Geeking", which is basically Speed Dating but focused on sharing best practices in using technology for teaching and learning.  I was given 30 minutes at a recent staff meeting and decided to not wear out the TeachMeet idea and try something new.  In addition, I wanted to provide a way for all teachers to share, not just the 3 or so teachers who volunteered for the TeachMeet.

I started the session by stating the three goals:
1. Value Risk Taking (I was taking a risk by trying something new with them, and they take risks every day in their classrooms when they try new things with technology).
2. Celebrate Your Awesomeness (we need to hear more often about the great things going on in other classrooms.  Even if you already know all about the tool or strategy being shared, today is an opportunity to celebrate your "date's" awesomeness in trying it out and finding success.)
3. Learn from each other (Hopefully at least one of the "dates" will spark an idea in your mind of something you want to learn more about or try in your classroom.)

I did a short write-up about the afternoon that summarizes this model well.

The November staff meeting at Beckman was a little different than normal.  Teachers geared up ready to “geek out” by participating in “Speed Geeking”, which can be described as rapid fire sharing and learning of best practices in technology in the style of Speed Dating.  Each teacher was asked to think of ONE tool or strategy they have tried where technology helped to make their work as a teacher more efficient, their lessons more effective, or student learning more engaging.  Two huge concentric circles were formed in the Commons and each teacher had one minute to share with their “Date” about their chosen tool or strategy before they switched roles and then rotated around the circle.  Teachers all had four “first dates” and were then asked to select one of the four tools / strategies to go on a “second date” with.  They had eight minutes to sit down at a table with their colleagues and laptops and start actually playing with the tool to learn more.  Teachers were engaged and highly involved in the activity - the energy in the room was loud and contagious!  At the end, teacher feedback was overwhelmingly positive.  One said, “I got several good ideas, one I can start using immediately.”  Another commented, “It was a great way to spend a staff meeting” and “Not only did we get some new ideas, but we got to talk to people we seldom see.”

My first attempt at Speed Geeking was far from perfect - trying something brand new with 100 teachers that requires full participation isn't easy.  However, it was amazing overall.  The teachers were engaged and involved in their "dates", and the only two pieces of constructive criticism for the future were to pick a better location that wasn't so loud (the room we chose echoed quite a bit making it hard for teachers to hear each other) and to give a little more time for the dates (they had one minute each to share).  The location is definitely something to change for next time - if the weather is nice maybe even doing it outside.  As far as the time goes, I think one minute each suits the purpose of this activity fairly well, although we could push it to 90 seconds.  The goal is not to explain everything about it, but, similarly to a TeachMeet, to pique the listener's interest enough to have them want to ask you more or explore more on their own during the round of "Second Dates".

A few other reflections and comments

  • A few teachers brought their laptops with them to show student samples during the dates, which I would recommend for teachers to do in the future. 
  • Some teachers ended up not sharing because one person took the whole 2 minutes.  Part of this was because they may not have heard me signal to switch, but sometimes they didn't feel they had anything to share after hearing from the first teacher.  While the focus of "speed geeking" is on sharing best practices in technology use for teaching and learning, I may open it up next time to just "best practices in teaching and learning" and challenge every teacher to share something awesome they are doing in their classroom, even if it doesn't involve technology.   Ideally, everyone would have something with technology at this point, but I don't want to alienate the few that are doing great things but are behind in adopting the technology. 
  • I did not have them "rotate one" each time, which ended up being a good thing.  They all had four dates, so I rotated once, then three spaces, then two, and then I think three again.  This made the teachers (who later told me) they lined up next to their friends end up speaking with teachers they normally wouldn't have.
  • I divided the teachers up into "A" and "B" (outer and inner circles) based on the handouts / notes page; however, they were not evenly distributed so this ended up not really working.  I'm not sure how to do this more efficiently without having them count off "A" and "B" around the table.  Definitely don't want to do that.
  • We had the tables set up in a big "U" for the round of Second Dates, but I did make them get up and stand for the First Dates.  I do think this was valuable because there is automatically a little more engagement and participation when you are on your feet and 1-2 feet away from the person rather than sitting all the way across a table and able to lean back or just join in other conversations.  This is where the loudness factor actually had a benefit, because teachers had to really focus to hear what their partner was saying.
You can see my slide deck as well as the handout I gave to all teachers below. 

In the Future...

I am planning on continuing all five of these models for the rest of this year.  I want to nurture the culture of "celebrating each other's awesomeness" and "learning from each other", and continue to increase the excitement around trying new tools and strategies that really make a difference in the classroom. 

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Success of the Week: TeachMeet Beckman

I decided to run a mini TeachMeet at our staff meeting this last week.  When I say "mini", I mean we had three 2-minute sessions of teachers sharing something awesome they do in their classes with technology followed by 1-minute of reflection and debriefing with colleagues.  It was a "test" to see the reaction, and to see if it's a model we want to continue to use.

It. Was. Awesome.

The 3 teachers each made 2-3 slides under the headings of "What I do" and "Three Reasons Why It's Awesome".

I asked for feedback from the staff and got so much positive feedback both in person and via email.  Here are just a few of their comments:

Teachmeet was a great way to see how others actually use technology and gives us ideas on how to use it ourselves in a non-threatening and non-committal manner. 

The TeachMeet format is terrific.  I kind of compare it to a verbal Twitter:  short, meaningful, designed to make an impact.  I suggest we have at least one or two of these two minute TeachMeet's every time we have a staff meeting (and, yes, that means that I will volunteer to present one myself at some point!) 

That was so much fun today! 

I encourage you to try out a mini-TeachMeet at your next Staff Meeting!  We are doing another one this next week!

Framing Coaching Conversations around TPACK and a "Third Point"

I blogged over the summer about the "A Year of Coaching" from a big picture viewpoint.  This post will delve in a little deeper to what a coaching cycle looks like and what I've learned about asking the right questions to lead the conversation in a way that will allow for maximum reflection and growth.

A coaching cycle, for me, consists of a pre-brief, implementation, and debrief.  I always try to be there on the day of implementation, but it doesn't always happen. They usually last anywhere from 1-3 weeks depending on how much prep it requires and how far out we are planning.
I have become a fan of the TPACK model as a way to frame my conversations with teachers in a way that allows us to focus on good instruction first, supported by technology.  I call the center part where all three overlap as the "sweet spot" - we want to make sure that we are considering all three aspects when going through a coaching cycle... and just because I'm a "Digital Learning Coach" doesn't mean we start with the Technological side first ;)

It was pretty exciting when my team took another look at our district's "TUSD Connect" Focus, which is:

We realized that TUSD Connect and TPACK go hand in hand!  Our district's vision aligns almost exactly with the TPACK model.  Now TPACK isn't just something "new" to talk about with teachers, it's just another way to support the conversation that has been happening for the last several years at our district.

I worked a lot this summer on gathering good questions to help support each of these three parts of TPACK... how can I guide a teacher through the reflective process in planning, implementing, and debriefing through the lens of content, pedagogy, and technology?  You are welcome to view my template of questions (which is still a work in progress) by clicking here.

[Please note that my questions have been accumulated from all over - web searches, in person conversations, etc... I can't take the credit for most of them :)  However, having them organized within the frame of TPACK has really made them more useful for me.]

Pre-Brief  (Date: ______)
Debrief (Date: ______)
Content Knowledge: What content / standard are you teaching?

Pedagogical Knowledge: How will you engage your students in learning?  What are you trying to do?

Technological Knowledge: What tools will allow you to accomplish your goals?

Reflective Focus / Essential Question: What will be focusing on during the implementation / observation that we will reflect on before, during, and after the coaching cycle?

I have found that having a reflective focus helps to serve as the "third point" in conversations because it is something the fellow chooses and it's centered around a content, pedagogical, and/or technological goal.  It allows us to look to that as our measure of "success" and helps build the capacity of the fellows to begin reflecting throughout the entire journey.

It's important to mention that a coaching conversation does not go through ALL of the sample question stems.  However, having a "toolbelt" of good questions to ask helps me to guide the conversation and ensure deeper reflection.  While I can't generally plan ahead for the questions I want to ask for a pre-brief, I will look through the debrief questions and pick out some specifically to talk through in our post-implementation conversation.

How do you structure your coaching conversations?  Do you have question stems and starters that you use to help guide the conversation?  Do you utilize a model like TPACK or something else?

This post is a part of Kathy Perret’s #EduCoach Blog Challenge. You can read more about it here.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Book Notes & Reflections: The Art of Coaching (Chapter 4: What Must a Coach Know?)

I've never blogged my notes and thoughts through a book, but I figure there's never a better time than NOW!

My goal is to create a reference & reflective place for me as I continue growing as a coach.

See my notes from all book chapters on my Coaching Page.

Direct quotes from the book are in blue.  The nature of this chapter led me to taking a lot of direct notes from the book, so the bulleted lists below consist of a lot of content straight from or summarized from the book.

The goal of this chapter is to introduce us to "Coaching Lenses", because "when we're not working from a sound theoretical basis, we're just throwing strands of spaghetti on the wall to see if they stick" (page 45).  Coaching lenses are valuable because we "can look at the same thing through different lenses and construct very different interpretations of the same reality" (page 49).

"The purpose of my coaching is not to impose a belief system, but ot help my coachee explore his beliefs and actions." (page 62)


The six lenses are:

1. Inquiry
2. Change Management
3. Systems thinking
4. Adult Learning
5. Systemic oppression 
6. Emotional intelligence

Here are some of my key notes from 5 of the 6 lenses above (not Systemic Oppression)


  • values questions as much as the answers that are found
  • understands that there is more to the picture than what we initially see
  • we must think about the way we pose questions, because that will determine the nature of the answer
  • we want others to create their own knowledge and their own solutions
Change Management:
  • pushes us to consider how change might be made
  • reminds us that beneficial change is possible
  • understands that change cannot be made unless the following are present: incentives, resources, vision, clear action plan
  • we must consider a person's will, skill, knowledge, and capacity to change
Systems Thinking:
  • Understands that everything is connected
  • To understand how the whole system works, we must look at the pieces, the whole, and the interactions
Adult Learning:
  • There are many more starting points with adults and sometimes more things to "undo"
  • We must understand the previous experiences, knowledge, competencies, beliefs, and interests that the learner is bringing to the new space
  • We must accept that people can only be where they currently are
  • Adults want control over the what, who, how, why, and where of our learning
  • Adults must:
    • see relevance
    • have some say
    • have direct, concrete ways to apply what they've learned
    • need to feel emotionally safe in order to learn
Emotional Intelligence:
  • Will help us to tune in to an individual's ability or skill to identify, assess, and control the emotions of oneself, others, and of groups.

In my work, I can see using the lens of inquiry, adult learning, and emotional intelligence consistently, and the other two when looking at things from a broader scope.  I've mentioned several times before that my goal this year is to become a better questioner and prober, so using the lens of inquiry will help me focus on that.  The lens of adult learning and emotional intelligence is foundational to the relational and trust piece that must be there for coaching to be successful.  It's not just something you use at the beginning of the year though, and I must remember to continually look through things with those lenses throughout the year.


A frame used in the vignette example was "first I'd like to hear about how you experienced today."  This is valuable to me because sometimes teachers will want right away for my perspective on a lesson, or sometimes I jump in too soon to offer my insight.  If my goal as a coach is to help my fellows explore and reflect themselves, then I need to take the time to let them talk through how they experienced the different lessons and just probe them on.

...Until Chapter 5...

My Life as a Digital Learning Coach - Week 3 Reflections (Year 2) - VERSO APP & DAN MEYER

See all my posts on Coaching on my Coaching Page

This was an abnormal week for me.  Monday and Tuesday I was on my campus, but Wed-Fri I was out at two different trainings.  Because of that, I met with 9 of my 11 fellows over the course of 2 days rather than 4.5 days.  I'm really excited though, because with most of them we will be starting our first "coaching cycle" next week.  Most of them are utilizing Google Classroom and feeling more comfortable & excited about the potential with it.  I also feel like I've been able to communicate the "TPaCK" model of looking at technology implementation well, where it's not just sticking a tech tool in there, but really thinking about what they are teaching, what their goals are in teaching it, what they want to see students learning or doing, and THEN really plugging in the tool that will help accomplish those purposes.

The rest of this post will focus on what I learned in the trainings I attended:
Wed / Fri - Verso App
Thurs - Dan Meyer

On Wednesday and Friday, Phil Stubbs from Verso came out and trained all of our district's coaches for a pilot of the Verso Campus, which is a way to be able to see the data across sites, subject areas, or basically whatever type of "campus" you choose to set up.  I was familiar with Verso from using it with a fellow a couple times last year (and I had met Phil at FlipCon14 in Pennsylvania), but it was really great to see the pedagogy behind it and understand its purpose so much more.  Verso is definitely something I would have used in my flipped classroom, had I known about it before I left the classroom! (I say that about so many things...)

A few highlights of things that I really like about Verso:
  • Verso is an app that really gives students a voice in your class.
  • Students cannot view other respondent's answers until they post, which means the discussion posts are students' original thoughts.  In addition, it gives students time to really think and construct their own ideas before reading their classmates' thoughts.  Teachers can set this threshold to be up to 3 posts before seeing others'.
  • Student responses are ANONYMOUS to other students.  The teacher can toggle between teacher and student view (so you can display the results with no names, but also look at them on teacher end with names).  This lowers the "fear" and really allows students to just be honest, open, and do their best work.
  • Verso is not just a discussion board, but something that will take the level of learning from SURFACE to DEEP.  If you look at the picture below, you can see that it starts off being unistructural (one student's idea) to multi-structural (lots of ideas from multiple students but they aren't really connected together) to relational (start seeing how the pieces fit together, students commenting and making connections on each other's posts) to extended abstract (can extend and apply ideas to new ideas)
P.Stubbs, Verso

  • The teacher can group student responses based on the learning activity need or purpose.  This allows for that deeper discussion, connection-making, possible remediation or redirection, or whatever is needed in class.
  • It's not “E-Learning”, but “C-Learning”.  It's way too easy for teachers to say, “Oh, she’s the ‘e-learning’ person, that’s not for me”.  They can’t really argue with the “C-Learning” goals…(critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, communication, character, citizenship)
  • This isn't just a feedback tool. It's a feed up (where am I going? - ahead of the lesson, a signpost of what they will be learning), feed back (how am I doing? - authentic evidence of learning because it's the students' original thought) and feed forward (where to next? - providing feedback that moves learners forward)
  • We want students to connect the dots in their learning, but "you can't connect the dots without first collecting dots". Verso helps students to collect the dots and begin connecting them, and then allows for even further and deeper connections as the teacher designs.
  • A learning community is NOT about pursuit of individual learning goals,it's also about contributing TO the learning & knowledge base of colleagues & school.  Verso is socializing the change- the collective might of sharing and working together. This is what Verso Campus allows.

If you haven't checked Verso out, I would highly recommend it.  It's free to use; the data that helps to "socialize the change" is what Verso Campus is all about and that is the premium part. 

Here are some more quotes from the day that I tweeted out:

On Thursday, I had the privilege of attending Dan Meyer's workshop that was hosted by a nearby district. 
Dan brought up three misconceptions that math teachers generally have about how to engage students in difficult mathematics.  The misconceptions were:
1. For math to be interesting, it must be real-world
2. Math should be related to a career (job-world) - "when will I ever use this?"
3. You must design lessons around things that interest your students; not just real-world but their real-world; the "relatable world"
Instead of these three misconceptions, he argued that we should strive for these three things:

1. Start a fight - choose things that allow for "constructive controversy" where students are sharing guesses or given opinion-based questions that math can help to answer or clarify.

2. Turn the math dial up slowly - this allows for ALL students to access the math.  Start at stage 0: watch a video.  All students can do this.  Then Stage 1: Ask a question.  Stage 2: What's your estimate?  Stage 3: What info do you need?  This gets students hooked and engaged and they haven't even done "real" math yet.

*One strategy for how to do this is to "Delete the textbook".  Take a problem (think those word problems or application problems with lots of text, a diagram with lots of numbers, and parts a-d of questions) from your textbook and delete the majority of the pieces around it, leaving students with an accessible image with little extra information where they can enter the problem more easily.  You then add in the "deleted" pieces slowly, asking more interesting questions as you go.  You want to start controversy and drive interest and start a conversation around the problem.

3. Create a headache - Dan's been blogging about this idea over the summer, and I've enjoyed his posts.  If __________ is the aspirin, then what is the headache?  I'll leave you to his blog to read his examples of this.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Book Notes & Reflections: The Art of Coaching (Chapter 3: Which beliefs help a coach be more effective?)

I've never blogged my notes and thoughts through a book, but I figure there's never a better time than NOW!

My goal is to create a reference & reflective place for me as I continue growing as a coach.

See my notes from all book chapters on my Coaching Page.

Direct quotes from the book are in blue.

Unmonitored beliefs... Aguilar references a conversation she had with one of her mentors, and the mentor said, "No one can learn from you if you think that they suck." (page 33)  This is a belief that is unmonitored because you might not ever intentionally think it, but it will come across in your word choice, conversation style, body language, and patience level.  I make it a priority to have a non-judgmental and non-evaluative relationship with my fellows - I am there to support and challenge them in their journey.  However, it is a battle to keep out the judgmental feelings that come into my head sometimes.  If we want to help our fellows understand their belief system, we must first understand our own and be aware of the beliefs that creep up - and then address them through the lens of our core values.  There is an activity that Aguilar put together on Core Values here.

Aguilar shares her 10-point Transformational Coaching Manifesto that has belief statements that stem from her core values.  There were a few points that really stuck out to me.

  • "Meet people where they are".  We must "seek to understand why a client is where she is...don't make her wrong for being wherever she is - she's just there."  With a core value of compassion, Aguilar we are able to meet people where they are, which is the "only place to start when trying to make meaningful change." (page 40).  Every fellow relationship is completely unique, and it's going to do nobody any good to compare.  Sometimes I feel like my fellows apologize for where they are at now and I just have to constantly remind them that no apology is necessary - this coaching is for them, for where they are at now, not where they "should be" or "are supposed to be" as they compare themselves to others. I also think this applies to pedagogical mindset.  It's hard to work with others that have a drastically different pedagogical viewpoint than you, but I have to remind myself of where I once was and the time and reflective energy it took to get to where I am today.  It takes time and everyone starts somewhere.
  • "There is no coaching without trust".  "It takes time to build, and once it has developed, it should not be taken for granted." (page 40)  I can't overemphasize trust.  Being at my school for the second year, I was able to build a foundation of trust with most of the teachers I work with this year.  Because of that, getting started this year was much easier.  However, I know that trust has to continue to be built throughout the year, and make sure to hold true to everything I have done to build that trust.
  • We must "listen very carefully... explore what is possible given the language that a client mindful of every word that comes out of my mouth." (page 41)  I am trying to be a better listener this year, because I want my coaching meetings to be more about the fellows and their thought processes / needs / desires / visions and less about mine. I need to improve on picking up on words or phrases (or just tone of voice / body language) that they use and learn the "right" way to respond to different cues.  In addition, I am trying to be more intentional about the words and phrases I use, especially with starters like, "What I heard you say was..." or "It sounds like..." or others that can be seen in some of the samples here.
  • We must "be fully present" in every coaching meeting.  My time is about my fellow, not the 3 hours of meetings I've had before or the 3 hours to come :)  I even think mentioning my crazy schedule should be off limits because I don't want them to feel like they are a burden to me or my life is "too crazy".  I actually love being busy going from meeting to meeting more so than having too much time off.  I like having a block of time on Mondays to prepare for my meetings that week, but then "off I go"!
  • We must understand that "transformation takes time - an undefined amount of time" and that "working from a place of impatience and urgency won't result in a transformed system."  It's about meeting them where they are and assisting them in "identifying and taking the step that comes next" for them - not for anyone else (page 41).  Every fellow progresses at different rates.  I saw some transform just over last school year.  Others took baby steps but definitely aren't "there" yet (meaning self-sufficient and ready to continue to grow without my support needed).  We can't put a time limit on growth, and I don't ever want my fellows to feel pressured that they have to reach a certain point in their growth by the end of the year.  I am just happy that they are growing and learning.
  • We must "avoid getting attached to the possible outcomes that arise" (page 42).  We must remind ourselves that we "don't [always] know what is right" because there are so many different possibilities of things that could happen.  This is hard for me sometimes because I have a vision of how it would work in my classroom with my teaching style and my expectations.  However, it's not my classroom - it's theirs.  And they will do things differently and have different goals and methods than I would.  We set goals together, but it's goals they want to set and outcomes they want to see.  This is a challenge, but I can definitely improve in this area this year.
Once we know our core values, then we can develop our belief statements, which translate into actions we take.  For example, "If one of your core values is appreciation, then a corresponding belief statement might be 'Always acknowledge the positive', which could guide your actions in a coaching conversation." (page 43).  I need to do more reflection on what my core values are and develop a "manifesto" similar to Aguilar's.

...Until Chapter 4...

Monday, September 14, 2015

Book Notes & Reflections: The Art of Coaching (Chapter 2: What is Coaching?)

I've never blogged my notes and thoughts through a book, but I figure there's never a better time than NOW!

My goal is to create a reference & reflective place for me as I continue growing as a coach.

See my notes from all book chapters on my Coaching Page.

Direct quotes from the book are in blue.

Elena Aguilar starts this chapter by describing a coach "who didn't know what she was" (page 18).  I felt a lot of that last year as I was getting started, but now I have a much clearer view of my role.  Because of that, I can explain it better to others and get fewer of the "IT"-type requests that would come my way last year.  It's far from "there" yet, but the first step is in being clear with myself why I am there - and then communicating that with the teachers on campus.

There are four things that Aguilar says coaching is NOT: (page 19)
1. A way to enforce a program
2. A tool for fixing people
3. Therapy
4. Consulting

I have seen all of these in one light or another and have had to combat them.  I can't force teachers to use the new math units, but I can support them in their process of doing so.  I can't force teachers to learn and coming across as someone trying to "fix" them is only going to damage any level of trust or relationship that was built.  I need to make sure that the focus is on "learning and developing new skills and capacities" (page 20), not on counseling a teacher through issues of their past.  Lastly, I need to remember that I am not an "expert" coming in to "train" others; rather, I am there to help "build [the] capacity of others by facilitating their learning".  (page 20)


Aguilar describes three models of coaching: Directive, Facilitative, and Transformational.
The art of coaching is not just about what coaches do, it's also about what coaches think, believe, and their way of being.  Because of that, we must approach our coaching as not just helping teachers change what they do, but also how our fellows think, believe, and their way of being.

Directive Coaching - focuses on changing behaviors
Facilitative Coaching - focuses on developing ways of being or exploring beliefs that will in turn change behaviors
Transformational Coaching - a process that explores behaviors, beliefs, and ways of being of both individual clients and the coach herself, as well as institutional systemic transformation.

What coaching model / stance should we take?  It depends on the situation.

"Directive coaching strategies are relevant and necessary at times...[they] are also limited...Less likely to result in long-term changes of practice or internalization of learning...[does] not generally expand the teacher's internal capacity to reflect, make decisions, or explore her ways of being." (page 22)  As I reflect on last year, there were definitely teachers I worked with that I took this stance more often than not (sometimes they indirectly asked for it and I didn't have the skills to redirect them to a more reflective stance, other times I think I just got impatient and found it "easier" to take this stance.  However, long-term growth doesn't happen when I stay in that stance!  I have seen it, and I need to work to improve this.

"Facilitative coaching supports clients to learn new ways of thinking and being through reflection, analysis, observation, and experimentation... Coach does not share expert knowledge... [Coach] builds on existing skills, knowledge, and beliefs and helps the client to construct new skills, knowledge, and beliefs that will form the basis for future actions." (page 23)  When a fellow reflects and constructs their own knowledge and beliefs, there is deeper ownership of it and it's more likely there will be long-term change.  If there isn't that "buy-in" that is created when the fellow feels like they are the ones in the driver's seat, they may not continue on with any of the changes implemented beyond the coaching relationship.  Facilitative coaching seems to be a type of cognitive and inquiry-based coaching.

Aguilar gives a great summary of the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) theory by Vygotzky.  She says, "The ZPD is the difference between what a learn can do without help and what he can do with help...a learner's ZPD is constantly shifting...When a learner is in the ZPD, [with the] appropriate assistance and tools - the scaffolding - then he can accomplish the skill." (page 23)  Every teacher I work with has a different ZPD and part of my job is identify the type and amount of scaffolding they need

Transformational Coaching is directed so "the impact we have on an individual will reverberate on other levels." (page 25)  In addition, it's not a one-way street.  It's "not something we do to another... It is a complex dynamic engaged in by both client and coach." (page 29)

The rest of the book I'm sure will go into this in more detail. :)

...Until Chapter 3...

Sunday, September 13, 2015

The best articles & resources I've found this week (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.
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