Saturday, January 30, 2016

Reflections on Recent Readings (weekly)

    • As a coach, my priority is not what device or technology tool a teacher uses (although, I do, of course have my own opinions about what works best for learning), my priority is the teacher’s mindset. I’m not marketing a gadget, I’m marketing a belief about teaching and learning, and a pedagogical approach to learning with technology.
      • What an important point (see quote)!  I run a lot of PD sessions and work with fellows on different tools, but all of it is embedded with mindset / purpose / intentionality / pedagogy.  Why would we use this?  How would it make things more effective, efficient, engaging, or enjoyable (my 4 E's of technology use)?  The image in below this quote is so powerful!
    • in order to be successful in marketing to the mainstream population, we can’t market our product the same way to both groups.
    • Basically the early adopters will buy in because of the new and exciting nature of the innovation – even if it’s not perfect yet and still has kinks to be worked out, which is a fun and easy part of a coach’s job. The problem is that the mainstream market wants to see a complete product, practical applications, and know exactly how it will work (and that it will work consistently). This is not an easy task when we’re actually really talking about good pedagogy, but we’re perceived to be talking about technology.
  • "Try flipping your class with quizzes to drive, not measure, learning" This is such an important quote! Quizzes should not be "gotcha" moments, but rather great opportunities to gather feedback on where students currently are at in relation to where you want them to be. If you do give a quiz when kids come in to class, is it a "gotcha" or "I hope you watched it" or a "measurement" of their learning? Or is it a way for you to drive what will happen that day (and the following days) in class?
    tags: blog
Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Reflections on Recent Readings (weekly)

  • Some interesting ideas on different ways that teachers can reflect and document their journey. I've really emphasized journaling more this year (since last year most fellows did not do it consistently) and I think that has been really valuable. I like to ask follow-up questions and probe more with their journal entries, which normally takes the first 5-15 minutes of our coaching meetings, but I think is very valuable in their journey. I've challenged my fellows to get on Twitter and to even consider blogging, but I know those are huge steps for some teachers. I started a collaborative blog at techfellowship.blogspot.com (currently empty, but hopefully will have posts soon!) for fellows to join in and share what they are trying in their classrooms. I have some interest; it's just a matter of helping them "find the time" and see the value in finding that time. There are several that want to do it, so I hope this will be the start of something great. Beyond the collaborative fellow blog, I've challenged each of my fellows to write a guest blog post for my blog once this semester, either on a specific lesson they implemented or a year-end reflection on their journey. We'll see how this goes!
    tags: blog
  • I like the idea of tech being your "secret sauce" that makes your classroom better, not something extra to add on. Teachers that are struggling to adopt a technology-enhanced pedagogy struggle with that fact and can't get past the "it's one more thing" mindset. I like to think of technology as impacting teaching and learning in four ways: making things more effective, efficient, engaging, or enjoyable for teachers and/or students. My fear is that teachers won't see the immediate impact of a tool (and really how it can shift pedagogy to something new and different than what they are used to) and say, "well this won't make teaching / learning more effective / efficient / engaging / enjoyable so I'm not going to try it". Sometimes we need to take risks and try new things without knowing how it is going to turn out or how it's going to affect our classroom - and then we can reflect and judge after the fact if it's worth continuing. Not after one attempt, because that doesn't give a fair view of it, but after you "Reflect, Refine, and Collaborate" and try the tool in a few different ways. At that point, I'm okay with giving something a "no-go"... but we have to get to that point first!
    tags: blog
Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Book Notes & Reflections: The Art of Coaching (Chapter 8: Listening and Questioning)

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.

Aguilar describes the "Coaching Dance" as having three parts.  First, the coach listens.  Second, the coach responds with questions that probe for deeper learning / reflection.  Third, the coach suggests an action or learning activity.  The order of these steps and the flow between them will vary.  "The art of coaching is the ability to apply a tremendous range of skills in response to a particular situation in a way that appears seamless, effortless, and, at times, even beautiful" (page 148). 

When we listen, our goal is not to listen while thinking of our response (isn't that what we learn in all "listening classes"?).  We want to "[create] a tremendous space for [the fellow] to explore her own issues" (page 149).  This makes me think of getting to the point where the fellow is brainstorming and thinking out loud, making sense of things, and possibly even coming to their own conclusions just because they had the chance to think out loud.  I can think of times when I have had the time and space to do that with colleagues, and it is so helpful!  It does require skill on both the coach's and fellow's parts... the coach needs to be okay with moments of silence (practice "wait time", just like we would with students) and not feeling like they need to interject, and the fellow needs to learn how to process out loud and be okay with the vulnerability that comes when you are sharing unformulated thoughts.

Aguilar describes three types of listening: Quiet Listening, Intentional Listening, and Collecting Stories.
Quiet listening is similar to what I described above. As she writes, "We listen from the point of view that people don't need answers, advice, or wisdom.  They can do their own thinking, discover solutions, and figure out their next steps... We may occasionally ask a probing questions, but in this kind of listening we don't say much... We don't share our opinions, experiences, or feelings.  We don't give advice or suggestions.  We never interrupt... [We might just ask], 'Can you say more about that?'" (page 150-151).

Intentional Listening focuses beyond the surface of the words that are being spoken and delves into "assumptions, interpretations, and underlying beliefs" (page 151) and "what is not said: for what lurks below the surface - feelings, thoughts and beliefs, and for the gaps in a story" (page 151).  This is where being too quick to respond can get you into trouble because you can miss some of these things that could lead to deeper conversations.

Collecting Stories is another viewpoint from which we can listen, which is that we are continually filing away more and more stories about our fellow that will give us a bigger picture of who they are and begin to notice patterns that will help us in our work.

In all of these types of listening it's important to be an active listener.  One of the best strategies for this is to paraphrase.  I have tried to be much more intentional with this lately, and have noticed it starting to come more naturally.  Aguilar gives 5 sentence starters for paraphrasing: "In other words..."; "What I'm hearing then..."; "It sounds like you are saying... Is that correct? Did I miss anything?"; "I'm hearing many things..."; "As I listen to you, I'm hearing..." (page 153).

The second half of this chapter is on questioning.  Aguilar states, "A coach needs to know when to use a particular kind of question and when another would be more appropriate or effective  Questions are technical tools; the art of coaching is about applying judgment and discretion and about making intentional decisions after careful listening and analysis" (page 158).  The "technical" side of this is easy to build - there are question starters and frames all over, and I've worked on collecting those and organizing them for different parts of the lesson design process (prebrief /debrief, content/pedagogy/technology focused).  Collecting is the (somewhat) easy part.  Now it's being comfortable with using them in the right way and in the right time!

There are two types of questions Aguilar describes: Clarifying and Probing.  Clarifying "elicit details, specifics, clarification, or examples" (page 158).  Probing helps to "uncover thinking or beliefs - not necessarily to find an immediate answer or solution" (page 159).  It's important that a probing question not become a leading question where we already know the answer we want to hear or want to suggest something to the fellow in the form of a question.  I like the prompt "What did you notice about..." to probe about something you might have noticed yourself, but you put it in the fellow's shoes to share what they saw.

We want to try to avoid: too many why questions (fellow can get defensive) or rambling / layered questions.

There's supposed to be more about questioning in coming chapters... see you then!

...Until Chapter 9...

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Book Notes & Reflections: The Art of Coaching (Chapter 7: Developing a Work Plan: How Do I Determine What to Do?)

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.

How is Coaching different from other kinds of PD?  According to Aguilar, "coaching is an ongoing effort focused on developing a specific and agreed-on set of skills or practices" (page 119).  A fellow may experience coaching as "a series of meaningful conversations" (page 119), but the coach is "consciously working within a structure and toward an end" (page 119).  I think this is an important definition to include when recruiting fellows and at the first couple of meetings.  I think I mentioned before that sometimes it doesn't seem like many of the fellows can articulate goals beyond "get better at technology" or "have my students use their laptops twice a week".  I have tried to facilitate goal-setting conversations but have struggled with them identifying things they want to develop.  I want to help my fellows develop more specific skills/practices to focus on than just "technology".  I also want to help them see the pedagogical connection to everything we are doing, as each tool has a purpose beyond just "using it for the sake of using it".  How can I help my fellows to articulate their desires better?  What questions can I help that would probe to the level I am looking for?

Being in my second year, I can see the "big picture" much more clearly.  I have seen eight fellows through an entire school year and have a much better sense of the end goal, as well as the growth that can / will happen over time (and remind myself that every journey is different and most start out slowly!).  I want to continue to get better at being very intentional in those "meaningful conversations" and make sure I plan them well and then reflect on them afterwards.  That is an area I am weak in currently.

Having a specific and agreed-on set of skills or practices is also important because "when coaching is unfocused, or when the purpose for coaching is unclear, both the coach and client can feel unsatisfied" (page 120).  Sometimes I have felt like we have done a lot of talking and planning but no implementation with follow-through.  I also feel like with many fellows our focus is so broad - "any technology" - that we don't have a specific focus we can measure growth in because it's just whatever lesson is coming up rather than consistently focusing on tools that will help improve _____ (classroom management, student thinking, collaboration, etc).   I don't want my fellows to feel like they every lesson they do with technology has to be planned with me.  Most of mine don't, but there are always a few that fall into that category.  I want a non-technological goal, an upcoming lesson, and then a question - "What technology can be used to support our non-technological goal in this upcoming lesson?"

Looks like I've found even more areas of focus ;)

Aguilar talks about making a formal plan - an "external entity to which they are both accountable" (page 120). It made me think of my work in my admin program (which I'm almost done with!!!) in terms of developing a shared vision.  Why are we here?  Why are we working together?  What does success and accomplishment look like at the end of the year?  Part of the struggle I have seen is that the fellows don't necessarily have an idea of what could be, so I need to help them envision the possibilities and help them to buy-in to something that is foreign and unknown.  Sounds scary, huh?

Three of the lenses are referenced as useful considerations during this stage.  Change management must be considered to remind us that goals we set must be realistic and attainable, and we don't want our fellows trying to bite off too much at once and then get frustrated, overwhelmed, or disappointment.  The lens of inquiry can help in identifying goals.  The lens of adult learning will help us to make sure we are within the fellow's Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) (the difference between what he can do without help and what he can do with help).

Aguilar sure likes 10 steps... here are the 10 steps to developing a Work Plan :)  She mentions that the ten steps are not necessarily a sequential process.

1. Identify areas for coaching: what's the big picture?
Start with broad areas.  For my fellows, I'd like them to pick one area that deals with technology integration and one that deals with something else.  The suggestions Aguilar makes are for lesson/unit design, teaching CCSS, classroom management, academic language, checking for understanding, classroom culture, and routines and procedures.  The narrower we can get, the better, but I think starting with something more general may actually work better. I will brainstorm some ways to expand that list. However, I must make sure that my list doesn't "push" something on a fellow - his/her needs and desires need to drive our work so they own it.   Even if that means they pick something that we don't think is the most important for them personally, if they are excited about it we need to go with it.  We can coach some of the other areas along the way.
We need to find areas that are high-leverage, meaning it "has great potential for improving the experience and outcomes of students, particularly those who are struggling the most...[and] would positively spill over into other areas" (page 123).  I really like the question she posed: "And what would that mean for students if your work improves in that area?" (page 123).  Perhaps if I frame the conversation with a focus on a broad area and then ask that question, it would help us to narrow it down to something more specific that we can focus on.

2. Identify standards and criteria
When I read this section, I thought of the ISTE Standards.  We have the content standards that the teachers are familiar with, but we actually haven't touched on the ISTE Standards... I'm wondering if that would be a helpful resource to frame the conversations around - expose them to the standards and possibly that would help them set some goals as well.  They would probably help more with the technological focus than the pedagogical one, but it could help narrow it donw.

3. Determine a SMARTE goal
When setting goals, we need to be clear about how they will be used, how often we'll reflect on them., and what their purpose is since teachers are used to "setting goals" that really don't mean much and rarely get followed up on.

The goal should NOT be an improvement in student learning, even though we hope that is what will result as well.  It needs to be focused on something that is within the teacher's sphere of influence - how do THEY want to improve?

What Aguilar wrote about being results-based struck a cord with me as well.  Instead of a goal being "I will use a collaborative Google Doc assignment", a more results-based goal would be "I will give at least once comment with feedback to all students before the final due date".


--Ok, so what I'm seeing so far is the fellow picking two broad-ish areas of focus.  One technological, which could be driven by one of the ISTE standards, and one pedagogical, which could be chosen from a list, or maybe even chosen from the CSTPs.  Once those are chosen, we need to narrow the focus down to actually determine some goals.  What would it look like if you _____? How would ____ affect students?  How would  _____ affect their learning?  I'm thinking that my list of "Coaching Focus" ideas that I gave my fellows to choose from at the beginning of the year were more like goals and we should have started with broad categories instead.  And those need to be written at the top of our agenda document once they are chosen to continually remind ourselves what our focus is.  The goals will change throughout the year as we  go through different lesson cycles, but they will all tie back in to the broad area of focus.  I need to use probing and clarifying questions to really help my fellows narrow down their area of focus and pinpoint something that would be high-leverage and that they would "own" as their own. --

4. Identify high-leverage activities
These are "the activities that will guide a client toward his goal" (page 130).  I am thinking these are mainly through the lesson cycles that we plan together - consisting of the prebrief, implementation, and debrief.  Ask the fellow what other activities would help them to meet their goal - model lessons? co-teaching? specific training? observing other teachers? Write these down!
Observations focused on the areas chosen can lead to growth as well - it's important to ask for permission to observe and give feedback on a specific point.  When you have a goal set, it's a lot easier to observe with a purpose and something that the fellow chose, not just what you notice that day.
Rather than asking disjointedly, "What would you like me to focus on today?" or "What would you like feedback on today?", that can be focused around one of the two areas of focus and thus stay connected to the large picture of growth.


5. Break down the learning
This step is done alone.  We think about the fellow's ZPD, what type of scaffolding the fellow would need to accomplish the goals, and plan how we will work on steering the conversations towards the goals.  This is an area I need to work on - letting the fellow lead the conversation based on their current needs, but always connecting it and steering it towards the areas of focus and goals we have chosen.  I think that will be a tad easier once we actually have those areas of focus and goals ;)

6. Determine indicators of progress
If the goals are objective, these will be easier to set.  Have the fellow tell you what the indicators should be and what you should look for - then you won't come across as judgmental or evaluative... you are simply giving the fellow the information they asked for!

7. Develop coaching theories of action
This is also done alone, it's like lesson planning for a coach.  What do I need to for my fellow to meet his/her goals?  What are MY action steps?

8. Determine coach's goals
Use the Transformational Coaching Rubric to choose a few areas of focus that I need to work on to be able to support this fellow in his/her goals.

9. Compile resources
What do I still need to learn more about? Who can I learn from that can help me with an area that is not my strength?

10. Present and celebrate the plan
Showing them the plan put together (1-4,6 written up) is "an opportunity for [the coach] to express confidence in the teacher's ability to learn and grow, to communicate excitement about the journey you are both embarking on, and to recall the connection between the client's gal and how children will be affected" (page 137).

Aguilar makes a comment near the end of the chapter that really resonated with me: "If we think about everyone as being on a continuum of openness to coaching and improving their practice, a coach shouldn't be used to work with those at the low end of that range. If someone is really closed down to being reflective or making change, it's a waste of a coach's energy to work there" (page 139-140).  The unique thing about my coaching position is that fellows apply to be coached.  That, oddly enough, does not mean that every fellow is open to being coached, being reflective, being committed to the process, or changing their practice.  I think it's part of the coach's job to help them become ready for change (through relationship and trust-building), but I would agree it's completely exhausting to work with teachers who refuse to try anything new or change anything about their practice.

In summary, a work plan is the road map to the end goal.  They should be flexible and will change over the course of the year  A more important goal may come up, or we may realize something more about the ZPD that changes our plan.  They are simply a tool that will help us on the journey.

*See sample Coaching Work Plan on pages 141-144

...Until Chapter 8...

Book Notes & Reflections: The Art of Coaching (Chapter 6: The Exploration Stage: What Do I need to Know at the Outset?)

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.

Aguilar starts off with the analogy of a farmer - a farmer can't just walk into a field (coach walking into a school), drop off a seed (deliver some PD), and leave.  We must know "what we're working with, the history of the environment, and the health of various elements" (page 98). In addition, we must realize as the coach the "the seed has a lot of work to do by itself.  In the end, you'll know that the beautiful melon is the result of a number of factors, many of which were beyond your immediate influence, but many others were not" (page 98).  

These are two great reminders.  There's a lot of work to be done before the soil (the school, the teachers, the administration) will be ready for certain types of PD.  I have definitely seen more openness as I've spent the last 1.5 years at my current site.  However, there are still a lot of areas I have to tread softly in and several ideas I have in my head that I am "testing the waters" with, trying to figure out when the best time would be to launch a new idea, as well as which teacher(s) (individuals, PLCs, departments, fellows, whole staff, etc) would be ready for it.

Second, I have to remember that I only have a small amount of "control" over the growth at as site or within individual teachers.  With my coaching skills (both the art and the science), I can have a certain amount of impact and steer things in the right direction, providing as much support as possible for a great outcome.  However, the seed (PD/coaching) and the soil (school/department/teacher background, history, experiences) have a large impact and I must come to grips with full growth not being within my control.  Certain teachers/departments/schools will struggle a lot more with growth because of factors I cannot control.  That doesn't mean I give upon them, but I must keep trying different approaches and not stress myself out over not feeling my impact has reached everyone.

So, this "exploration" stage of testing out the field and learning as much as I can about the school / department / fellow as I can is really important.   I don't think this is something that just happens at the beginning, but it has to start at the beginning.  Aguilar reminds us that we are gathering "stories..., not necessarily truths" (page 99) in this journey.

Aguilar gives 10 steps in exploration in this chapter:
1. Gather Relevant Documents
2. Gather and Analyze Formal Data - I like that she says "Coaches should not necessarily be 'driven by data,' but coaches need to be aware of data" (page 102). 
3. Initiate Informal Conversations - purpose is to "build relationships and expand your understanding of the site" (page 103).  Talk with teachers, students, parents, staff, etc.  Get multiple perspectives and learn as much as possible.
4. Uncover Knowledge, Skills, and Passions  - This is specifically for fellows - what are they interested in, passionate about, and what other things are they skilled at?  This must be done with purposefulness - yes, getting to know things about them helps build the relationship but the goal is to help them "see the parallels between what they already know how to do and what they are trying to do better" (page 103). How can we use what they already know and care about to help them move forward in their growth as a teacher?
The one place where this can be a struggle is with teachers who love to talk.  I want to value them as people and getting to know them,  but also don't want to spend an hour of our time just talking when we are all busy.  I haven't quite found a balance with a few, and am not that great yet at steering the conversation back to a purposeful focus and making sure I'm using the stories and information they are sharing to help me find ways to make connections to our work.
5.  Explore beliefs about change - I love the 2 prompts she shares:
- Tell me about a positive change you've made in your life as an adult, something that you felt good about, such as a change in how you eat, manage time, or exercise.  How did this change come about?  What prompted it?  What were the bumps and obstacles along the way?  How did you negotiate them?  At what point did you realize, "I've changed!"? How does it feel to have accomplished this change?  What did you learn about yourself in the process?
\- Tell me about a new skill you learned as an adult - maybe it was how to bake bread, surf, or create PowerPoint presentations?  What was the process like for you? What feelings came up? What was challenging? What did you learn about yourself as a learner? (page 104-105)

I am going to add these two prompts to my "beginning of year conversation" list.  The answers can tell me so much about how my fellow works, how they go about their learning, what type of guidance they seek, what frustrates them, etc.

6. Offer Personality and Psychological Self-Assessments - We found one this year that I really liked.  I had each of my fellows take it and then we talked through their results and I shared mine with them. 
7.  Observe the client - this is an opportunity to look for STRENGTHS!  I struggle with this at the beginning of the year because of all my non-fellow responsibilities that come up in terms of supporting the whole school.  I wonder what it would be like next year to set aside a day to just walk in and out of all my fellows classrooms multiple times throughout the day for 5-15 minutes as a time and just observe different times in their class, how they interact with different groups of students, etc.  Hmmm that would be interesting and provide some good insight into who they are.
8.  Conduct Formal Interviews and Surveys 
9. Look for the fires
10.  Engage in self-awareness exercises for coaches - I really do need to journal more (probably not bloggable material, but my own reflections from my experiences), but it needs to happen as soon after each meeting or observation as possible.  I find my days just flying by sometimes and not having time to sit down and journal in the middle of the day.  I wonder if I could use on of the teacher lounges, so I'm not "findable" in my office, and block of time each day to do it.  It would be more helpful if it was 5 minutes multiple times throughout the day, but I could start by finding a 30 minute chunk of time each day.  This would help me to process and plan.  I already spend about an hour at least on Fridays planning the agendas and such for the next week.  I could be taking care of that throughout the week, immediately after the current meeting or observations while it's fresh in my mind, after I spend some time journaling and reflecting about what happened and what my next steps are.
On page 117, there is a list of 11 question for "Coach Reflection: Stage of Exploration" that would be really helpful to journal through within the first few weeks of the school year.


...Until Chapter 7...

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Book Notes & Reflections: The Art of Coaching (Chapter 5: Beginning a Coaching Relationship: How Do I Develop Trust with a Coachee

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.

"Without Trust There Can Be No Coaching"
"Learning, reflecting, and taking risks are all scary." (page 75)  We must truly care about our fellows / coachees.  We must get to know them as people, not just according to rumors we have heard about them from others or our first initial impressions.  This isn't easy and I have found myself on multiple occasions assuming I know more about my fellow than I actually do.  I need to remember to take a step back, separate myself from anything I think I know, and get to know them from scratch as we build our relationships.  They must know we are invested in them and their success, and our relationship is individual and confidential. Trust is "the feeling of confidence we have in another's character and competence" (page 77).  Character is comprised of both integrity and intent.

From my personal experience, I have seen that trust-building is huge.  I definitely noticed a difference my second year at my site, because I had already started forming the foundations of trust with my new fellows through casual interactions the previous year.  It made getting started with coaching that much easier.  I need to constantly keep at the back of my mind that trust is about trusting each other's integrity, intent, and confidence in competence.  This goes both ways.  They need to trust that I'm going to do what I say I'll do, that I'm really there to help them and don't have a hidden agenda, and that I truly believe in their competence as an educator.  I need to trust that they will do what they say they will, that they are there to grow and challenge themselves in learning, and that they believe in my competence as a coach.  I can reflect on several specific relationships that struggled in one of those six areas and thus struggled throughout the coaching relationship.

Any coaching relationships starts off with an "enrollment stage", which has two goals: 1) determine the work that the coach will do with the client and 2) to gain the client's trust. (page 77)  I feel that my coaching position is unique in that I'm not just an "instructional coach", but a "digital learning coach".  That comes with pros and cons.  The positive side is that teachers know I am there to help them effectively integrate technology into their classrooms.  The negative side is that teachers think I am only there to help them with technology... I have found it difficult these first two years to find ways to help teachers articulate some goals at the beginning of the year beyond "get better at technology" or "have my students use their laptops at least twice a week".  I am reflecting and trying to find different questions I can ask or examples I can give that will help spur some of them on.  I did better this year in terms of presenting the TPACK model from our first coaching meeting, and helping fellows see the three interlocking areas that should not be looked at as entities in themselves.  However, articulating pedagogical goals is tough for those who are not used to actively reflecting or sharing with others - especially when in that "enrollment stage" of still building trust.  I mentioned in the previous paragraph that I felt I already had the foundation of trust set with a lot of my fellows for this year, but that cannot be taken for granted.  A teacher will not be willing to share their areas of weakness and where they want to improve until trust has been built and they are secure in the relationship.

I really appreciate that this book is the "Art" of coaching and not the "Science" of coaching.  Elena Aguilar states: "Coaching is not just a technical application of tools; following a step-by-step routine will not necessarily gain someone's trust... A coach needs to be able to reflect on [her] integrity, intentions, and communication skills in order to effectively build a relationship." (page 77-78) If coaching was a science, I'm sure I'd be an expert by now.  Instead, I feel like every day I'm learning more and more about what I need to improve upon, things I need to change, different strategies and approaches I need to try.  And even once I get better at those things, it will still be a journey of improving my craft, my "art".

So, back to building trust.  On page 78, Aguilar states, "We are reminded that everyone is on a journey, and we must accept people wherever they are at this moment".  My job at the beginning of the year is to find out where my fellow is on that journey, where he/she has been, and where he/she wants to go.  This is so valuable and can sometimes seem "rushed" at the beginning of the year when a fellow wants to jump in and start stuff with technology right away.  I was more intentional this year about explaining that the first month we would be doing things to lay the foundation for the school year, but it was still tough because I wanted them to feel like they were getting something out of it from the get-go.

Aguilar gives ten steps to building trust, which I will reflect on below:
1. Plan & prepare - Carefully plan the first few meetings by writing out the questions I want to ask.  Practice with visualization or role-playing.  This is my chance to show my competence, credibility, integrity, and character.  We have a "fellow first meet" set of questions that I pull from the first few meetings.  Page 80-81 of the book have some as well, and I think they are resources on her website because some of the ones I used this year are from this list before I had this book.

2. Cautiously Gather Background Information - The goal is not to go into the first meeting having preconceived notions from other people.  I have found this to be hardest from the administration - once they know who I am coaching you can tell by their body language and initial reaction quite a lot.  Sometimes they will share comments and thoughts, but I have to do my best to avoid those conversations that will influence my feelings about any fellows.  I already know from my personal life that I do not hide my feelings well on my face, and I don't want anything negative to come across in my facial expressions or body language with fellows. Aguilar recommends knowing as little as possible about a fellow before meeting him/her, with the exception possible of another trusted coach who understands what might be valuable to know.

3. Establish Confidentiality - This is incredibly important! I mention several times as we are setting the norms and expectations for the year that our relationship is confidential.  The only thing that gets shared is a great idea or lesson that I think would benefit another fellow, and in that case I ask the fellow, "Do you mind if I share this with some of my other fellows? I think they would benefit from it."   In terms of sharing with administration, I had to set that up last year where they knew I could / would not share details about my fellows.  They know who I am working with and some of the great things going on, but I have to avoid evaluative conversations.  This isn't easy and I haven't been perfect, but I am doing my best and constantly improving.  Aguilar recommends sharing who you are working with, how much time is being spent, the topics being covered, and the tasks (completely objective).  This will be a good structure for me to keep in mind when these conversations come up.  Be honest and completely objective.

4. Listen - We must listen deeply and with acceptance, which helps our fellow to develop confidence in us and our integrity.  Use active listening strategies such as restating or paraphrasing.  I have improved in this over the course of this year, using stems such as, "What I hear you saying is...Is that accurate?" or "Can I summarize what you said? ... Do I have that right?".  It shows that I am listening and helps keep us focused during the meetings.

5. Ask Questions - "Coaching questions can shift a client's perceptions, deepen learning, move actions, and transform practice" (page 85). Asking better questions has been a huge goal of mine this year, and I have worked on it by developing and / or finding (so many resources online!) question stems for different types of conversations.

6. Connect - Find personal connections!  I have "Check your Weather" as the first agenda item on every meeting as a reminder to check in with them personally, see how they are doing, and learn more about them as people.  I like how Aguilar says that learning personal details about fellows can help her "heart open and compassion expand" (page 86) 

7. Validate - "A transformational coach is a master at uncovering a client's assets" (page 86).  What are my fellows' strengths and how can I validate them in their work?  If I focus on being strengths-based, it will help the temptation to focus on the negative and become judgmental.  Every teacher has areas of strength and finding those will help to build the trust and set the stage when you begin working on areas of growth.  I must remember that when I am praising, I must be specific - no "Good Jobs!"  What exactly is it that I noticed?  We don't want to praise just to check a box for the week, but because it allows us to "hold a mirror up to [my fellow] and help him see his strengths reflecting back" (page 87). We can't underestimate this - this will mean taking time to reflect and plan a specific area of strength to highlight at the next meeting or debrief.  It will allow my fellow to work through the vulnerability they are sure to feel at the beginning of the year (I can't forget that they are feeling that way!!!) - they are signing up for something where they can "improve, grow, change, or transform" (page 86) and that can be scary.

8. Be open about who you are and what you do - Fellows want to know why I do what I do.  What is my goal? What is my agenda? Share this with them.  I think I communicate this through our goals at the beginning of the year - to develop technologically self-sufficient teachers, to transform teaching and learning through the effective integration of technology... but why do I  do it?  If I had to answer right now, I would say because I love partnering with teachers supporting them in their journey to improve in areas they want to work on and seeing success in ways that greatly impacts their teaching and their students' learning.

9. Ask for permission to coach - "We can damage our client's trust when we don't have permission and we push too hard... we want to be careful not to overstep trust levels" (page 89).  I hadn't thought about this too much.  I've definitely had coaching conversations where I could tell I was pushing a little too much, and I would either back down or reflect later that I should have.  Instead, why not address the issue head on and ask for permission to coach and approach the question or situation from a different lens?  Hmm I will need to think through this one some more about how it actually plays out in these situations.

10. Keep Commitments - don't commit to things that aren't really my job.  It can be tempting to "build trust" by helping teachers out with menial tasks, but that is only setting myself up for unrealistic expectations in the future and ones that not only will be a stress on my time but will damage the work we actually want to get done.  I'm not in the classroom to be a TA, I'm there to be a reflective partner with you while you are teaching.  I need to make sure I clearly articulate what my role is and not brush over it like they will understand.  Teachers are not used to having a coach in their room - they are used to having TAs, student teachers, administrative evaluators... not coaches.

...Until Chapter 6...

Monday, December 14, 2015

Back in the Classroom for a Day! Reflecting on my Teaching...

I had the opportunity last week to teach a lesson three times, for three different teachers that I work with as a group.  They also taught the lesson either before or after my model.  It was a great experience and reminded me of the importance of both the reflective process and risk taking.

This is the part of blogging that I miss :)

The lesson was introducing (or reminding) students to one-variable inequalities, what they mean, and what they look like on a number line.

In all three classes, I started off by giving each partner a whiteboard and marker, and displaying two numbers on the screen.  I started off with 3 and 7, and asked, "How do these numbers relate to each other?".  In each of the three classes, I got a lot of "they are both odd", "they are both numbers", "they are both prime", and I even got some students to talk about "they are factors of 21" and other math vocabulary.

Then, I changed the numbers to be 3 and 8, asking the same question.  I got answers like "They add to 11" or "They are factors of 24".  One or two students in every class got to what I was looking for, which is "8 is bigger than 3" or something to that affect.

I'm still trying to think through how I could have phrased the question better in order to help more of them understand what I was looking for, but during the lesson I resorted to singing a line from one of my son's number videos that says, "1,2,3,4,5,6,7 ... 4 is greater than 2, 3 is less than 5" or something like that.  Then, I got all the students to write at least two sentences: "8 is greater than 3" and "3 is less than 8".  Some students put the < or > notation on their boards right away.  However, after I wrote the two sentences on the board, I wrote a "math symbol sentence" like 3+5=8 and asked students how to write it in words.  Then, I asked them to look at their whiteboards and write what they had in words in symbols.  A lot of them remembered, although they still get the < and > mixed up.

At this point what I did in each of the 3 classes differed.

In the first class, I jumped right into the next activity, which was a Desmos Activity Builder about identifying numbers that are true for an inequality statement and writing the "math symbol sentence" to represent it.

I honestly can't remember what I did in the second class to transition anymore :)

In the third class, I spent some more time on the statement "3 is less than 8" and asked students what other number(s) besides 3 could fit in that statement and still make it true.  We went around the room and I had almost every student contribute a number.  I probably should have had them all write a number on a whiteboard and hold it up, but I didn't want any repeats so I went around the classroom whip-around style.  What we came to realize is that there are a TON of number that could be in the place of 3 in that statement, so we can write a generalized "math symbol sentence" of "x is less than 8" or "x<8".

That was a definite improvement for the third class because it gave the students some context for what type of answers we were looking for later.

In the Desmos Activity Builder, which was these teacher's first ever experience with it and put together in about 15 minutes as a "let's try it",  students were asked to simply drag a dot to any point that would make the statement true, and then try to come up with the "math symbol sentence" that would work for any answer.

In the first class, I had the students do slides 1-5 and then I pulled everyone back together to go over it. I used the overlay feature to show all the responses.  I hadn't done the context building that I described above from the third class, so it was a little tough getting the students to see how I wanted them to write the statements.  I kept the class very "together" and structured, but I wasn't very happy with it because I felt like there were a lot of students who were bored that were being held back and they weren't necessarily getting my point.  That's what happens the first time you teach something.

In the second class, I modified it a bit but still left with a feeling of dissatisfaction for reaching all learners at an appropriate pace for their needs.  I don't remember why I can't remember the details for that class!!  I'll have to ask the teacher.

The structure in the first two classes did allow me to model some strategies for classroom management with laptops.  I use the "half mast" strategy for when I want students attention - they have to put their screens halfway down so I know I have their attention.  I do feel like that was a success.

In the third class, I did something completely different.  Besides opening the class differently (as mentioned above), I divided the slides into three parts: 1-5, 6-9, 10-15.  I told the students that once they thought they were done with 1-5, they had to check in with me before moving on to 6-9.  Once most students were done with 1-5, I paused the class and pulled everyone back together to go over it.  One thing I didn't do that I regret is ever show the overlay to reinforce the idea of a generalized statement.

I really liked the third class. It reminded me of my "organized / controlled chaos" class where students are working on all different things at their own pace.  It was a little harder in this case, because I didn't know the students or their names, so I wasn't able to intentionally check in with the students who needed checking in with.  I was able to monitor results and tell certain students to "go back and look at slide 7", but I didn't actually walk over to them and check in with them in person.  I wish I had.

We did not "get through" nearly as much as they had wanted, as the students were also supposed to solve two step inequalities and graph them.  I spent the last 3 minutes of class trying to rush through an example when I should have just stopped everyone and summarized the day, doing some form of "exit ticket".

I'm not in the classes today so I can't do any follow-up, but I am debriefing with the teachers in just a little bit so we will see how it went from their perspectives and when they taught the lesson.

So in summary, if I had to re-do the day:
1. Start off with the same activity, but think of a better guiding question?
2. Use the transition I used in the third class to help students generalize what is true for an inequality with a "math symbol statement".
3. Allow students to move at their own pace through the sections like I did in the third class, but instead of just calling out students, go and walk over to them and have a conversation
4. Call the students back together at certain points in order to show the overlay and make some connections.
5. Call everyone back together with 5 minutes to go to wrap up, review, and do some form of "exit ticket" formative assessment to see what they got from the day. 
6. Keep equations for day 2 and don't try to rush into it!

Thoughts or feedback? Leave it in the comments!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Great articles / resources I've found lately

I just found out that I had a different Diigo account attached to my extension, so all my articles haven't been posting lately!  These are great finds over the last 2 months.
Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.
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