Sunday, September 20, 2015

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

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

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Book Notes & Reflections: The Art of Coaching (Chapter 1: How Can Coaching Transform Schools?)

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.

What is a coaching stance?  It is one that "views teachers, principals, and all the adults who work in schools as capable of changing practices". (page 5)  As a coach, I have to believe that people can learn and change - otherwise, why am I even coaching?  Secondly, I also have to have a "big picture" viewpoint of how the school's history and the "larger systems" impact my coaching work.  I have definitely noticed this shift over the last year working as a coach.  I see a lot more of the big picture and all of the moving parts that go into the work that schools and districts do.  Part of this increased awareness (I won't quite say "understanding" yet) is because of my experience in my administrative credential program as well.  As a classroom teacher, I was not aware of a lot of the workings at the higher levels and my focus was much more narrow.  I appreciate seeing the bigger picture, even though it does bring a different level of stress to my position.

I love how Elena Aguilar describes coaching as "a form of professional development that brings out the best in people, uncovers strengths and skills, builds effective tams, cultivates compassion, and builds emotionally resilient educators." (page 6)  I want to make sure I am always bringing out the best in the teachers I work with.  To paraphrase what Aguilar says, I want to meet my fellows wherever they are, accept them where they are in their current learning trajectory, encourage and support them in their current place, push them to continue to grow and improve - all in order to help them be a more competent practitioner than they are currently.

Why coaching?

  • "Coaching can build will, skill, knowledge, and capacity." (page 8)  Building skills and knowledge are the two that I feel come more quickly because they are more surface-level.  To build up a teacher's will requires a deep relationship of trust fostered as well as time.  For some teachers, a light bulb will go on and their will shifts quickly.  For others, it's a battle to fight against ingrained practices.  One of my ultimate goals is to build capacity in my fellows.  I want them to be confident, technologically self-sufficient teachers who have the capacity to explore, play, experiment, and try new technology that could impact teaching and learning beyond our year together.  I think that is how I measure my success with them: as I look at my fellows from last year, are they continuing on with what we learned last year?  Are they trying even more things continuing to grow?  If so, I think I had a successful journey with them.
  • "A coach can foster conditions in which deep reflection and learning can take place, where a teacher can take risks to change her practice, where powerful conversations can take place, and where growth is recognized and celebrated."  (page 8) 
    • One of my focuses this year is on increased reflection.  I have already had the conversation with each of my fellows about the importance of reflection and how we will reflect together orally in our meetings but also individually via our journal weekly.  I really hope I improve in my facilitation of the reflective process this year and that my fellows see the importance of it.   
    • The risk-taking thing is also important, and was mentioned in our "norms" for the year.  I really sense the teachers on campus as a whole more open to risk-taking and trying new things this year.  
    • I haven't really thought about how I recognize and celebrate growth outside of the reflective conversations where we see success and improvement.  Is there something more or different I could do?
  • "Effective coaching encourages collaborative, reflective practice." (page 8)  This is what I want to facilitate, as I mentioned above.  I'm a collaborative thought partner, and I strive to help facilitate a model of collaboration that could be replicated with their colleagues and PLCs even beyond the fellowship.
  • "Coaching supports teachers to improve their capacity to reflect and apply their learning to their work with students and also in their work with each other." (page 9)  Don't we love the phrase "improve their capacity" :).  I feel like I have heard it so much over the last year. 
  • "The likelihood of using new learning and sharing responsibility rises when colleagues, guided by a coach, work together and hold each other accountable for improved teaching and learning." (page 9)  Several of my fellows mentioned that they are looking forward to the fellowship because of the increased (positive) accountability it puts on them to really apply their new learning and make some changes in their classroom.
Here is a visual I provide for my fellows as we start our work together, that I think lines up with a lot of what Aguilar says.

Aguilar addresses a concern that I've had - there is no formal training for teachers entering into a coaching role.  As teachers, we go through a year long credential program with student teaching, evaluations, and hands-on learning.  As a coach, we have a little bit of training, talking about best practices and expectations, but there's not really a "program" to go through.  Being self-directed, I went through ISTE's Coaching Academy, which was incredibly helpful for me.  I've also read numerous books on coaching and got connected with other coaches to learn from them.  But, it's definitely more "all over the place" in terms of training.  Most coaches are teachers who have done great things in their classroom, but how does that translate over to coaching?  It's a completely different skill set that must be learned, practiced, and refined.  I feel so much better starting my second year as a coach than last year, but I know I still have so much more to learn.  Aguilar says, "While content and pedagogy are foundational knowledge for a school coach,there are many more skills and capacities required for working with adults." (page 10) I am planning on learning more about adult learning theory this year and improving in that area.

A great resource on pages 12-14 are a list of questions for potential coaches to ask at an interview as well as questions that the interviewer may ask the potential coach.  Some of them are pretty tough and I'm not sure if I even have a clear answer right now.  I think they may be good discussion questions for my team of DLCs to have during some of our Round Table discussions on Wednesdays.

One final quote to close up my Chapter 1 reflection: 

"Coaches encourage us to explore our core values, behaviors, beliefs, and ways of being and compel us to venture into new behaviors, beliefs, and ways of being.  It is this essential combination of safety, support, encouragement, and forward movement that makes coaching feel so satisfying, that allows us to make changes in what we do, and even to transform who we are." (page 15)

...Until Chapter 2...

My Life as a Digital Learning Coach - Week 2 Reflections (Year 2)

See all my posts on Coaching on my Coaching Page

Time flies when you're having fun, right?

I'll start with the highlight of my week.  I was coming into work on Thursday and ran into a fellow on my way into my office.  She asked me if there was any way she could digitally collect student responses using something like "clickers" to some multiple choice questions so she could easily calculate the percentage of students who had gotten it right.  My response - why, of course!  We had about 15 minutes until class started so I asked if she wanted me to set something up for her to try during 2nd period, and she was all for it.  We used Socrative's quick question feature, which basically requires no setup.  She projected the questions on her document camera and students just saw answer choices A,B,C,D,E on their screen.

It was a coincidence that I actually had 2nd period free on Thursday, so I was able to visit her class to provide support.  We didn't get to do much prebrief or talk pedagogy or any of that, so I was interested to see how she was going to facilitate it.  It ends up that Eric Mazur came and spoke at the school several years back and she learned about his Peer Instruction strategy.  It was so awesome to see another teacher model the Peer Instruction strategy, and it was made so much more effective by the use of Socrative.

Here's what she did:
1. Put the question up on the screen, asked students to respond.
2. She looked at the data as it was coming in to see if she had a high enough percentage of students getting it right (60%-ish) to do the next step.
3. Students were NOT told what the answer was (one of the benefits of not projecting the Socrative Teacher Screen and one of the downsides of using Kahoot like I did in my classroom several years back), but had to find someone that had a different answer than them to try to convince of their own answer. 
4. After about 2-3 minutes, the teacher re-asked the quick question on Socrative to see if there were different results.

At this point, she may show the Socrative results on the screen (if the majority of students now got it right).  She may ask some more probing questions, have them do some more discussion, do a little focused instruction, and then re-ask.  She really had so many options based on the student data she was gathering.

Halfway through 2nd period, I had her download the Socrative teacher app so she could walk around the room and be seeing results coming in live rather than having to look at her teacher screen. 

We got to very briefly debrief the activity before she did it again for three more classes.  Before tech, she would have had the students hold up their answers on whiteboards.  She would have had to try to calculate a rough percentage in her head, and students could easily "cheat" and see what their classmates were putting on their board.  Or, she might have just given all of them the problems in a packet and given them time to work through them individually and then time to ask each other questions or address them as a whole class.  However, with the tech, she was able to do so much more with the data and facilitate a much more rich, engaging, student-centered learning environment.  As my colleague Andrew has said, the tech allowed her to Capture, Sort, Assess, and Discuss student thinking.  Loved it!

We get to meet as a DLC team once a week on Wednesday mornings.  One hour of that time each week is structured for a "round table" discussion where we can bring whatever we need to talk about to each other.  We use Slack as a communication tool throughout the week, which has been hugely helpful in keeping us connected and asking a lot of questions throughout the week.  Then, the things that we still want to discuss in person can be brought to the round table.  This week was our first round table and it was really valuable.  We were able to share about how we are organizing stuff for our fellows, what our first meetings are looking like, and other issues or best practices we have come across in the last week.  I'm really looking forward to this time every week.

One of the biggest tools we are all learning more about is Google Classroom.  Our district had it blocked at the beginning of last year so I never really started exploring it.  I learned Doctopus and became a huge Doctopus fan.  While Doctopus still has some features that GC doesn't [yet!], such as the ability to push out collaborative documents and the easy rubric grading right there, I am really going over to the GC side of things.  The tweak for collaborative documents (only have one group member open the template, share it with the rest of the group members) is not that difficult.  As I've played with it more and more from both a teacher side and student side, I can really see GC being the "Kool-Aid" that teachers will drink to get them a little more hooked on tech in a positive, purposeful, effective way. 

I did a training on Wednesday afternoon on using our Epson Interactive Whiteboard.  The teachers have had them for years, but never really learned how to use them.  I was somewhat familiar with it, but I definitely had to brush up on my skills.  It was lovely to find out 30 minutes before my training that the toolbar installed on most teacher's computers can't be downloaded anymore - you have to get an updated version which looks a lot different.  The new toolbar has a lot of better features and is a little easier to manipulate, but I didn't have the time to play much before the training :)

Anyways, with anything like this, I did my best and the 14 teachers that showed up learned more about the whiteboard, got hands-on practice (I had 3 classrooms available to use), and then at the end I showed them the new version they could download.  When I went home that night, I made a 7 minute screencast on all the new features and then followed up with teachers the next two days on calibrating their projector and getting them started.  

So, interactive projectors used to be all the hype, and I know why a lot of teachers don't use them (the pen does take some getting used to).  However, even the simple fact of being able to highlight over text and then save images of what is on the projector to post on Haiku for future reference really does add value to it as a tool.  I hope to see more teachers using it for the times in class when they are going over instructions or delivering some focused instruction.

Last but not least, one of my favorite new tools is  I always call it "Go Formative", but it's really just "Formative".  They just released (today) their updated Summary view on their live results page.  Still some quirks and stuff but overall a tool I'm very excited about in terms of capturing student thinking and student data in a way that can make a difference in teaching and learning.  If you haven't checked it out, do it now! :)

Until next week... I'm on a 2 week roll now ;)

Monday, September 7, 2015

Book Notes & Reflections: The Art of Coaching (Introduction)

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 author, Elena Aguilar, describes her experience being coached as one where she felt "stretched, but supported".  This is how I want my fellows to feel.  I want to push them just a little past their comfort zone, but make sure they confidently know that I am there on the ride with them.  My area for growth is in how to effectively "stretch" adult learners in an appropriate way that challenges them and makes them feel valued.  Aguilar says her coach "asked provocative questions... guided [her] to look at situations from a perspective [she'd] never considered... pushed [her] to try something different in [her] work." From my (one year) experience with coaching, it seems easier with certain teachers to do this than with others.  Part of this goes down to the foundational level of relationship, but part of it is also personality and communication style.  How do we make it work with all types of teachers (not in the same exact way for all, obviously)?

What is Transformation?  Aguilar pushes for "coaching for transformation", so it's important to define what transformation is.  She says that it is "an end result almost unrecognizable from its previous form, a change so massive and complete, so thorough and comprehensive that until we are there, it is unimaginable."  As I reflect on last year, I do see some teachers whose practice was transformed, but others that definitely were not.  I must remind myself that transformation does not happen in a year, and I may have just helped to plant some seeds with the teachers I work with that will lead to a transformative journey.  Thinking about this definition is actually a little scary because we don't know where we will end up.  It's risky, and a little hard for my "goal-oriented" brain to wrap my head around that we are working towards a goal that isn't clearly defined.  Just a few paragraphs later, Aguilar says that coaching is challenging for the goal-oriented or those that like working in a linear progressions; however, she then states that "goals and plans will be crucial for this journey, as long as they are guides and not dictators."  Phew!

Coaching for transformation is not just about coaching individual teachers, but about helping change the whole system.  This seems daunting, but it's important to understand that it takes time.  I must remember this one "simple" fact:  "While the whole system may take generations to transform, the coaching [I] do today can impact students immediately.  The effort is well worth it for them."

...Until Chapter 1...

My Life as a Digital Learning Coach - Week 1 Reflections (Year 2)

I've wrapped up my first "official" week back to work, starting my second year as a Digital Learning Coach.  "Official" means that I've been back sporadically for pre-school events since August 10th, but now the teachers are back and students started last Tuesday.

The beginning of the year has been much crazier than last year, and I really think it's because of the relationships I was able to build with teachers over the course of last school year.  At this time last year, I was brand new, was just figuring out Haiku (our LMS) and everything else myself, and didn't really know anybody.  Now that I've built the foundation with the teachers at my site, they are much more comfortable coming and asking for help, whether it be a quick question or something more involved.

[For those of you that are new to my blog... My role as a Digital Learning Coach has me at one high school site 4.5 days a week (the other .5 day I'm with the other DLC's across the district, there are about 12 of us for grades 6-12, 6 middle schools and 4 high schools).  I support all of the teachers at the site (110) but specifically focus my work on teachers that have applied to be "fellows" in a year-long Tech Fellowship.  This year, I am working with 11 teachers: 5 math (3 of them as a group, the other 2 individually), 2 social science, 3 English, and 1 Science.  You can read a little more about my coaching setup and other details on my Coaching Page here.]

On Monday, which was a Teacher Work Day, I opened my schedule up for my new fellows first, and ended up being booked solid from 8am-3pm (with a 15 minute lunch :)), working with 10 teachers, 8 of them being new fellows.  Most of them were just getting set up for the year, needing help on Haiku or Google Classroom.  However, with a few of them we actually designed some "First Day of School" activities using Padlet. 

For the Padlet Activities, students wrote their name with an adjective (you know, like "Creative Crystal" or something like that), wrote something about them (one teacher had them write 3 facts about themselves, another had them write the best part of their summer), and then take a selfie with their webcam to post to the wall.  Both teachers who used this activity loved it and said the kids were engaged.  In addition, they were able to get to know the students more quickly, as well as the students learning about their classmates.  They used the privacy settings to "Moderate Posts" so the students didn't see each other's posts until the teacher approved them.  This allowed the students to not be as apprehensive in posting their picture because it wasn't going to appear right away - they would have time to "retake" it if needed.

Google Classroom was presented at our Summer Institute and there are a TON of teachers (fellows and non-fellows) on board with using it.  While I still love my Doctopus (mainly due to the ability to push out documents in groups, the ability to view assignments both by assignment and by student, and the ease that Goobric is with it), teachers that have not really used Google Drive with their students before are jumping all over it!  There is so much potential for transformative, formative, feedback-based instruction when students use Google Drive for their work.  I'm very excited for this, if you couldn't tell :)

On Tuesday, we had a training with our team of DLCs, and we had some great discussions and did some activities to help frame our work for the year.  Our "Word of the Year" is YET, which goes along with the District's summer reading book of "Mindset".  We are not perfect, we are still growing, we are not there... YET!  

One of my favorite activities was a Communications Style Survey / Discussion, which you can find here.  I am dominantly a Thinker, and it was great to reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of my dominant communication style and how to improve communication with those of different styles.  I am doing this survey with my fellows over these first few weeks as well.

Wednesday started my first "real" day on site.  Thankfully I did not open up my calendar to teachers in the morning because I had plenty of work to get done.   Over the next 3 days, I met with 18 teachers in person, worked with 2-3 over the phone, and countless more via email.  I've decided to continue using Doodle for my appointment calendar for non-fellow teachers to schedule time with me.  I've found it very easy to add to my calendar each week (I try to be scheduled about 2 weeks in advance), and I get an email (and a push notification from the Doodle app on my phone) anytime a teacher signs up for a time.  I do have to manually add it to my calendar, but otherwise it's very simple.  I did try using Google Calendar appointment slots last year, and I just ran into too many kinks that I tried Doodle and liked it. 

I was able to have my "initial fellow meeting" with nine of my eleven fellows this week.  The purpose of the initial meeting is to have a conversation, get to know one another, and launch some ideas for the year.  My initial meeting had three main parts:

1. Conversation about Coaching Experience & Expectations
I gathered different questions from multiple books and resources this summer and had an informal conversation with my fellows.  I didn't ask every question to every fellow, but I did take notes as we talked so I could remember the key things they said.  I didn't use these questions last year so I didn't know exactly how it would go.  I ended up being really happy with how it opened our discussion and set the focus for the year. Some of the questions I found very useful were:

  • Have you worked with a coach before?  If so, describe your experience and what did / did not work well.  What has prompted you to explore coaching now?
    • Most of my fellows had worked with a coach in a non-academic capacity before, such as in athletic coaching, and we were able to begin to make the connection between their role and my role.  I like how several fellows said the coach "Gave her exercises to do, babysat her while she did them and helped her through it, and would tweak things if she wasn't doing them correctly in order that she would do them more effectively". One even mentioned the coach "anticipating where he would go wrong, knowing the pitfalls and trying to avoid them."
    • Some quotes (paraphrased / summarized):
      • "I don't know what I could do with what I already do to transform it in a technological way"
      • "I see all the things other teachers are doing and want to do it as well.  Coaching gives me somebody to teach me and walk me through it so it's not so overwhelming" 
      • "I want ways to make things easier - I'm not 100% sold that all "this stuff" will make students more successful right now"
      • "I always want to be growing and learning.  I don't feel comfortable jumping in and exploring myself because I need to be taught more.  I get overwhelmed by too many ideas because I think I should know them all right now and put too much pressure on myself.  Coaching will help with all of this."
      • "I'm comfortable with technology and like what it has to offer, but want to be held accountable to go and explore more things with a little more push.  I'm more interested in how the technology actually affects pedagogy and less just how to use it."
      • "I'm always learning and want to maximize the way I do things.  I want more hands-on practice beyond just a conversation."
      • "I'm a huge fan of tech but want to be able to combine that with my love for teaching.  I want to use tech in a meaningful way, but not just use it to use it - it needs to benefit my classroom."
      • "I like having the support and consistency of meeting, as well as the positive accountability that coaching provides."
  • What are you hoping to get out of being coached?  What do you hope your students will learn as a result of our work?
    • This is a great question to see where they are at - do they see me as a "tech-fixer", do they see the bigger picture of how technology should support pedagogy?  Do they see the connection (and importance) of impacting student learning?
    • Some quotes (teacher gains)
      • "I don't want to learn 500 things and not remember any of them.  I want to practice the same things over and over again to get good at them" 
      • "I want to not be afraid of using new things anymore"
    • Some quotes (student gains)
      • "Students gain resourcefulness from using different tools and use that to their advantage"
      • "Allow students to think at a higher level, engage them more, less busy work, be curious"
      • "Make learning more meaningful for students, improve engagement, improve student self-direction in their learning"
      • "Give them a more rich / dynamic experience; allow them to organize things to their advantage.  Have them know how to use different apps / programs more fluidly so they can focus on the learning."
  • What is your understanding of what coaching is and what my role is?
    • I phrased this more like, "If somebody walked in that didn't know me or my purpose, how would you explain my role and purpose to them?"
    • This was another eye-opening question to see how much they understand the big picture of my role.  I was very happy to not hear things like "fix my tech problems" - most if not all of my fellows saw at least some aspect of the pedagogical / technological connection. 
    • Some quotes:
      • "A person knowledgeable in technology that also taught math who can show us how to incorporate tech with both routine stuff (help the teacher) and with the content (help the teacher help students)"
      • "Can help me learn how to make tech and math complement each other instead of clash with each other"
      • "Expose me to the technology that is out there and then help me learn how to effectively use the ones that I choose"
      • "Assist me in creating and implementing lessons that have new technology in my classroom.  Show me tools that I didn't know existed and help me figure out why to use different tools."
      • "Someone who is 'more expert' in technology than me that I can have conversations with about pedagogical approaches and can act as a sounding board for thinking through ideas."
      • "Give me support in new ideas and ones that I have had little thought on; a resource so she can stop focusing on the 'annoyances' of technology and actually be able to use it in my lessons."
  • What concerns do you have about our work together this year?  What challenges do you foresee us facing?
    • Different challenges mentioned were time, pressure (internal and external), concerned if things don't work having to go back and reteach, concerned about making sure the line between "tech support" and "coaching" is clear, being able to give appropriate feedback with larger class sizes, making sure students actually bring the technology with them.
  • More individual / personal questions:
    • Is there anything I should know about you that would help me in my work with you or make our work more effective?
    • What do you know about the way you learn and communicate best that would be important for me to understand?

2. Explanation of Digital Documents on Haiku and Google Drive
I pushed out several different documents to them at the beginning of the year for our work together.  I talked them through the organization (all the Google Docs are embedded on Haiku as a type of portfolio for the year) and the purpose of several of the documents we'll be using throughout the year.  This was fairly brief and I just wanted them to see that the documents on both sites were the same, understand the "running documents" we will keep throughout the year (agendas, lesson plans, tech toolbelt, sharing log, and journal) as compared to ones we will look at just as we get started and set the stage ("first meet" discussion questions, coaching focus, norms, tech proficiencies, classroom management plan)

3. Our Purpose, Commitments, and Plan for the Year;

  • I explained how I describe my role to others, which for a lot of them closely aligned with at least some of their comments:
    • To develop technologically self-sufficient teachers
    • To enhance teaching and learning by effectively integrating technology into the learning activities
    • To facilitate a non-evaluative, collaborative partnership always seeking to improve teaching and learning.
  • I talked about the non-evaluative relationship we have and that they will see me talking to admin about whole-school issues but our coach-fellow relationship is confidential.  While there is already a foundation of trust between me and the fellow since this is my second year at the school, I still feel like it was important to address up front.  If I had any fellows that were brand new to the school and didn't have a previous relationship with me, I may go into this a little bit more and do some more trust-building.
  • I explained the coaching cycle [prebrief - implementation - debrief] that we'll start in a couple weeks after we work through the foundational "big picture" technology.
  • We looked at how TPaCK relates to both our relationship and how we approach things.  I told them the "sweet spot" is where content, pedagogy, and technology all overlap and that both of us bring different strengths in all three of those areas. Our goal is to work together to enhance all of those areas and make sure we consider all three when planning lessons.  I described the way we approach lessons is, "What content are you teaching?", "How are you planning on teaching it?", and then "What tools would support / improve / enhance what we want to accomplish?".
  • I gave them a "homework assignment" to begin reflecting on some pedagogical focuses for this year.  I asked them to come up with at least one "big idea" focus to start the year off (although it will change throughout the year and with each coaching cycle).  This will help to launch our discussion next week as we continue to get to know each other, talk through some different topics such as Norms for our meetings, Classroom Management with Tech plans that they have, the importance of reflection and how that will look this year, and begin working on the "tech proficiencies", which are the "big picture" things that will be used throughout the whole year like Haiku, Google Drive, Google Classroom, etc. 

This first week really was great and I'm looking forward to working with all of my amazing fellows this year.  I hope to continue to blog once every 1-2 weeks... we'll see how it goes this year :)
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