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.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. JOT Sessions

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

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

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

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

2. PlayDates

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

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

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

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

3. Mini-TeachMeets

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

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

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

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

You can see samples of the SlideDecks below.

4. Teacher-Led Choice Workshops

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

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

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

5. Speed Geeking

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

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

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

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

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

A few other reflections and comments

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

In the Future...

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

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Success of the Week: TeachMeet Beckman

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

It. Was. Awesome.

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

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

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

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

That was so much fun today! 

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

Framing Coaching Conversations around TPACK and a "Third Point"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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