Learning to Coach, Coaching to Learn pt. 5

I just finished the Eduro Learning Coaching: From Theory to Practice course with the AISQ8 leadership cohort. Since the our forum posts are private, I’ve asked my coachee if I could post my reflections on my blog. Thankfully she obliged!

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

Week 7
Create a coaching implementation plan that fits your school’s needs. Ensure that you:
*highlights specific strengths and weaknesses of current school structure with specific suggestions for improvement.
*provides specific steps for implementation (including your strategy for empowering learning leaders) with a realistic timeline.
*includes an overview and rationale for administrators to consider.
*include a reflective post in our forums that highlights your key learning from this course and how you will be able to apply and implement that learning in your setting, based on your Action Plan.

As this final project has loomed, I felt increasingly anxious about starting it. It took me quite a bit of reflection and several ah-ha moments to realize what was holding me back from moving forward.

  • I was intimidated. The project options seemed big and important. How was I supposed to create something that grand in a short period of time? Then I looked at previous final projects. I wanted my final project to be amazing (yes I’m a perfectionist) but felt too overwhelmed to even start.
  • I was focused on having all the answers. During a conversation today, I realized (again) that this project is simply an action plan. I need to make sure my action plan includes time for tuning in, finding out and sorting out before we make any conclusions. Those are my actions – I don’t need to have everything figured out right now.

Writing my post last week helped me find a focus for my project. I am most interested in the vision behind the coaches, ensuring that staff know our purpose and receiving regular feedback on our effectiveness. These originate from my biggest complaints during my 3.5 years in this position:
*we aren’t sure (or agree on) what our purpose is and neither is any other stakeholders.
*we haven’t received minimal feedback on our effectiveness.
This very quickly and easily leads to a closed heart (slide 60):

When you lead people, you often begin with a desire to contribute to an organization or community, to help people resolve important issues, to improve the quality of their lives. Your heart is not entirely innocent, but you begin with hope and concern for people. Along the way, however, it becomes difficult to sustain those feelings when many people reject your aspirations as too unrealistic, challenging or disruptive. Results arrive slowly. You become hardened to the discouraging reality. Your heart closes up.
Heifetz & Linsky (2003) Leadership on the line.

I’m not that person. But sometimes I become that person. I don’t want to be that person now or going forward. My action plan is intended to allow our hearts to stay open.

How do we stay visible, effective and mission-focused? During my action research project last year, I had the opportunity to work collaboratively with 4 AIS teachers in a Critical Friends Group setting. Although the participants were from 4 different subject areas and 2 different divisions, I felt as though this group coaching model allowed us to learn with and from each other. This model has the potential to be even more effective with more cohesive groups (grade level teams, departments, etc). My action research also forced me to think about evaluating the success of professional development. Gayton & McEwen offer evaluation levels for professional development (page 90). This might be a great place to start investigating how to evaluate the effectiveness of the coaching program (and coaches) at AIS.

Just as the IB Learner Profile is not something we do but something we live, I am looking forward to our action plans creating a culture of coaching at AIS. Instructional coaching has the potential to slowly become embedded in everything we do, to become our way of life.

Excited to continue this journey with you all!

Learning to Coach, Coaching to Learn pt. 4

I’m currently taking the Eduro Learning Coaching: From Theory to Practice course with the AISQ8 leadership cohort. Since the our forum posts are private, I’ve asked my coachee if I could post my reflections on my blog. Thankfully she obliged!

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

Week 6
Develop a strategy for supporting and empowering learning leaders in your school. This will become part of your action plan to be completed next week.

As we’ve progressed throughout this course, a couple things have planted themselves in my head and they’ve been bouncing around ever since. I don’t know the answers or if there even is a black/white answer. But I need to let them out for discussion & analysis.

To be a high-quality, sought-after coach, what level of content expertise is needed?
Effective coaching thrives not on quick fixes and ready answers, but on questioning and listening. (It’s All about the Questions)
If we are not meant to give advice but instead use questioning techniques to help “teachers explore the thinking behind their practices” and to come to their own conclusions about their practice, do we actually need to be content experts? Many of the U14 girls that I coach could outplay me in soccer. Does that mean I am not qualified to be their coach? How many years of teaching experience do I need in order to be considered for an instructional coaching position? Or do I “simply” need to have training and experience coaching teachers? My thoughts on this question vary on a daily basis. To effectively coach a teacher on integrating technology into their instruction, I probably need some level of pedagogical knowledge about technology integration. However if my main goal is not to walk into their classroom and impose all my ideas on them, what level of knowledge do I actually need? I have spent the last 3 years expanding my content knowledge through COETAIL and an MEd in School Tech Leadership. Going forward, I am increasingly interested in honing my coaching skills. This class has allowed me to find and sort out but I want to go (much) further. Right now I’m trying to figure out how I can finagle getting trained in Cognitive Coaching and become a Critical Friends Group Coach in the next 2.5 years. 😉

How much time should instructional coaches spend teaching students in other teachers’ classrooms?
If we are instructional coaches, how often should I be taking over a teacher’s classroom? Is is appropriate for me to spend a significant amount of time developing lessons (by myself) and implementing them in someone else’s classroom? Assuming that most of us went into education for the students, it’s difficult to be disconnected from the classroom, to lose the control that having your own classroom gives us. But if our primary job is to help teachers examine their own instructional practice (see above), how much time should I spend instructing? I waffle on my thoughts to this question less than I do the last one. If a coach is going to model a lesson, I believe that there need to be structures in place to ensure that the modeling/observation is a learning experience for both the coach and the coachee. It is counter productive for me to teach a lesson without the teacher in the classroom. Just as there is a pre-observation & debrief when the teacher is being observed by the coach, model lessons taught by the coach need to have these same meetings. After our Critical Friends Group last weekend and the current #AISQ8chat about 2015 successes, I’ve become a little obsessed with the Success Analysis Protocol (there are many versions of the protocol here and also many other observation protocols here). As Christina and I were chatting, we brainstormed using a Success Analysis for a modeling/observation. In the debrief, the teacher (observer) identifies a success from the coach’s (model) lesson, determines why it was so successful and then identifies how that success might have an impact on their own practice. Model lessons taught by coaches & observed by teachers might also be a great place to incorporate lesson studies. The relationship then becomes a collaborative, co-coaching relationship, instead of purely specialist coaching, that allows all involved to grow professionally. This kind of relationship is about “two creative people fine-tuning their best ideas” with a focus on student learning and great teaching.

Who needs a coach?
My thoughts on this one vary the least. Everyone. The question really comes back to how we define coaching: “The responsibility of coaches is ‘to help maximize personal and professional potential, while concomitantly upgrading their own professional proficiency. Coaching is customized and focused on providing instruction on what needs to be accomplished. Coaches tailor support, assess each teacher’s progress with observations, use interviews and surveys, and have follow-up visits. Teachers feel more motivated and responsible to act on new skills because coaching makes them personalized and customized on an ongoing basis’ (Wong & Wong, 2008).” Is our “personal and professional potential” ever truly maximized? If we employ a growth mindset, then there is always a need for a coach. If we make another link to athletic coaching, you’d be hard pressed to find an athlete in the world who doesn’t have a coach. Even professional and Olympic athletes have coaches. They know that their potential hasn’t been reached and they keep striving. At that level it is nearly impossible to find a coach that is a better athlete than they are. However all athletes at all levels still have coaches. Educators at all levels have the potential to get even better. And they need coaches to help push them to reach and exceed this potential.

Right now I’m most interested in the front-end and back-end of coaching at AIS.
Front-end:
During my 3+ years in the position of Technology Integration Coach, I feel as though we are the most obvious coaches (we have it in our title) however we are the least utilized. Why? My hypothesis has two major factors:

  • A lack of shared vision around educational technology.
    • If you asked educators at AIS why they should integrate technology into their lessons, you would probably receive as many different responses as their are staff members.
  • Teachers don’t understand our purpose (and maybe we haven’t always understood it either).
    • Unlike many of the other positions of leadership at AIS, no one is required to work with us in any way. Teachers have regularly scheduled meetings and collaboration with many of the other leadership positions (HoDs, Programme Coordinators, Literacy Coaches) however tech coaches have never had a consistent in-road to working with teachers.

My job title next year changes to Instructional Coach – Technology Integration. Both a shared vision and purpose are necessary for anyone in this position to have the opportunity to be successful going forward. I am most uncomfortable advertising my services however teachers need to know I exist in order to elect to work with me. My action plan needs to include vision & mission driven steps to make AIS staff aware of the benefits of working with people in my position.

Back-end:
At the end of the year (or my time here), how will I know that I’ve been successful? How will I know that I am competent at my job? I crave feedback. But it needs to authentic and valid. Some of the only feedback I’ve received from administration on how well I’m doing my job in the past 3.5 years has been based what they’ve heard from teachers. Do we base teachers’ worth and quality solely on what the students who choose to engage in discussion with admin have to say? No? Then we probably shouldn’t base a coach’s worth on the same thing. We need to implement feedback and assessment practices so that coaches have the opportunity to continue to learn and grow. The ISTE Standards for Coaches are a great place to start. My action plan needs to include steps for measuring and evaluating the effectiveness of coaching.

 

Learning to Coach, Coaching to Learn pt. 3

I’m currently taking the Eduro Learning Coaching: From Theory to Practice course with the AISQ8 leadership cohort. Since the our forum posts are private, I’ve asked my coachee if I could post my reflections on my blog. Thankfully she obliged!

Part 1, Part 2

If anyone has any experience with or research on peer coaching in an elementary classroom (Joanna teaches grade 3), I would love to chat!

Week 4
Observe a lesson with the colleague you have identified earlier. Share your experiences with course participants through a thoughtful reflection, including a summary of the lesson with key elements, strategies for coaching techniques you could (or did) use, ideas or suggestions for improving student learning. In a reflective post in our community, share the effectiveness of the strategy you used.

Week 5
In collaboration with the same teaching partner as before, have a post-observation coaching conversation. Share your experiences with course participants through a thoughtful reflection which includes: your use of coaching strategies, such as questioning, looking at student work, and conversation prompts, during the conversation; a summary of your learning as well as that of the collaborating teacher; several relevant ideas and insights for how to continue collaborating with this teacher to further improve student learning.

In the lesson I observed, Joanna used TumbleBooks to ‘read’ a book to her students. Previous to the lesson, she asked all students to bring their iPads & headphones to school. Four students did and were able to individually listen to and watch the book. The rest of the class watched together on the projector. After the book, Joanna engaged the class in discussion. Her questions included: Do stories teach us things? Why did I pick this book? What is something we learned from this book? Why did the boy put the puzzle piece in his pocket? Why did the boy’s mind change at the end? Why did it matter? After the discussion, the class took the short, multiple choice quiz (provided by TumbleBooks) together and then discussed their results. Students then worked individually and in small groups to create a presentation for the class about the Golden Gate Bridge (the focus of the book). Joanna asked them to include 1 picture and 2 facts in their presentation. [I had just spent about 2.5 hours with the class learning about how Contrast, Alignment, Repetition & Proximity can help people share ideas.]

I gave Joanna the choice of how she would like me to observe: Focus Point,Video Camera or Interesting Moments. She chose Interesting Moments however I also took notes as if it was Video Camera so that I would be able to refer back to what was happening during the interesting moments I noticed.

My Video Camera & Interesting Moments notes during Joanna’s lesson:

IMG_0932

notes

 

Our debrief took place on a Friday during lunch at an adorable cafe near our apartments. We ate mini-quiches and had personal discussions (we’re both big college football fans) before we dove into our debrief. We ended our ‘meeting’ with mini-pies and more personal conversation. I want to ensure that our relationship is strong so that we feel comfortable sharing with each other. We ended up spending several hours together – it was nice to have the time to spend together focused on relationship building and instructional practices.

To transition from our personal conversation to our debrief, we used Transitions. This was a great way to put an official end to personal conversations and move to the professional During our debrief, I wanted to make sure that I was not only asking her probing questions to push her thinking but also helping us be action-oriented, something she asked for during our initial meeting. Finding the balance and not simply giving her answers is something I am conscious of every time we talk. As we shared the interesting moments we saw with each other, I tried to direct my questioning so that we would be able to look at what these moments meant in the bigger picture. We noticed that her students had a wide range of ability when it came to doing research and creating presentations. I saw some students type in “Golden Gate Bridge” on Google then click to view only Images. Other students typed “1 picture and 2 facts about Golden Gate Bridge.” This was just one example of the range of skills I saw during their 15 minute work time. Our guiding question became “What, specifically, has to happen in the classroom to bring all students ‘up’?” We wondered how we could harness the students that were demonstrating creativity, problem-solving and outside the box thinking to bring the entire class up. This led us to discussing the possibility of a peer coaching model in her classroom. Joanna can support some of these skills with direct instruction, but it may be much more powerful for Joanna to be a facilitator and learning partner when students in the class have a variety of skill sets that they can support each other with. If anyone has any experience with or research on peer coaching in an elementary classroom (Joanna teaches grade 3), I would love to chat!

Notes I took during our debrief:

IMG_0933

During our debrief I found it difficult not to ask ‘why.’ I would start to ask a question and catch myself before letting ‘why’ slip out of my mouth. Why is such an easy question to ask! But it is not an easy question to answer and if Joanna had the answers to all of my why questions she probably wouldn’t need or want coaching. My goal is to help her process her thinking, not to imply that she (or I) have all the answers.

Looking back on our debrief, I would have liked to ask more probing questions to help Joanna ‘explore the thinking behind [her] practices.’ I would have liked to dig deeper into what she was thinking when she developed her lesson plan.Cognitive Coaching is definitely an area of growth for me (I already looked up seminars 😉 ). One way that I can grow in my coaching with Joanna to help explore Cognitive Coaching is to not only observe and debrief but also have a pre-conference. Although we did talk about her goals during our initial meeting, we did not pre-conference specifically about the lesson I would be observing.

Learning to Coach, Coaching to Learn pt. 2

I’m currently taking the Eduro Learning Coaching: From Theory to Practice course with the AISQ8 leadership cohort. Since the our forum posts are private, I’ve asked my coachee if I could post my reflections on my blog. Thankfully she obliged!

Part 1

Week 3
In collaboration with the teaching colleague you identified last week, select a focus for working together, including a lesson to observe in the next week. Have a pre-observation coaching meeting and use a coaching strategy in your conversation. Share your experiences in a reflective post in our community.

As I started thinking about the format of my first meeting with Joanna, I wasn’t really sure where to start. I wanted ways to ask questions and even some specific questions to ask. As I skimmed the readings, nothing popped out at me. I knew I wanted to discuss goals and giving/receiving feedback, but I didn’t really know what to ask and how to ask it. I needed coaching strategies.

Since I know that I process my ideas best through talking them out, I called Christina. As we were talking I realized that what I really needed was to pull from my experience as a Critical Friend. Through my time in Critical Friends Groups (CFG), I have come to understand that protocols can be guiding documents for conversation and coaching. After our conversation I realized that ACSD also recommends a Critical Friends approach to collaboration: “teachers became critical friends who enhanced one another’s teaching practice.” With this lens, it became much easier to plan a format for our discussion.

  • Each of our meetings will start with Transitions. This simple protocol allows “participants set aside distractions before beginning the work at hand.” I am particularly interested in “speak[ing] thoughts so we may release them and feel more connected to the here-and-now.” As our days are sometimes hectic, I find it powerful to start with an activity that creates a blank slate and helps us be present.
  • I will use this pocket guide to questions & feedback. Although I am quite familiar with this guide after participating in 3 different CFG, I brought this guide with me during our first meeting as a source of comfort. Yes – I was a little nervous!
  • I will check in with Joanna frequently during our discussions to make sure that I understand what she is saying. During our first meeting I took notes while she was talking; then frequently interjected with “What I’m hearing you say is…” so that we did not get too far with a misunderstanding. Clarifying questions also helped me to further my understanding of what she was saying.
  • I will use probing questions to further Joanna’s thinking and give her feedback in a non-threatening way. During our conversation about goals, I used probing questions to help me get to the bottom of her goals. I wanted to understand why she is interested in integrating technology, not simply the tools she wants to use.
  • I thought it was important as we embark on our coaching relationship to learn about Joanna’s preferences for receiving feedback. ACSD confirmed my thoughts – “Criticism stings, even when it’s offered with the best of intentions. It can provoke frustration, fear, and a sense of failure. It can stimulate resentment and resistance, undermine self-efficacy, and increase unwillingness to change. In short, it can make performance improvement less, rather than more, likely.” I want to make sure that the feedback I give her is builds her up instead of breaking her down. In order to find out about her preferences, I did a modified Feedback Nightmares protocol. I had her tell me about a time when she received feedback and it was a horrible experience. Then she told me about another time when she received feedback and it was a wonderful experience. These helped us see feedback themes that will help her grow during our work together.
  • We ended our time by coming up with a list of essential agreements that we could both abide by. Although this was a spur of the moment thought I had during our meeting, it wrapped up our first meeting incredibly well.

Joanna’s goals include:

  • integrating technology into all subjects (both teaching & learning)
  • using Twitter professionally
  • games (webquest)
    • review, fun, learning, putting ‘my spin’ on activities instead of getting them online
  • becoming comfortable so I use integrate technology more often
  • becoming comfortable with the resources we already have
  • fun yet educational
  • kids know more than I do
  • include technology in centers
  • Khan Academy (for centers) – use as resource & practice

When I pushed Joanna further with probing questions, she was able to articulate some deeper thoughts on why she is interested in integrating technology:

  • important because technology is where things are going
    be on par w/ other teachers
  • life skills
  • how I was taught vs I want to be a better teacher every year (yay for growth mindset!)
  • search vs creating minecraft world
  • learning vs memorizing

I then shared with her my goals for integrating technology and coaching:

  • authentic
  • meaningful
  • skill-based
  • improve student learning (keep the focus student-centered)
  • collaborate
  • reflection & growth
  • invisible
  • necessary

While we were talking the IB Learner Profile Traits on the classroom wall inspired me to connect her goals to the Learner Profile. Joanna chose the following traits to focus on:

  • Knowledgeable (Joanna) in order to become…
  • Risk-taker (J & Students)
  • Balanced (J & S)
  • Open-minded (J & S)

Joanna already knows that elementary is my area of least expertise. Sharing this with her again, we talked about how we will sometimes both have to be coaches during our time together. As Kim said (#4), Joanna & my expertise lie in different areas and we will be to be open-minded in order to learn from each other.

Joanna’s feedback nightmares lead to a list of ways I will be able to provide her with feedback that she will use to grow:

  • specific
  • focused on growth
  • tell the facts
  • probing questions (but not too many)
  • sharing ideas
  • include action plan
  • constructive

When creating our essential agreements, I made a point to let her know that we will check back in throughout our coaching to make sure that I am honoring our agreements and change anything necessary.

  • honest + open + comfortable = caring
  • consistent communication & check-ins
  • be present during our time together
  • ask for what we need (risk-taking) & be open-minded to other’s needs
  • action oriented

Our conversation left me feeling energized. I came away feeling as though I had channeled both my Critical Friend and PYP knowledge to start our coaching relationship off on the right foot.

 

Learning to Coach, Coaching to Learn pt. 1

In the spring while I was busy finishing up my MEd with UKSTL, I wondered what my fall would look like. How would I possibly stay busy and fulfilled? Looking back, I just have to laugh at myself. Of the many things that have kept me working (seemingly) nonstop is the Eduro Learning course, Coaching: From Theory to Practice. When this course first debuted last fall I wanted to take it right away but decided against it since I was still in the middle of my MEd. Fortunately for me, AISQ8 decided to pay for a cohort of leadership to take the course together. W00T! I love that we’re committing not only to a cohort model of professional learning but also the new commitment to coaching. Our forum posts are private and I’m not used to such a closed environment after COETAIL. I asked my coachee if I could post my reflections on my blog…thankfully she obliged!

Week 1
Briefly introduce yourself here (in our group forums, where all of our online conversations will take place) so I can get to know you a bit. In the same introductory post, can you please share: one key “Essential Agreement” you think AISK needs for coaching to be successful, and why; and
a goal you have for this course.

My name is Lissa and I’m a PK – 12 Technology Integration Coach. This is my 4th year in this position and in Kuwait. Before moving to Kuwait with my husband, I taught HS French in South Carolina. I’m a COETAIL grad & Coach and finished my MEd in School Tech Leadership in May. I love teaching and collaborating with teachers around the world to enhance student learning.

I’ve been excited to take this course since it debuted last fall. My goals are to further my thinking on what it means to be an instructional coach and to incorporate research based practices into my daily coaching practice.

An essential agreement that I think AISQ8 needs: We challenge & push each other to extend our professional practice in a way that exhibits the IB Learner Profile.

Week 2
In a reflective post on our course community, share your thoughts on the process of selecting a colleague to work with, including at least one goal for your work with this colleague over the next six weeks.

Even though I knew it was coming that I would have to pick a teacher to work with, I was still unprepared. When I took a minute to think about it, I thought it would be great to work with one of our current AIS COETAILers. I would be able to double-dip…I’m also a COETAIL Coach. When I reflected on going that route, I decided against it. The teachers starting COETAIL might already be a little overwhelmed and I didn’t want this to be just another thing on their plates. So I made a list of all the AIS teachers who expressed interest in COETAIL but weren’t able to commit for whatever reason. It turned out to be a list of several people I would love to work with. How to make the decision?!

Earlier this week Matt and I received an email from two grade 3 teachers. They were interested in having us come into their classrooms to teach their students about presentation programs they could use. After a few back & forth emails, we asked them if we could meet to chat and figure out a plan. Throughout the course of the discussion we decided that we would first start with how to present information (skill) and then transition into the programs (tools) they could use. We also realized that the expert in the room about prezi wasn’t one of the tech integration coaches, but one of the teachers. It was a planning meeting that reminded me of Diane Sweeney’s 5th ‘Practice for Student-Centered Coaching’ – we planned the big picture together instead of us simply telling them what we would do. Further, our discussion was pedagogically driven, not simply tool driven (p. 53).

Last night when I reflected on my list of candidates (which included one of the grade 3 teachers above), I felt as though she had chosen me. Clearly she was interested in technology integration and our planning conversation resonated with her. W00T! I emailed her before I left school to ask if we could chat today, I had a favor to ask her. Today I went with my little sticky note of what I would be asking of her. I was nervous! Turns out she was nervous too – she wasn’t quite sure what I could possibly need from her. When I asked her, she told me she was honored and excited. And wanted to give me a hug. Wow. Although I’ve realized during the last 3+ years as a coach how important relationships really are, our conversation and Kim’s post really hit home. We went on to talk for the next 15 minutes about graduate programs and college football. I believe that our first interactions went a long way towards her seeing me as “approachable, dependable, collaborative, friendly, and above all, willing and able to support their needs.” We both went from nervous to super excited to work together. Bonus: Andria is working with the other grade 3 teacher that took part of our meeting. As friends, I think it will be great that they are both getting coaching from this group. I can’t wait for our journey to begin!

One of my goals for coaching during the next 6 weeks is to focus on teaching and learning, not simply the technology. I want to ensure that we are working towards effective teaching in order to improve student learning. I want to stay away from taking the easy way out and defaulting to tools. Our goals need to be based on effective pedagogy and student learning, not the cool new tech tools.