New year, new adventure, new resumé

Every time I sit down to write a blog post I look at the date of my last post and I’m like…really!? It was that long ago?! I have only posted twice this year. What?! I have so much more to say than that! And then I remind myself of all the amazing, fulfilling things that are taking up my hours (besides sleep).

  • My full time job as an Instructional Coach (Technology Integration) at #AISQ8 is going as well as it has in my 6 years in the position. We’ve moved offices this year (yay for a true Learning Commons!) and I truly enjoy coming to work.
  • I coached 2 sports last year (u14 girls’ soccer and track & field) and my 1st of 3 seasons this year just started (u14 girls’ soccer, JV girls’ soccer and track & field).
  • I spent an amazing spring break & summer at home in Pure Michigan with family. We just can’t resist our adorable nieces!
  • Jeff and I spent 2 wonderful weeks in Italy (our first time back since he proposed in 2008) and I soaked in every minute of my 8-day Cognitive Coaching Foundation course.

Oh…and I’ve been working as the Managing Director (and Marketing Manager) for COETAIL since March! I bought hardcore into the COETAIL philosophy as an Online ’13-14 participant and I was pumped when they announced that they were hiring in February…so I applied for every position! If you’re a current, grad or potential COETAILer, you’ve probably received an email (or several) from me since March. It’s been busy but I have loved every minute of my new challenge and I feel supported by the entire COETAIL team and community. As Jeff and I continue our life adventure, I can’t wait to see where the amazing connections we have made take us!

I finally took the time to update my resumé (to complement Jeff’s) and thought I’d share it here with my professional/life update. I hope that school years around the world are starting off well!

Click here to view PDF version

Days 1-3 of #CriticalFriends Group Coaches’ Training at #AISQ8

I’ve participated in Critical Friends Groups for the last 3+ years at AIS. Thanks to Christina (now a NSRF International Facilitator!), CFG Coaches’ Training was brought to Kuwait! Sixteen educators from 4 different schools in Kuwait participated in the first 3 days of the training. One of my hopes for the 3 days was that I would go to school on Sunday morning feeling inspired, not tired. During the next 3 months we will practice facilitating protocols in our own contexts and then reconvene in March for days 4 & 5. Afterwards, we’ll officially be Critical Friends Group Coaches and be able to lead our own CFGs!

Every time I engage in #CFGwork, I learn more about myself and my profession. My biggest takeaway from this weekend was that my West-ern tendencies support me as a facilitator but I was able to channel my East & South and allow others to make meaning from participating in & facilitating CFG work. I am most grateful for the opportunity to do CFG work with colleagues outside of my school. It was enlightening and refreshing to connect & grow with other educators in Kuwait (not something we do very often!). I already can’t wait to gather with them in March to finish our training! It’s Sunday…and I’m definitely still inspired and not too tired 🙂

Here is the learning that we shared (via Twitter) during the first 3 days of our training. Below are the pictures I took to record & share my experience.

Consciousness & competence: I have questions

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about unconscious incompetence. It’s nothing new and there’s lots out there that you can read about consciousness and competence [Learning a New Skill is Easier Said Than Done, Consciousness & Competence, & The Four Stages of Learning among many others]. There are a variety of ways that these have been interpreted (see articles). I understand that learning is a process and we all need time and support to achieve unconscious competence.

But I have questions.

Should we be striving for becoming unconsciously competent? If you’re unconsciously competent, are you still learning? Are there skills/areas that you can never become truly competent in without continual learning and growth? Is the education sector one of those? Many US states mandate continuing education credits for educators. That could imply that the journey to competency is never ending.

For some reason it seems that unconscious incompetence is a plague in adulthood. It’s pretty common among children too but we can easily forgive them.

An ignorant mind is precisely not a spotless, empty vessel, but one that’s filled with the clutter of irrelevant or misleading life experiences, theories, facts, intuitions, strategies, algorithms, heuristics, metaphors, and hunches that regrettably have the look and feel of useful and accurate knowledge. “We Are All Confident Idiots

Truth time: I have a difficult time dealing with unconscious incompetence in adults. So I have to remember how important ruthless compassion is (thanks Danielle LaPorte!). And I’m sure there are times when I am unconsciously incompetent and I want other people to have compassion for me. But it’s just so dang difficult. Especially when you’re consciously incompetent or consciously competent and people who are less competent think they are experts. How can I support you if you can’t recognize that you need support?

How do we get out of the unconsciously incompetent black hole? And why would we? It’s pretty blissful. I’m sure there are studies out there with some hypotheses. I would love to see studies done specifically about educational technology and educators. How can I use my new found passion for instructional coaching (I’m consciously incompetent BTW) to help educators who are stuck?

While sitting on the couch with my husband last Friday I had what felt like an epiphany (and this also makes me feel quite vulnerable to put on-the-line). I entered teaching 100% incompetent. And I most definitely knew it. I came to education via an alternative route. Never in a million years did I think I would be a teacher. Pretty much my entire family was in education and I was sure that it wasn’t for me. And then Jeff and I moved to South Carolina. And I was offered a job teaching French. There weren’t many (read: any) other job prospects so I started teaching HS French in the fall of 2009. Extenuating circumstances meant that I entered the classroom in August with NO training. I had to teach the entire fall semester before I had official training through the state department. Luckily I had a great support system both at home and in the district. Last week I put two and two together…I wonder if my route to education (which was incredibly atypical) is the reason that I am able to be consciously incompetent. And if this is the case, what can be implemented to help all educators have some level of conscious incompetence? We love to talk about growth mindset. How are competency, consciousness and growth/fixed mindset intertwined? What can I do to support these teachers, to learn and grow with them instead of feeling the push back from ‘experts’? If anyone has the answer, I’d love to hear it.

Disclaimer: I know many educators who are not unconsciously incompetent. But I’d really love to find a way to help those who are.

Seriously: Read this article if you haven’t: We Are All Confident Idiots. Well-written and research-based.

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!

Empowering is difficult

Part of my job involves teaching and supporting teachers in learning new technologies. In my 3.5 years here, this has included apps (iMovie, Keynote, etc), online gradebooks, blogs, Google Apps and more. Every time I work with a teacher I have to make the conscious effort NOT to do everything for them. Sometimes this is easier than others.

It’s not uncommon for me to walk into a classroom and have the teacher offer me their seat at the computer. I never allow this to happen and make it clear (in a caring way) that they will be the ones doing the work and I will simply be talking them through the steps (coaching!). Many times it would be infinitely faster if I just took over and made all the clicks. When it’s especially frustrating and time consuming I have to physically & mentally force myself to stay away from the mouse (or other device). What I could do in 10 minutes might take an hour to walk a teacher through (like my most recent experience that prompted this reflection).

straitjacket-rear

I have to focus on a couple things to help me keep my hands to myself:

  • I am a coach and a teacher. Neither coaches nor teachers do the work for athletes or students. Instead we provide learning experiences to allow our students (whoever they might be) to grow. I am doing my job well if I there is a gradual release and the teachers need less assistance next time.
  • The excitement that teachers (inevitably) feel when they, not me, have accomplished something. When I am leaving the classroom and the teacher is profusely thanking me, I have to make sure they understand that this accomplishment was theirs, not mine. Being present to see the process and completion of a task is a powerful experience that I have to keep at the forefront of my mind when I’m most frustrated.

My job is about empowering, not doing. It can be incredibly frustrating (and time consuming) but also so rewarding. And that is what makes me love teaching and coaching teachers. #gratitude

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:

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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.