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.

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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.

 

Burning Questions Protocol

At Learning 2.014 in Africa this year I was a cohort facilitator of the Middle/High School Tech Leaders cohort with Sol. Leading up to the conference and during our first meeting it was our job to collect ‘burning questions’, desired takeaways or goals for the conference from our cohort members. During our second meeting 24 hours later, at about the half way point of the conference, our goal was to process together what we had learned and how we might use it in our situations – we were trying to answer our own questions based on the conference. Our fearless leader, Nick Kwan, suggested that we use a simple protocol similar to Final Word to facilitate our discussion.  As a recent convert to Critical Friends Groups and protocols, I was on board!

During our first meeting, Sol and I created a Google Doc for our cohort notes. We made a table in the document for our cohort’s ‘burning questions.’ We asked our cohort to then go into the document and vote for their top 3 ‘burning questions’ during the next 24 hours (or vote for it as an unconference session). At the next meeting we ‘discussed’ the 3 most popular questions. Sol and I took notes during the process so that everyone could listen instead of try to process all the information immediately. This process was probably the most worthwhile of the cohort time (and maybe conference!).

When I came back to school, I was telling our curriculum coordinator (and CFG coach) about the protocol. She was preparing for our staff PD day at the time and there was time built in for cohorts to process the information learned during the first 2.5 hours of the meetings. We decided to create a Burning Questions protocol based on my experience at Learning 2. It was a little different at our school but I thought it went well. Some takeaways:

  • We needed more space. We had all the cohorts in the auditorium. It was too much going on. In the future the cohorts should be split into different (smaller) areas.
  • It needs to be clear that the questions are conceptual or debatable. It also went better at Learning 2 when we had the questions compiled before the learning started.
  • We should have reiterated the purpose of the protocol.
  • We have done the Compass Points activity with our staff. It would have been worthwhile to remind them of how different people process and interact.

The protocol that Christina and I adapted is below. Feel free to contact either of us if you have questions!

I’m a Critical Friend!

Since September I have participated in a Critical Friends Group at my school (with our coach Christina). It’s been a great experience to get to know, grow and collaborate with a small group of teachers. I would consider professional learning a weakness at our school so it’s been an enriching experience to be around people who share my professional values. We’ve met about once a month and used a variety of protocols to examine and enhance our practice. I’ve also participated in several protocols during school divisional meetings.

Today I facilitated my first protocol! Our MS principal (Dave) wanted a productive way for his staff to reflect on their weekly team meetings. I pre-conferenced with Christina and we decided on a Back to the Future Protocol. Dave is currently away on a site-visit so he wasn’t able to present. I subbed steps 1-3 with a list of questions Dave had thought of. Usually this protocol is done with 3 pieces of large butcher paper and the faciliator writes down what the group is saying. My handwriting isn’t awesome and I can type way faster than I can write. Also, I wanted something that would be easily shareable and would stick around (not be in the way or thrown away). I created a Google Spreadsheet and hoped for the best!

I gave the shortened link (view only) to all the participants in the protocol so they could follow along and see whichever of the sheets they wanted (on iPads they had to refresh to see the updates). On the classroom computer & projector, I kept the Projected Future sheet so they could always be reminded of what they were aiming for. I brought my Chromebook to the meetings so I could move around and edit whichever sheet I needed to be on.

The protocol went really well :). My experience presenting at conferences has made me comfortable in front of my peers. Plus protocols aren’t about me or my ideas…they’re about what the presenter wants accomplished. I was just the facilitator. During the debrief I specifically asked what they thought about using the Spreadsheet instead of butcher paper…they much preferred it! They liked that it was professional and didn’t make them feel like elementary teachers ;). I’ll be running another one for a different team on Sunday so I’m hoping it goes just as smoothly! [It did!]

I’ve created a template of the Back to the Future document so that anyone can view it and copy it…would love to hear how it works for you and if there are any improvements that I can make!