Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Reflective & Effective

A good friend and mentor of mine had a phrase he used last year I loved...he called it M&M's (meaningful, manageable, and sustainable) It has stayed with me, and I often reflect upon it as I am planning this year.  I too was searching for a sticking phrase as I am working with others this year.  As I was reflecting I started thinking about how can I help others help themselves to move forward? Then it hit me...reflective & effective.

I have noticed that the best growth is that which grows from within an organization.  How does that growth develops through self-reflection. Those who are reflective usually tend to be effective.

One of my goals this year, as an instructional coach, is to get others to be reflective. I believe it is a great place to begin, and is SO powerful.

Some of the ways I have encouraged others to be reflective are:
  • examine your data and have a dialogue
  • keep a journal or blog about your experiences and learning -grow your PLN (twitter, Facebook, etc...) and share your experience
  • video tape yourself teaching/coaching and reflect independently or with a colleague
  • survey or interview students, parents, or colleagues who have a connection with you.

This is not an end all be all list, but is more of a reflective starting point to begin your journey towards effectiveness.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

"Unpacking" to plan forward

As I look around our school, a few days into the year, I observe thoughtful planning in regards to establishing routines and expectations for a positive, productive school year. I realize how much time, effort, and consideration has been spent by teachers to set students up for success. This same "strategic care" will be put into units for all of our students to grow socially, emotionally, and academically the rest of the year.

As a district, we are fully immersed in learning Assessment for Learning strategies and conceptual-based unit design.  We are beginning to re-visit differentiation with a new lens based on our new learning.  This morning I came across a familiar resource I hadn't looked at for awhile, and there on page 60 a portion jumped out at me.  The resource is Never Work Harder Than Your Students by Robyn R. Jackson.  The portion was in regards to differentiation when unpacking your learning goals. Her passage reads:
The second important reason for determining whether a goal is a content or process goal is that making this determination can help you find ways to differentiate your instruction so that more of your students can access the curriculum and achieve the learning goal.  If the goal is asking students to master content, then you have quite a bit of flexibility  on how students learn the content. If the goal is asking students to master a process, you have flexibility in the content you can use.

I am not sure if it was the simplistic manner in which it was written that sparked the aha, or the organized thinking in regards to separating or "unpacking" learning goals into two categories (content or process).  Either way it was a passage that really helped me to reflect while unpacking learning goals and standards, so that moving forward ALL my students will have access to the curriculum.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Where to Begin?

As I begin my role as strategist a "shift" has taken place.  I am choosing not to use the word change, as to me it has developed a negative reputation.  My role has become that of an instructional coach, or as Jim Knight referred to it as an instructional collaborator.

Upon learning of my role shift in June, I began to form questions, collect resources, and reach out to as many people as I could. I have even made the time to join in a fantastic Twitter chat #educoach on Wednesday nights at 9pm central time (shameless plug) Throughout this fantastic process I have discovered a few things about being an instructional coach and am working hard to create a reputation for the position and debunk some myths along the way.

Some of the things that I have found valuable so far in my new journey have been:
  • It takes a supportive principal with a clear, aligned vision to make this possible
  • Building trusting relationships is vital and takes time
  • Communication is needed to form, maintain, and sustain relationships
  • Confidentiality is critical for this to be effective
  • Feedback is crucial during the process
  • Deep reflection can happen if you take the time and allow it to.
  • One size doesn't fit all
  • Building upon strengths is a great way to begin
  • Anticipating is important to any interaction, especially if there is a belief that there may be resistance.
  • Listen, listen, listen!
  • Having a clear goal for the interaction or collaboration is key to remaining focused
  • I am not a "fixer" I am a partner
I realize this is not the end of the list, it is only the beginning in a journey that I believe I have been waiting a long time to take.  I couldn't be more excited or more proud of where I am starting.  The time is right.  We have a hungry staff, ready to jump on board.  They see this as an opportunity to deepen their capacity in an area they choose, as long as it is student achievement and learning focused.  I believe they see this as an opportunity to explore and receive professional learning differentiated for them, that their current structure is not able to provide.  I am thrilled to be part of that process!