Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Getting a Thank You as a Teacher

This just warms my heart.

Now even warmer!

Monday, November 25, 2019

Schooling by Design Chapter 9: What Are the Desired Results of School Reform?

The Cheongna Dalton School Leadership team has committed to reading Schooling by Design and we are currently reading Chapter 9. This chapter, in particular, has got me thinking about our upcoming WASC accreditation visit in the spring of 2021. Next year I will take on the role of Director of Professional Learning at CDS and one part of my job will be to facilitate the re-accreditation process. Reading this chapter really made me aware that we have not really included the faculty in learning about our mission statement and making it something visible in our school's curriculum. One conversation we need to start having with teachers is how they are putting the mission into action in their teaching.

Our school's mission statement:

Cheongna Dalton School pioneers to develop global citizens who will engage in a diverse and changing world with creativity and compassion. Building on the foundation of the Dalton Plan, our mission is to empower students with the habits of mind necessary to lead fulfilling and ethically responsible lives.

Have we been helping our teachers think through the implications the mission has on their classroom instruction and planning? We will need to begin that dialogue so that we will all have a shared understanding of what the mission means in action and in terms of what assessments are going to provide evidence of the learning in the mission. I have an idea for where to start.

We will need to have a discussion framed around departments answering the following questions with evidence.

Please provide specific examples to answer each question.

To what extent does your department help develop global citizens who engage in a diverse and changing world?

To what extent does your department department help develop creativity and compassion?

To what extent does your department help develop students with habits of mind to empower fulling and ethically responsible lives?

I believe this is the launching pad to supporting teachers in understanding what types of assessment changes need to be made to put our mission statement into action.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Schooling by Design Chapter 8: How Should Backward Design Apply to School Reform?

In this post I continue my reflections, thoughts, and notes about School by Design by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe. The CDS leadership team is in the process of reading chapter 8 this week.

This chapter begins with a great quotation from Abraham Lincoln, "Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe." Which gets to the heart of what often happens with school reform initiatives -- the frontend loading isn't done thoroughly and the reform ultimately fails or is only superficially applied. Another great quotation follows a little later, "...action-oriented educators tend to identify a goal and quickly propose actions, often with no mechanism for critiquing the validity of the action or adjusting it when necessary." The plan is created and implemented, but the teachers are left out and have no idea why it is being done because they weren't a fundamental part of the planning. Also, we need to have some reason why an initiative is started. All too often in schools, initiatives are started because someone in leadership did the same thing at a previous school. All schools are different and initiatives should occur that organically come from the needs of the school community.

Strategies and Tactics for Reform
The word strategy is often twisted around military style planning, which is a good and fitting concept for schools. As battles, schools are continuously changing and evolving. How do we stay on top of the changes? How do we ensure that our plan continues to stay up to the actual needs of the students, teachers, parents, and community? Though continuous feedback and adjustment. The plan isn't meant to be written and then locked in a desk somewhere until the next accreditation visit. It is a living document that is ever changing. From the broad strategy, we can choose tactics to help us reach the long-term goals. And this quotation is a lovely point, "The strategy can be simply and broadly defined as root out inconsistency and illogical habit, given mission and what it implies." Basically, if the mission doesn't state "it", forget "it" or change "it". I recall an initiative adopted at one school where I worked. The initiative was pushed from the top down and pushed to all subject areas regardless of logic. As one can imagine, the initiative was despised by many. Even those who didn't despise it, couldn't understand exactly why we needed it. No attempt to was really made to include the faculty in the decision making process. The next year, after the person pushing for that reform left, the initiative quietly died. Wiggins and McTighe use the this statement, "A strategy is a specific and public commitment to marshal political, material, and human capital in a coordinated way to achieve an end to which we have obligated ourselves." Notice that we in there... Sort of important.

Strategic Principles for Accomplishing Mission
I appreciate how Wiggins and McTighe point our that a vision is necessary, but that a blueprint is also required to actually make a reform implemented. This section also demonstrates the similarities between backwards designing a unit of instruction and planning a school reform. "Plan backward from mission accomplished." Again this idea of how can we get somewhere if we have no idea where the where is located? "Confront and continually work to close the gap between the vision and the reality." The goal needs to be checked against the brutal reality of the situation. If we are going to measure growth toward a goal, it will be the lessening of the gap between where we want to be and where we are. I think this is where too many people fall down and see the forest as so large and overwhelming. The trick is to see the forest and know that it exists, but to focus on some very important trees. Pick four or five and focus on those first. Once you have toppled those trees, then you can pick four or five more. Always slowly and consistently heading in the direction of continual improvement toward the goal. "Plan to adjust and have systems in place for proactively getting and using feedback to make timely and effective adjustments, early and often." The plan needs to be able to change to fit the current situation and the needs of the community. It doesn't mean the goal gets thrown out, but the route to get to the goal could change radically. We cannot predict the future, so we must be ready to alter the course.

Applying Backward Design to School Reform
Stage 1 -- Identify desired results

  • The destination for our journey. At CDS, we have a graduate profile that is our goal. With that goal in mind we have the following questions (and many more).
  • What do we want staff to really own? What skills and knowledge need to be exist for us to reach the goal?

Stage 2 -- Determine acceptable evidence

  • We need evidence that our graduates fit the graduate profile. We also need evidence that our 6Cs are actually being taught to our students.
  • How will we know if we have reached the desired results? How will we track our process?

Stage 3 -- Plan learning experiences and instruction

  • We need to support the faculty in having the skills and knowledge to be able to produce student who live the 6Cs and embody the graduate profile.
  • What professional development activities and support will the staff need? How will it be supplied?
What Makes Backward Design "Backward"?
The part of this section that really stood out to me were the duel sins. First, professional activities that fail to lead to goal-related results. Second, staff members are informed about new initiatives but never held accountable for implementation. I have seen both of these sins many, many times during my career. To close the gap between vision and reality hard work is necessary on the part of many community members, so the reason to make the changes and close the gap needs to be compelling. And we must continually adjust our map to the end of the journey, because in reality there is no end to the journey.

An interesting side not in this section was the mention of PDSA -- plan, do, study, act -- which has been around since the 1930s and yet we still aren't getting it right. And, in my humble opinion, Wiggins and McTighe did build upon PDSA, but they didn't make anything new. If one was to employ the PDSA method, it would be Schooling by Design.

My Reflections, Thoughts, and Notes on Chapter Seven.

Monday, November 4, 2019

Schooling by Design, Chapter 7: What Is the Job of an Academic Leader?

The Leadership team at Cheongna Dalton School has taken on the task of reading Schooling by Design by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe. I have decided to track my reading of the book with my blog, so there will be several upcoming posts about this book and my reflections on the chapters we are reading together. Chapter 7 openings with a quotation from Jim Collins author of Good to Great and the Social Sectors, "Leadership is not about being nice or soft or purely "inclusive" or "consensus-building." The whole point is to make sure the right decisions happen -- no matter how difficult or painful -- for the long-term greatness of the institution and the achievement of its mission." It seems like making decisions based on the school's mission should go without saying, but over my years in education I have seen decisions made by leadership that didn't reflect the mission of the school and/or tried to avoid difficult or painful situations. Isn't the old saying "you can't make an omelette without breaking a few eggs?" It is true -- by focusing on the mission and making decisions on it, you will rub some people the wrong way; but, I would argue, that is the job of leadership in a nutshell.

The next part that really stuck out at me was the essential question of leadership, "What does "mission accomplished" require of me as a leader and us as a school?" We really do have to define what the mission of the school is and how we will reach it, but also the me part is fundamental and I feel this is the spot where most of us fall down. The thinking deeply of what the mission requires of me as a leader is very important. Without that clearly in your head, the mission of the school can be difficult to accomplish, because those difficult and painful decisions will be easily avoided.

The rest of Chapter 7 is broken into the six job functions of the academic leader.

Job Function 1: Responsibilities Related to Mission and Learning Principles

  • The function deals with guiding the community in craft a clear mission, but also on the process of continually exploring the meaning and implications of the mission statement. It is very easy to craft a mission statement, but it is very difficult to design a process where the community continues to redefine the mission. I've seen several institutions where the mission statement was written in past years, but the members of the community have changed as well as the environment and world, but the mission statement is still the same as it was years before. For there to be real ownership of a mission statement, the institution (and its members) need to be continually wrestling with the mission. Forever exploring what it means to all stakeholders. This struggle allows for a communal ownership.

Job Function 2: Responsibilities Related to Curriculum

  • Key to this function are unpacking standards and facilitating curriculum reviews and troubleshooting. In order to achieve this responsibility, leaders must develop processes and protocols for critical feedback on unit and lesson design. Departments and grade levels teams need to unpack standards together so there is a team understanding of what the standards and transfer skills mean. Curriculum reviews must be candidate and professional so proper adjustments can be made to facilitate learning. This work requires time built into the schedule. As I often state to colleagues, if you aren't building time in the schedule for it, the subtle message is that it really doesn't matter.

Job Function 3: Responsibilities Related to Results (Gap Analysis)

  • This is all about making feedback central to reform. Feedback must be gathered and the brutal facts dealt with as a method to grow and learn. Feedback should be gather and analyzed like any other data (but outliers should be considered just that -- outliers). 

Job Function 4: Responsibilities Related to Personnel

  • "... providing the necessary training, supervision, and evaluation guided by mission-related and results-focused criteria." Sums up this responsibility in my mind with regard to the people you currently have on the bus, but more importantly is the concept of "...getting the right people on the bus and in the right seats." Which, as any school leader will tell you, is much easier said than done. Hiring teachers that match the mission is incredibly important, but all too often I see leaders simply hiring people without regard to the mission of the school. The first part I mentioned from this section, providing professional development is near and dear to me. I have always continued to learn and this section talks about the importance of that as a school. "The why behind the activity is twofold: first, our mission/vision calls for us to be "continuous learners" and embrace "shared values." Secondly,... it is essential that we find our "voice" with regard to how we view our job." The end of this section points out the work of Kim Marshall in effective evaluation of teachers through his book Rethinking Teacher Supervision and Evaluation. I book our leadership team already read. :-)

Job Function 5: Responsibilities Related to Structure, Policies, and Resources

  • "... when the appropriate structures are in place, the school's success or direction no longer depends upon personalities." Here is where I will probably rub some people the wrong way... You have been warned! The cult of personality that occurs in schools is tiring for teachers. A new administrator shows up, he/she starts five or six new initiatives over the course of three or four years and then he/she leaves to a new school. The mark of a great administrator is not the number of initiatives you start, it is the number that remain once you leave, because those became part of the culture. With that in mind, here are some new rules to follow: First rule, if you are starting a new initiative, it needs to be related to the mission of the school. Second rule, if you are starting a new initiative, you need to remove an old one. Teachers cannot do EVERYTHING, so stop trying to make them to pad your CV. This isn't about you; it is about students, teachers, parents, and the school. Please check your ego at the door. The most valuable school resource is time; please use it wisely.

Job Function 6: Responsibilities Related to Culture

  • Two quotations from this section really make the point. First: "The academic leader's job is to ensure that the culture of the school is mission focused." Second: "The leader's job is not to pose solutions but to raise questions and demand thoughtful analysis of problems, leading to solutions "owned" by all parties affected.

Monday, October 7, 2019

How to Use

Our school started using to help parents book appointments for Parent-Teacher Conferences, so I made a series of short videos to support teachers in setting it up. Here is the entire playlist.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Constructive Feedback

This is a very timely post for me. Two weeks ago, a colleague gave me some feedback that initially really hurt to hear. But, upon further reflection, I realized that she was correct about her points and that I really needed to rethink how I approached the situation and what happened. After a few days of both feeling a little tense, we have been able to move passed the raw feelings and work together both knowing that the other person is willing to say hard truths. It is good to keep in mind that just because someone is telling you something that is difficult to hear, doesn't mean that person is your enemy. Likewise just because someone praises you, doesn't mean that person is your friend. It is super easy to forget those facts.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Desktop Notifications from Google Calendar

One of my teachers realized that her Google Calendar desktop notifications didn't exist anymore and asked me how to get them back. Well... You can't get them back... Or can you? This video shows a work-around to getting desktop notifications back.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Second Week of the School Year 2019-20

Lately I've been doing mostly posts of my presentation materials, so I have decided to re-commit to doing more actually writing in my blogs again. As we head in to the second week of "real school." I felt it was a great time to start the process of adding written content back to my blog. For those of you who aren't educators, "real school" refers to the time when we have students at school. "Real school" is the exciting time, because the kids are on campus and learning and growing in classes. The other school days are important and necessary, but "real school" is where the action happens. Real school is messy, noisy, and chaotic. It involves mistakes, misunderstandings, epiphanies, relearning, setbacks, and growth. It is never easy; it is always a challenge; but, it can also be very fun. So welcome to another school year and the continued opportunity for seeing students grow and learn, but also the opportunity for your own personal and professional growth.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Sharing in Shared Drives

So you are using Team Drives and you decide that you want to share a file, but you don't want everyone to be able to edit -- how? This presentation will walk you through changing the share settings on an individual item in a Team Drive.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

A Calendar Catalog for School

Google Calendars are great for a variety of reasons, but one thing I have noticed is that sometimes at the beginning of the school year (and even during) some people don't end up getting access to all of the calendars they need in an easy way. After thinking about the whole situation for a long time (and very annoyingly re-sharing links and changing sharing options), I came across the a Google solution -- use Sheets to share them.

The presentation will walk people through the process of sharing their calendars this way. The journey starts in the settings for the calendar you want to share with multiple people. First decide what level of permission is required. Is it a calendar that needs to be shared publicly? Is it a calendar that only needs to be shared within your domain? That will determine which option to pick. Then copy the sharable link. If you are using Team Drives, you can place the Sheet in a Team Drive where everyone will have access. If you are not using Team Drives, you can go old school and share it with a group email. My Sheet has three basic columns -- Title of Calendar, Brief Description, Direct Link to Calendar. I broke my Sheet down with four tabs, one for each of the following groups: Whole School, First Program, Middle School, and High School. Teachers/Admin add links to their calendars that need to be shared and teachers go and add the calendars they need. If someone somehow or someway lose access, they simply go back to the Sheet and get the link.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Podcasts, podcasts, podcasts

Updated 11/14/19
It finally happened... I've been converted into a podcast listener. I fought it for a long, long time, but after discussions with several people I admire -- I decided to give podcasts a try and now I'm hooked on them. So I want to thank some people who continued talking about podcasts and spiked my curiosity about trying them. Jenn Webb is really a big consumer of podcasts and kept mentioning them to me off and on while hanging out. Jenn is a very smart woman, so I was starting to think to myself, "I need to check out some podcasts." Then Tanya LeClair (@TanyaLeClair) started talking me about all the podcasts she listens to during a week and I thought, "Hmmmm... Tanya is also super smart. Now I need to start listening to podcasts for sure." So thank you to all of the people who shared their favorite podcasts with me or who continued talking about podcasts with me even when I was rolling my eyes at you.

Here are a list of the podcasts I have started listening to in the last month (in no particular order).

Coach Better Podcast -- Educational podcast by the Eduro Learning folks. Great stuff for coaches!
Be a Better Ally Podcast -- Tricia Friedman helps us understand how we can support our LGBTQ+ students and colleagues.
The Daily -- News from the New York Times.
Change the Narrative -- Michael Hernandez interviews educational thought leaders; some guests include Michael Torres {@michaeltorres_1} and Keri-Lee Beasley {@klbeasley}.
Reply All -- Analyzes the internet and how is it impacting our lives as humans.
Just Between Us -- This one is a guilty pleasure. Allison Raskin and Gabby Dunn are simply amazing to listen to as they explore life, love, and sexuality. Mature content.
Death, Sex, & Money -- Title says it all -- exploration of three of life's most challenging topics.
Stuff You Should Know -- Chuck Bryant and Josh Clark explain how a variety of objects work.
Note to Self -- Another podcast that looks at the internet and technology and how we can manage them.
Criminal -- Another one in my guilty pleasures list; I've been a big fan of true crime TV shows and his podcast is amazing. Each episode looks at a real-life crime and how the victims and perpetrators handled the fall out of the event.
TED Talks Daily -- If you aren't familiar with TED Talks by now, you have probably been living under a rock. Incredible experts from a wide range of specialities share a window to their passions.
Should This Exist -- Inventors and scientists share their inventions or discoveries and the host put the question to them, "Should this exist?" The possible dark side those inventions and discoveries are explored.
The Art of Manliness -- Comes a masculinity from some quite surprising directions and the topics cover a very wide variety of subjects. Another guilty pleasure, but recommended.
The Last Podcast on the Left -- Three comedians basically go crazy on the air. To call this podcast weird is an understatement for sure. Mature content.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Google Calendar Just Got Better!

Google Calendar just get better! "How?" you ask. Now you can add guests, locations, and descriptions from the initial event creation window. Check the screenshot! Super cool and easy to use. Have fun!

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Audio Now Available in Slides

My domain is on rapid release, so if you don't have it in your Slides yet... Be patient -- audio is coming!

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Eduro Learning Quoting Me

It was an honor to be quoted by the Eduro Learning team and to be a part of the Coaching Fundamentals Youtube series. As coaches and leaders, it is good for us to fail in public sometimes. It allows the faculty and staff to see that we are human and we struggle at times as well; plus, when we recover and don't let it get us down, it models the same thing we want them to do. It communicates that it is OK. Everybody has an off day; the point is to persevere, to keep going, to keep trying. If we want students to build grit and resilience, teachers and administrators need to model it. Kids need to see it. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

#21CLHK11 Takeaways Part 2 -- Standing on the Shoulders of Giants: Juan Pablo Romero Fuentes

At #21CLHK11 I have the honor of meeting Juan Pablo Romero Fuentes in person and it was pretty amazing to say the least. I was so unbelievably impressed by his message and the work he is doing to make Guatemala a better place. He is incredible. It was humbling to the extreme. On the way back to Korea on the plane, I was talking with another person about it and was moved to tears. The man has been threatened by gangs in his neighborhood, but continued to educate children. When other people would have given up, he pushed on and he continues to move forward. For those of us who work with the wealthy children of Asia, it really hit home to hear a man ask, "But what type of children are we raising? Are they good humans? Will they be good people?" 

We go through our days with the blinders on. It is easy for us to be in our little bubble of privilege. Our kids don't worry about having food to eat or a roof over their heads or how they will afford to get pencils, pens, computers, books, or... Or you name it! They have everything available to them. And I would say that most have never seen poverty. Not really. They may have traveled to a developing nation and seen it, but they haven't really thought about it. They haven't had to really struggle. 

I'm happy that they haven't had to deal with the world that Juan Pablo's students do on a day-to-day basis. I'm happy they go to good homes at night and enjoy a meal of good food around a family that loves them in a place where they are safe from violence and crime. But... They need to know that world exists. They need to know that those people have dreams too. That those kids want to play, learn, and live. We are all humans and we all deserve a right to live with dignity, love, and respect. We can't just leave other humans behind.

On the plane, I was talking with a woman who also pleasantly surprised me. When I was talking about the conference and Juan Pablo, she told me that she and her husband had opened a small school for migrant workers in Thailand. Thailand has a large population of construction workers who are from Cambodia. Usually the workers come for one or two years, so they often bring their children with them. But the children end up playing during the day, because their parents are working. So they began teaching the kids during the day. And after some time, they built a little school. Currently there are 70 students. 70 kids that have a chance to learn. That's how it starts. Someone decides to do something; to open their eyes; to take action.

Since some things that have happened in my personal and professional life, I've sidelined myself a little bit. I've been on the bench waiting to get back in the game. Thanks to Juan Pablo and Julie, I want to get off the bench. I want to get back in the game of changing the world, because we can. We really can. Look around you. I know someone needs help. Choose to help them. We need to remember that if we all do a little, it adds up to a lot.

I'll step off my soapbox now and end this post with some lines from the song Equal Rights and Justice by Peter Tosh.

Everyone is heading for the top
But tell me how far is it from the bottom
Nobody knows but everybody fighting to reach the top
How far is it from the bottom

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

#21CLHK11 Takeaways -- Standing on the Shoulders of Giants Part 1: David Lee

Back in my days at KIS, I worked with an amazing team of coaches. It has been, and will continue to be, the high water mark of my coaching career. I've written about "the boys" before, so I really don't want to get into that whole story in this post, because this post is about one member of the team -- David Lee (@davidleeedtech). If you don't know David, you really should. He is a super kind, humble, and amazing educator. He is the sort of person who makes you want to be a better person. We don't see each other often, so at #21CLHK11, he tweeted me asking me where I was. To be honest, I needed a short break and I was at my hotel room just getting some rest, but hearing from David re-energized me. I got up and dashed over to the conference again. As I was walking, I spotted David sitting by myself and doing some work. It was great to catch up with him and hear how he is enjoying and adjusting to his new role at SAS. I'm a little jealous because he is working with Ben Summerton (@bensummerton) again, but I'm super happy for him and to know that part of the band is back together. And David is a
big deal in EdTech, but he is so humble and genuinely down to earth about the whole thing. As soon as he saw me, he gave me a copy of his book. Of course, me, being me, gave him a hard time about it because it wasn't signed. He smiled and laughed and then went ahead and signed it. But look at what he wrote to me... And the thing is I never felt like I did enough for the guy and I have always felt like I'm the one that grew from our relationship and work together. I felt like he was my mentor and I learned so much about working with elementary students from him. So David, if you read this, thank you! Thank you for including me in your PLN. You are a rock star, buddy. I miss working with you. But one big takeaway for me from the whole #21CLHK11 conference is the affirmation of PLNs. This whole community of people mentoring each other and collaborating with each other. It has the power to transform, gang. It really does.

It is really easy to look at the world we are in right now and feel a little depressed. I still believe that social media can help us change the world. Sure, it has problems, but the upside is also really great. We just need to focus on the good stuff -- real human interactions and engagement with each other as educators. We need to continue sharing and collaborating whether it is face-to-face or online. Stay strong, support each other, and we can make things better. And by the way, Carlos (@clos_gm), did you like how I worked my #PubPDAsia swag into that photo of David's book? Blogging skill +10.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

#PubPDAsia Playfulness March 12

#PubPDAsia will be back on March 12, 2019. The topic will be Playfulness. I will be hosting a live event at Wembley's in Cheongna, but there will be live events all over Asia and of course on Twitter. Mark your calendar! Gather some colleagues! Grab an adult beverage and join the fun.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Bummer News about Google

Unfortunate news about Google. The widgets will no longer work, the buttons will no longer work, and the comments will be lost.

Monday, January 21, 2019

#EduroLearning Course: Coaching Models Reflection

How does coaching work at your school right now?

We are really working on building the culture of coaching right now in my school. The school is 11 years old and has gone through a significant amount of change and growth in a relatively small amount of time. I think due to the turnover of teaches in the past, it was hard to get a consistent culture built. For the last three years, turnover has been very limited, so we are able to see some very positive change and growth. Last year, all three divisions instituted Pineapple Charts as a way to push more peer observation. I would say it has met with limited success; there is no specific protocol in place for teachers to observe peers. If we continue with peer observation, I would like to see peer coaching become part of the approach, so that teachers could be identifying something they specifically want colleagues to observe and comment on. Right now it is more like showing up and simply watching another teacher teach; it isn't a bad thing, but it could be a little better.

With regard to division directors, the curriculum coordinator, and myself, many teachers are still not really sure how or why to make use of us in their own professional growth. Some teachers are and it is very enjoyable to work with them and see them improve as professionals, but it makes the ones not utilizing us as tools for improvement that much more painful to watch flounder. This led us to want to change the evaluation system of the school and do more walk-throughs with immediate and specific feedback.

How would this model fit within your current coaching culture at school?

A model I would like to see adopted would be cognitive coaching, because then potentially anyone from a pool of professionals could potentially help/support other educators. It would provide more support for all levels of the school. Essentially it would be more bang for the buck, because it wouldn't rely on one or two people, but a team of people. The team could always be expanding so that as teachers eventually left the school, their position on the coaching team could be easily filled by another member of the school community. 

What elements of this model would improve the coaching culture at your school?

Because of the size of the school, educators have a tendency to be very busy and being busy becomes an excuse for not doing extra work. It is true that we are busy, but we are all doing things that are important and the admin team is good about not putting busy-work on teachers, so the excuse gets old to my ears fast. But the excuse also comes from a lack of clear focus and clarity on the part of the admin team with regard to professional development and teacher evaluation. I think the cognitive coaching approach would resolve some of this issues in the long-term, but possibly cause some more confusion in the short-term. I think many of our teachers are younger and sometimes they simply want an answer, they don't want to go through a long process to discover the answer themselves. I believe once they understood how empowering it can be to learn and discover on their own, they would learn to enjoy the process, but initially it could be off-putting for some of the faculty.
Why might this model work best for your school?

As I stated earlier, the idea of not being stuck with one or two people who hold the knowledge/skill and then when they leave we have a power vacuum is the main reason for me. Our previous HS Director was a great guy, but he was terrible about delegating jobs to other people, so he would simply do all the work. So when he left, there was a huge amount of work that no one was doing because no one realized he was doing it all. This left a vacuum and we have struggled to repair that loss. Institutionally it made me realize that we need to spread the leadership out more so that the school is more flat with that regard. When someone leaves, rather than rebuild, we can reload (gun analogies -- you can take the boy out of Montana, but you can't take the Montana out of the boy).

Monday, January 14, 2019

#EduroLearning course: The Coaching Cycle Reflection

I am experienced with the coaching cycle from a previous school, but my current school isn't experienced with the coaching cycle. 

How does the coaching cycle work in your school?

At my current school, the coaching cycle is rather new. In fact, it didn't really exist until I came along two years ago. I have been trying to get the ball rolling (with some success and some failure). In the successful moments, it has followed the regular coaching cycle. I have either approached a teacher or they have approached me with some technology integration question. Usually it has been teachers approaching me, due to other duties tied to my job as Director of EdTech. When it has been present, things have flowed fairly smoothly. We have met and formalized a goal for the teacher. Usually the goal comes from the teacher with me possibly shaping the goal into something measurable. A couple of times, I have had to do the heavy lifting of making a goal because the person was completely unsure of what he/she should work on. Next I would observe the teacher and his/her class (usually on three to five occasions due to time constraints) and report back my observations to the teacher. Sometimes these discussions lead to altering the original plan, but they usually supported the continuation of the original plan. Articles could be identified to reading, videos could be identified for watching, a couple of times I lead a class to demonstrate a strategy. And finally we would reflect on what was learned/achieved and what we could point to as students growth. Often the student growth component was done via survey, so students weren't required to take a "test" to show us growth, they could explain growth to us. 

What works well? What could be improved? What makes you say that?

The fact that it is voluntary works well; it is also what makes it not work. Everyone is busy, so being busy becomes and easy excuse for opting out of doing new and potentially challenging things. I believe this is why I have had more success with the elementary and middle school teachers than the high school teachers with actual use of the coaching cycle. The elementary and middle school teachers seem more open to the process... And the former high school administrator wasn't pointing out the value or expectation that coaching should be a thing that teachers do. As a institution we could start expecting teachers to at least meet with me as part of their Professional Growth Goals (PGGs), but currently they are only really required to meet with their division directors. The division directors are all too busy to really meet in a genuine way with each teacher. Up until now, I have not been seen as a possible other option by the directors. Rather than shouldering the entire load, they could be utilizing me as a resource for teachers. 

What are some aspects of the coaching cycle that you feel you could improve on, as a coach? What makes you say that?

I feel like where I need to improve is actually not really in the coach cycle, but with the admin team itself. I need to advocate more for them seeing me as a person who can support them with PGGs that deal with items in my ability set. This would allow them to also decrease their loads and support teachers more. The load needs to be spread out more across all of the admin team to provide all teachers more support. 

Are there areas where coaches often struggle? What suggestions or ideas do you have to address those challenges?

I'm the only official coach, but our division directors are also expected to be coaching faculty members. None of us have been formally trained and I have the most actual experience as an administrator and as a coach. I feel like I need to coach the directors in order for them to coach the teachers. It is a slow process to build a culture, but I feel like we are heading in the right direction. It simply requires patience and continually pushing things in the right direction on my part. The division directors mean well, but they are overwhelmed with work and aren't seeing the way they can decrease some of their current burden. It is my job to help them see how they can do a better job coaching.

Monday, January 7, 2019

#edurolearning course: The Coach Approach Reflection

This blog post is a response to the question I answered in the Eduro Learning course: The Coach Approach.

Which of the coaching approaches is the most challenging for you? Why? What ideas do you have to improve in that area? What can you do to practice the skills needed to grow?

Due to my current context, the most difficult coaching approach is Coaching. The teachers at my school have a tendency to see me as a consultant because of my job title (Director of Educational Technology). For some teachers, however, I am a collaborator. Mostly it is the elementary teachers who see me as a collaborator and it is probably due to the fact that I have been very upfront about not having a great deal of experience as an elementary educator. I think that makes the elementary teachers feel like we both have something valuable to learn from each other in the process. It also has a lot to do with how elementary teachers at our school interact with each other anyway. In the elementary school, all grades (with the exception of G1) are single class grade levels, so the teachers don't collaborate with a colleague who teaches the same grade level, but rather with teachers from the grade level lower or higher. It seems to lend itself to the type of discussions that are similar to the type I have as the tech-guy and them as the grade level-person.

The middle school and high school teachers see me more as a specialist to get support, skills, and new knowledge from rather than a person to enter a coaching cycle with. I think the schedule the MS/HS teacher have also lends itself to sort of quick answers, instead of in-depth conversations, because as a smaller school, everyone feels the pinch of a lack of time.

I have worked well with one of the music teachers in a coaching capacity, which has been enjoyable for both of us. She has had ideas and we have discussions about student learning outcomes and the type of integration she would like to try in the classroom. I have observed those lessons and provided feedback and listened to her own reflection and due to that cycle (we are on the third round of it), she is now introducing her unit on Jazz with a virtual field trip to New Orleans with our class set of Google Cardboards and the Google Expeditions app. Her students have found the lesson very engaging and enjoyable.

Two members of the admin team are very interested in using a more coaching based approach with regard to dealing with teachers and we are in the process of changing the way we do teacher evaluation to be a more holistic view of the education professional. Currently the emphasis is 95% on classroom actions, but we want to factor in more about collaboration and professionalism. They are both interested in coaching, so we have been doing some reading on the topic and discussing how this new approach would look. The readings in this unit have given me some solid ideas of a direction we can do with the coaching cycle as a base. I have been using the approach with those teachers who are ready (like the MS Music teacher), but it hasn't been something systematically used. We will formalize the approach and adopt it as a method for helping teachers to reach their Professional Growth Goals (PGGs) and separate it the formal evaluation process, which will become more holistic and factor in things like how faculty members interact with parents, staff and colleagues.

We have also been in the process of making our department heads more part of leadership with regard to evaluation and curriculum. This new model will provide me a focus for discussions to move an entire department forward rather than trying to meet with only individual teachers all of the time.