Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Flipgrid & Padlet

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.