Tracking professional development can be a huge headache. It doesn’t have to be. A simple add-in for Google Forms can save hours of work. It is called Certify’em. Other bloggers such as Alice Keeler and Free Technology for Teachers have written about this awesome little […]
Maria Chapman I walked into Mrs. Smith’s second-grade class for our coaching session excited to refine her small group instruction techniques. We met that morning during her prep time, discussed data, and planned a flawless small group lesson for a group of English Learners working […]
Core competencies in business are typically “soft skills.” Core competencies in academics have potential too. This year, I have the opportunity to facilitate curriculum writing through the lens of core competencies. I define core competencies as the 10-15 essential skills a student can expect to […]
Tracking professional development can be a huge headache. It doesn’t have to be. A simple add-in for Google Forms can save hours of work. It is called Certify’em.
Other bloggers such as Alice Keeler and Free Technology for Teachers have written about this awesome little add-on. If you are looking for detailed instructions on how to use Certify’em, I’d recommend you read their posts. It is quite simple, but my purpose isn’t to create a tutorial.
This post is about how I am using Certify’em to track professional development hours for my teachers.
There are two amazing aspects to how I can use this add-on. First, I am able to acquire a database of recorded hours with minimal effort. Second, teachers automatically receive a certificate for the hours they complete.
The first step is to make a Form. I named it “PD tracking form” in my Drive. It has just 8 questions:
- Hours Completed
- How would you rate today’s PD overall?
- What did you learn today?
- What questions or needs do you have at this time?
- What could be improved in the future?
- Who is wearing blue?
I set it to automatically collect email addresses as well. I set it as a Quiz and I select one question (such as location or overall rating for the day) and make it multiple choice. Next, I set the point value to one and designate all the answers as correct. Finally, I turn on Certify’em and make sure the settings are correct.
The last question ensures teachers are in attendance and paying attention. Can they still cheat the system? Of course, they can. But really, who will? Most teachers will just be grateful their exit survey is so short!
At the end of each PD session, I assign this form to teachers through Google Classroom. I change the title to reflect the topic of the session so it will appear appropriately on the certificate. I ask teachers to complete this form.
A certificate is emailed to teachers as soon as they submit their Form. Google, of course, records who has completed the Form in Google Classroom. It also produces a spreadsheet of responses and responses can be viewed in the Form itself. In addition, Certify’em creates a spreadsheet in my Drive that holds only certificate related information.
Voila! I now have a three-fold method of tracking PD hours. And I have provided teachers with a certificate to use as documentation of completed professional development. Even better, I consistently have some simple, usable and descriptive feedback to develop future sessions.
It took a couple of tries to get everything working correctly, so don’t be surprised if you need to experiment a bit.
Now that it is working, it is an incredible time saver. No more time-consuming certificate creating for me. No longer will I have to calculate total PD hours for each teacher.
My teachers appreciate the immediate feedback and I appreciate the minimal effort.
Have you ever worked with a teacher who didn’t want to work with you -at all? I did and I promise it almost broke me mentally and professionally. All of our disagreements came to a head as we set in the office ready to have […]
In March of every year, the whispers start about if available Instructional Coach positions will be available the following school and year and in attempt to be “ready” many aspiring (and current) coaches begin to look for reading that can give them a “leg up” […]
by Shawnta S. Barnes
It takes hard work to build up teachers and improve their practice, but the work is even harder when teachers are displaced. This school year is my third year as an instructional coach and this year has been the most challenging. Due to decreasing enrollment, my school district, Indianapolis Public Schools, decided to eliminate three high school campuses, moving from seven to four. Instead of only teachers at the closing high school campuses being displaced, the school district decided to displace every high school employee, from the principals to the cafeteria workers. The district felt this was best because it would allow teachers to find their best fit school.
As you might have suspected this has caused anxiety, stress, and depression among some teachers. Teachers fear they either won’t have a job or will be assigned to a school where a principal did not choose them. Some teachers have quit mid-year despite being offered a bonus of up to $5,000 to stay until the end of the year. Others have decided quit and stay; they are planning to finish the school year, but they have quit trying to be the best teachers they could be.
In the midst of this all, I have to coach teachers. I have to improve their practice and through them, I also have to improve our students’ academic achievement. Although being displaced is not a situation any educator wants to face (and this is also my second displacement), this is a reality in many school districts across many states.
How do you coach teachers when they are part of a reality they do not like? Below, I have outlined what I am doing to coach teachers who are displaced.
Acknowledge their frustrations and then get to the work.
At first, when I had coaching sessions, I didn’t talk about the situation that was all around us. It was this elephant sitting in the room during each coaching session. Even though I can’t ease their anxiety, I can acknowledge their frustrations about the situation and tell them I appreciate their hard work and commitment to the coaching process.
Focus on what you can control.
When I taught middle school English, the English department chair would say at every meeting, “We are only going to focus on what we can control.” I know that statement would burn people up sometimes especially when they were angry about a decision that was made. Being angry about a decision, such as your district displacing you is a valid feeling, but it is not okay to let your anger consume the entire time you should be working to improve your practice as a teacher. When I’m meeting with a teacher who is derailing our work by focusing on issues he or she can’t control, I’ll say, “Is there anything you can do about this?” If the answer is no, I’ll direct the teacher back to what we were originally discussing.
Remind teachers why they entered the profession.
When teachers are fearful they either won’t have a job next year or get placed in a school they did not choose, they may leave mid-year or put in minimal effort. Although, I respect the decision of teachers who leave mid-year (because I rather them leave and serve other students well rather than stay and just go through the motions), a teacher leaving or a teacher putting in minimal effort hurts students and puts an extra burden on other colleagues. When a teacher says, “Mr. Blacksmith is just sitting at his desk and passing out worksheets,” I’ll respond, “Do you want to be like him and is that good for your students?” Always bring it back to the students. I want my teachers to know it says more about their character when they teach well even in the face of uncertainty.
Encourage teachers to take care of themselves.
The foundation of good instructional coaching is trust. When teachers trust you, they might unload on you as if you are their therapist. If you are concerned about the mental health of the teachers you coach, refer them to someone who can help them. Don’t try to provide answers or try to solve their problems.
Consistently offer support and observations.
I frequently tell teachers, “I want you to end this school year knowing you have improved because of your investment in this process.” Teachers can only invest when you are also invested. When teachers are quitting, it is easy to get caught up in putting out fires and making sure those classes are okay instead of focusing on the teachers that are still there putting in the work. If I want teachers I coach to bring 100%, I also have to do the same. That means showing up consistently to observe their classrooms and providing the support they need.
Lift up the good.
Last and certainly not least, remind teachers of their progress. Highlight the improvements they are making. I was speaking to a teacher who was frustrated after I came to observe. She wanted her lesson to be better. I said, “No one was walking around the classroom, cursing at you, or throwing stuff. Your transitions were smooth and students could articulate what they were learning. Remember August?” After my feedback, a big smile appeared on her face. She was so caught up in what she perceived she did wrong that she didn’t she was she was doing right.
At this time, I have no clue what I’m doing next year. I have not secured a job placement yet, but right now I’m trying to be the best coach I can be so my teachers can serve our students well this year and be prepared to serve students well next year in their new roles.
You clear your throat. “Today we’re going to learn how to monitor data in our classrooms..” You look around the room and 20 pairs of eyes are looking at you waiting for you to finish your sentence. “..and how to increase student achievement at our […]
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Before I started coaching full-time, I used to wonder what the value of coaching light could be. For those who aren’t familiar with the terms coaching light or heavy, I suggest you check out Coaching: Approaches and Perspectives and other works by Jim Knight or Joellen Killion. I thought I would coach heavy because of the intense focus on student learning. The results were not great. My teachers didn’t know me, and I didn’t know them, so they had no reason to listen. Then, I realized that coaching light might not be so worthless after all.
Working with teachers is more like working with students than most of us would care to admit. That means relationships are everything. As a person who prides herself on the ability to foster positive relationships, I thought I could do both: coach heavy and build rapport, not so much, actually.
In addition, let’s be honest, teachers are intimidating. Coaching heavy takes incredible guts: self-assurance, thick skin, and courage. When I was new, I felt like a fraud, like I didn’t know what I was doing yet. Sometimes this was true, but mostly thinking I was a fraud had to do with my confidence. Coaching heavy intensified my feelings of inadequacy.
A few teachers listened and responded enthusiastically. I’m proud to say no one got nasty or defensive or generally unpleasant, but my feedback didn’t generate any instructional improvement either. I received vague platitudes, empty gratitudes, and not much else.
After a year, I switched positions for reasons that have nothing to do with coaching. In my new position, I decided to try another approach, a relationship forward approach. This approach combined my personal relationship and my coaching relationship with each teacher. I made a conscious decision to coach lighter.
I realized that before teachers could focus on student learning, I needed to focus on teacher learning. Thankfully, I have never played a teacher’s aide or doled out random resources, but I do act as recorder and resource. While we have instructional expectations and curriculum, I value the expertise of my teachers and I make sure they know it.
The results have been undeniably positive. My relationships are stronger. My feedback is taken more seriously, even though or maybe because, I make a point to see everything and judge nothing. Teachers are seeking me out when they need ideas or support. That didn’t happen before.
Coaching light has value because it leads naturally to coaching heavy. Maybe the answer isn’t either/or. Instead, every coach has to find a balance between heavy and light that meets the needs of each teacher, of each position. The value of coaching light lies in the way it can give a coach the ability to foster positive instructional improvement built on mutually respectful relationships and commitments.
Things are beginning to slow down in the last month of school in the coaching world. Teachers and the school are part of standardized testing, they are gearing up for awards ceremonies, and they are trying to keep their students calm. It is the end […]
Contempt of the teacher isn’t exactly a real thing. But it should be. It is the teacher equivalent of ‘contempt of cop.’ Wikipedia provides the following definition: “Contempt of cop” is law enforcement jargon in the United States for behavior by people towards law enforcement […]
The testing season has come. The joyful excitement of standardized tests is felt throughout the building. The unboxing of answer sheets, testing tickets, checking rosters twice has the whole school jumping for joy! Who am I kidding? If we are honest with ourselves as professionals, this is our least favorite time of the year. This time of year brings about a lull that is felt all throughout the building.
There are many reasons that testing season gives us the blues, but as as a coach, it’s important that we do not get sucked into the negative testing culture that can occur this time of year. So as an Instructional Coach, what do you do for that not to happen? What do you do to calm the negative feelings that surround teachers during this time of year? I’m going to provide some tips that will help to turn those feelings around. These tips will help to release some of that pressure on teachers and yourself.
Tip #1: Stay Positive
Your positive attitude will hopefully rub off on teachers. It will be a transference of energy. This is not the time to go in classes and heavily critique. Most teachers are internally critiquing themselves. This is the time to motivate, help when needed and work together as a team to prepare for the big test! Teachers are relying on your positive energy, your help and expertise, even when they don’t say it.
Tip #2: Remind teachers to make test prep fun
Just as the teachers are stressed, so are their students. Give tips, ideas and resources to make test prep fun for teachers and students. The review of PowerPoints and skill-n-drill isn’t effective teaching, students don’t retain the information, and it is just plain boring. This type of test prep can actually increase stress rather than decrease it. Plus, unwanted behaviors might increase because of the lack of engagement. Remind teachers to keep the engagement up for their students, give them ideas to create a theme, make a game, etc., and make it fun for students.
Tip #3: Plan a Pep Rally
Just about a week before the test, plan a pep rally to get students (and teachers) excited about showing what they know rather than focusing on what they don’t know. Remind students of testing strategies they should be using during the test through song or call and response. Have teachers of each grade level to create a song or cheer to perform for their students. (The students love this!) This is a time to pump up the testing culture in a positive way! Have a good time and beat the test!
Tip #4: Get everyone involved
For the grade levels that may not be testing, have those grade levels make signs, posters, and notes giving words of encouragement to their peers. This helps to build that positive culture amongst students as well. But don’t stop at students, have teachers also write notes to the teachers of those grade levels as well. Make it fun and keep that positive momentum going! This will help to create that culture and change some of the negative mindsets that surround testing.
Tip #5: Be flexible
During this time of year your job title will be iridescent. You will have many job titles because you will be needed in a variety places, spaces, areas, and classrooms. This is the time to pull out your flexibility hat and own it. It’s important to realize that being a team player is what helps to continue that positive testing culture you’ve been striving for. You are part of the culture. So get out your flexibility hat and positivity pants and put them on.
Testing season may not be our favorite season, but it’s coming and we can’t escape it. Instead of embracing the negative parts of this season, let’s get that glass half full mindset. Let that mindset permeate throughout your building and beat the testing blues!
Today, I had a teacher tell me she “always feels so supported” when she gets feedback from my visits. That is an incredible compliment. It made me wonder why instructional coaches don’t receive feedback like that more often. I don’t have all the answers, but […]
Originally published for Olivet Nazarene University Guest Writers: Kathi Lippert, Ed.D. Cassie Bailey, M.A. November, 2018 Part I Change is not always welcome in the education field. Sometimes, it is even viewed with distrust and disdain as teachers are not always a part of the […]
Sometimes I feel stuck in the middle of…well, everyone. Not only am I navigating and sometimes mediating relationships among teachers, I also wind up third party to student-teacher, counselor-teacher, or administrator-teacher interactions.
Let me be clear: I do not take sides and I do not state an opinion. I listen, paraphrase, emphasize and look for potential paths forward. My focus is on student benefit. Sometimes, I have to remind myself that stress among faculty, and stressed out faculty, both negatively impacts students. My job requires me to be a patient listener. The ‘white hat’ so to speak.
Often, I feel boxed in by all the “peopley” needs
The flip side
These are real and constant tensions. For the most part, those questions are a positive. If teachers didn’t trust and respect me, they wouldn’t seek my support. If I weren’t visible and approachable, students wouldn’t seek me out. The cultural positives of common lunch, outweigh the need for a referee. My lens has to be on why I am front and center in every potential conflict rather than how on annoying or petty they seem.
The most troubling and delicate situations, though, are the legitimate concerns brought to my attention. When these concerns are instructional, I am equipped with the tools to handle difficult conversations. Managing personalities is also something I feel is a strength.
But I am nervous about the legitimate critiques of administrators. My job isn’t to coach principals. No one told me I would have to advocate for different groups without alienating anyone else. I believe most administrators are well and truly stuck in the middle of everything. So, they get defensive or dismissive easily.
I have to remind myself I have worked hard to create positive relationships with them too. Generally, they respond positively to honest, helpful feedback. I am a teacher advocate. If I support principals, I support teachers too. I can be the bridge by thoughtfully sharing concerns.
Over the course of a week, I observed and worked closely with five teachers. Three teachers mentioned missing supplies. All three stated that they had already requested the items. The missing items will enhance instruction. What do I do?
I could have approached the administrator and pretended I am not fully aware of how supply ordering works. This makes me uncomfortable. My reputation as knowledgeable precedes me. Maybe I could have encouraged teachers to follow up. Though I hate to promote a “squeaky wheels get the grease” mentality or create unnecessary tension. The third option is the most intimidating: I could have brought the issue to the administrator’s attention.
I both did and did not do all of those things.
Teachers should be willing and able to speak with their supervisors. In this case, I know the relationships are positive enough to withstand such a minor issue. Therefore, I reminded teachers to ask, appropriately and professionally, about their orders.
Despite my hesitation, I heard about this from enough people to warrant my intervention. I feel somewhat intimidated by approaching administrators. Nonetheless, I felt a pattern emerging that needed to be disrupted. So I decided to include this issue in my weekly meeting.
In addition, I opted to play a little dumb. Or at least, to approach bringing up this problem as casually as possible. First, I gathered a few more details. Second, I left this discussion to the end of my meeting. I didn’t want to derail the positive trends we had to review. Finally, I reflected on how to craft my statement. I needed to get the message across without judgement. I also needed to stay out of it–to not take sides.
To my surprise, it worked. At least, I think it did. As I packed up to leave, I said, “By the way, a couple people mentioned they are missing supplies. How can I help with that?” He surprised me by saying the supplies have arrived. He just hasn’t gotten around to distributing them. Hopefully, my reminder will help him prioritize putting those items in teachers hands.
Lessons and Questions
I might be nervous over nothing in these situations. On the other hand, I am learning to honor my feelings. In doing so, I become more reflective. I can stay positive and feel less stuck in the middle when I am self-aware.
Changing my point of view also helped me recognize the compliment I am getting when people confide in me. I am slowly becoming more confident. Moreover, I am intentionally building strong relationships.
I still have questions. How can I better manage my time? In the long run, how can I reduce conflict among teachers? What steps will help strengthen a culture of respect? How do I advocate for everyone? Who coaches me? When will I feel like I know what I am doing?
Maybe the last question was somewhat hyperbolic. Maybe. I hate feeling like I am stuck in the middle. And I love being in the middle of everything. I am focused on adjusting the ‘stuck’ part and I hope will continue to improve.
What is the missing piece in most professional development sessions? Why is it so hard to change teacher behavior in learning new knowledge? What can we do to make teacher learning stick? We’ve all asked these questions. No matter how thoroughly we prepare or how […]