Collaborating, learning, and supporting the coaching process in underserved districts.

Recent Posts

12 Reasons to use a Web-Based Assessment Platform

12 Reasons to use a Web-Based Assessment Platform

Moving to a web-based assessment platform can be daunting. The hype is real. Here are twelve reasons it is totally worth it (and a couple of reasons to be cautious). Collaboration- It is possible to collaborate with teachers from all over the world with a web-based […]

Using Core Competencies in Your Curriculum Planning Process

Using Core Competencies in Your Curriculum Planning Process

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 […]

Learning your Teachers

Learning your Teachers

Learning your teachers you coach is hard work. What do you need to know? What do you want to know? How can you establish a positive, productive working relationship? Where is the balance between coach and friendship? Coaching is inherently relational. Taking the time to learn the teachers, just as you might your students, is an important component of effective coaching.

As the new year starts, working with a new group of teachers can be challenging. There are a number of things I find helpful to learn about my teachers.

  1. Personality-Whether it is True Colors, Strength Finders, or any other personality “test,” these exercises can be really revealing and helpful. Both the results and the way teachers approach and respond to the results provide valuable information.
  2. Processing style-Observing how each teacher processes information is incredibly important. Some teachers think out loud, others need time to contemplate information. Certain teachers are linear, while others have thought patterns that resemble a bird’s nest. Some teachers prefer to write before speaking. Paying attention to how teachers process can increase your effectiveness as you adjust your coaching moves to the style of each teacher.
  3. Learning style-Teachers learn in different ways, just as students do. Do first, see first, read first? What works for each teacher as a learner? Not only does this help the coach support teacher learning, it helps the coach fully grasp why each teacher makes certain instructional choices.
  4. Communication style-Are you working with any teachers who are conflict-averse? Who goes along to get along? Are you working with teachers who are natural contrarians? Who loves to debate? Are some teachers naturally blunt, introspective and reserved, outgoing and social? Communication style is like learning style-identifying how your teachers communicate can help you both understand certain instructional choices and increase your effectiveness. If you are working with PLCs, learning your teachers can also help you facilitate and mediate group meetings.
  5. Love language-What makes your teachers feel appreciated? This one is easy to overlook; however, it can be the key to establishing positive, productive relationships. Who needs words of affirmation? Maybe that teacher isn’t ‘needy;’ maybe she needs words to feel validated, not just reassured. Who appreciates acts of service? The teacher who melts when you make his copies probably isn’t totally overwhelmed–he just takes your help as a sign of genuine caring. Who gains strength from simple touch? That teacher who feels supported by a shoulder squeeze isn’t more or less difficult to coach-just different. Who responds best to your undivided attention? A teacher who appreciates your extended observation isn’t being selfish-she feels cared about when you gift her your time. Love languages are not a typical teacher kind of tool. On the other hand, when teachers feel that you care and appreciate them, they are likely to be more receptive to your coaching.
  6. Professional boundaries-Which teachers keep their personal lives strictly private? Who hosts their teacher friends for regular social gatherings? Do some teachers have few friends outside their teaching circle? Are some teachers reluctant to socialize with those they see as “administration?” Learning how teachers view the line between professional and personal relationships can help you avoid potentially awkward situations. It can also increase your awareness of perceived bias. Some teachers will see bias towards teachers with whom you socialize more even if they desire no such relationship. Some teachers will see bias against teachers as a group if you elect not to join in social activities. As a coach, you can plan to negotiate the social balance more effectively when you recognize how your teachers view professional boundaries.

I create a spreadsheet (that I absolutely keep 100% private) where I can note these things about each teacher. Doing so improves my individual coaching. It also helps me design professional development and group activities that meet the needs of all my teachers.

Learning your teachers can be time-consuming, but it is worth the effort. Even the lens of learning your teachers can help you start the year in a positive way. In the long run, learning your teachers, in whatever ways work for you, will pay dividends later.

Harvard’s Project Implicit as a Coaching Tool

Harvard’s Project Implicit as a Coaching Tool

Harvard’s Project Implicit is an on-going research project collecting data on implicit bias through a series of online quizzes. Anyone can anonymously attempt as many quizzes, on as many topics, as many times as desired. Demographic data is optional and results are provided with explanations […]

Manage Coaching Tasks with Google Tools

Manage Coaching Tasks with Google Tools

It is vitally important to have systems to manage coaching tasks effectively. Every coach needs systems to give teachers feedback. Without systems in place, coaches can easily become overwhelmed by other tasks and lose track of observations, feedback, and coaching conversations. Coaches also need tools […]

Tracking Professional Development Hours with Certify’em

Tracking Professional Development Hours with Certify’em

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:

  1. Name
  2. Location
  3. Hours Completed
  4. How would you rate today’s PD overall?
  5. What did you learn today?
  6. What questions or needs do you have at this time?
  7. What could be improved in the future?
  8. 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.

Collective Commitments: A Meaningful Team Building Activity

Collective Commitments: A Meaningful Team Building Activity

Finding meaningful team building activities can be a challenge. Recently, I crafted an introductory team activity I want to share. When I planned this activity, I was hopeful it would work well. It surpassed my expectations. I call this activity “Creating Collective Commitments.” I did […]

The Dirty Secret of Implementing Independent Reading for Literacy Coaches

The Dirty Secret of Implementing Independent Reading for Literacy Coaches

“Students need to read like writers and they need to write like readers.” ― Kelly Gallagher The current craze in education is around giving students choice in what they read in an attempt to get them excited about reading again. This idea as basic as it has […]

The Unspoken Truths of Being an Instructional Coach

The Unspoken Truths of Being an Instructional Coach

Imagine you’re running a marathon and you’ve made it to mile 24. You’re cramping up and your mouth is dry, but you know the end is near- so you keep going. At mile 25, you’ve resorted to walking because you’re legs are on fire. You know you have roughly a mile and a half left, but mentally you’re over it. Just as you’re about to quit, there’s a water station and after guzzling down two cups, you think you can make it. Forty-five minutes later you’re literally crawling to the finish line, but you’re finished. You collapse and just lay on the pavement. You made it- you’re now a marathoner. 

The act of finishing a marathon is a grueling task that few accomplish and it perfectly describes how many Instructional Coaches feel at the end of any given school year. For the past 180 days, coaches have functioned between a pseudo teacher, confidante, and colleague and as the school year dwindles down to the final countdown, the meltdowns from teachers (and even you) are more frequent and the days are longer. For outsiders looking in on the job of an Instructional Coach, being “out” of the classroom is the best position ever, but what many don’t know is that there’s an unspoken truth of our job.

Being an Instructional Coach is a lonely job. Click To Tweet

Lonely in the sense you’re no longer (technically) a teacher. You can’t go into the teacher’s lounge and laugh about the silly jokes about the principal, you’re no longer invited to those long lunches during planning days and you sure are not included in those complaining sessions that frequently happen in the hallway between classes. To make things even murkier, you’re definitely not invited to the Administrative Meetings, you aren’t in attendance in conferences with teachers to discuss their areas of growth and your opinion on what instructional decisions need to occur are often ignored.

So where does this leave the Coach? In a space that leaves them alone with the difficult work of trying to change the instructional practices of teachers. Many times this loneliness shows up during times that are trying to coaches such as having courageous conversations with a teacher or when they just feel defeated, but whenever the loneliness shows up it has the ability to hinder the most ambitious coach to a crying shell of a professional.

During these moments, there are several truths that become clearer:

  • Instructional Coaches need professional learning communities that are space spaces for them to cry, scream, or ask for desperately needed help.
  • As an Instructional Coach, you don’t have to “like” all of your teachers.
  • There’s a strong likelihood that your administrative team has not one iota of instructional savviness in their bones.
  • There are days where you wonder if going back in the classroom is where you can interact with reasonable people-students.
  • There’s a likelihood that the people in your building believe your job is being a glorified assistant- to everyone.
  • Leaving the classroom to become an instructional coach does not mean you couldn’t “handle” students.
  • You’re no longer a teacher. Yes, you’re still a certified teacher, but you don’t have a dedicated classroom, and other teachers know that.
  • You can know all of the coaching “strategies” you want, but if teachers don’t respect you no work will get done.
  • Your administrator will ask you to do tasks that are technically their job- you either do it, or you could (possibly) get a bad evaluation.

As each day to summer becomes nearer, these truths become harder to swallow and can leave a coach crawling to the finish line of the end of school, unwilling to confront the truths you know to be evident about your job. So instead of leaving a trail of tears, enter the theratp

[Instructional Coach Chronicles] Working With a Teacher You Don’t Like

[Instructional Coach Chronicles] Working With a Teacher You Don’t Like

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 […]