I have been looking for ways to increase collaboration and provide teachers with authentic opportunities to lead and learn from one another. This year I introduced POP Teams (Peer Observation Partnerships), and for the first half of the year they seemed to work well. One of the biggest drawbacks of POPs was teachers wanted to collaborate with more than just their chosen parter. I also noticed the level of peer coaching wasn't where I would have liked it to be, and the number of instances where teachers went in to visit another classroom was small. One day, as I was looking on Twitter, I came across Mark Barnes' Pineapple Chart blog post. I began reading up on this, and approached you principal about possibly implementing this next year.
Recently, I was asked what I thought the three most important tasks of instructional supervision/evaluation were. The response was to be from an Instructional Coaching lens, but as I thought about my answer, I noticed it wasn’t far off from how I would respond in one of my administration graduate classes.
My three tasks: Shared Vision, Feedback, and Reflection.
Shared Vision - Cultivating a shared vision entails identifying the teacher’s (or building or district’s) current reality and together using data to inform decisions, identify and progress toward the desired state.A professor of mine once said, “If you don’t know where you’re headed, any path will lead you there” and to me, having a shared vision doesn’t do anyone any good if you haven’t thought out where you want to end up.
Feedback - Feedback should be specific, grounded in data, and non evaluative when coming from an instructional coach. If it’s from an administrator, than the feedback more than likely would be evaluative.
Reflection - Reflection involves employing coaching language, and allowing or encouraging teachers to reflect on their practice and choose areas for improvement. Reflection should be forward thinking, rather than dwelling on the past, or being content with how things are.
Those were my three tasks, and I’m curious what your three would be.
Another activity during this year's Data Day involved teachers reflecting on their dreams for their students. This could be a dream for this year, or further down their educational paths. Each teacher was given a poster with the sentence starter "My dream is..." and was tasked with communicating their dream using words and/or images. I then tied this back to Data Day by asking teachers to reflect on what they've taught this year that would help move students closer to meeting this goal, and what steps a teacher can take between now and the end of May. To keep the students, and student learning, fresh in everyone's minds over the next few months, I collected the Dream posters and added them to the bulletin board in our conference room. We use the conference room for weekly professional development, Building Assistance Team meetings, Leadership Team Meetings, and a myriad of other activities, so the Dream posters will be visible to all staff members throughout the remainder of the school year. Below, you'll see examples of the dreams our teachers have for their students.
What's your dream for your students?
One of my favorite activities I planned for this year's Data Day was having the teachers reflect on why they went in to teaching. We have a mix of veteran and new staff, and I thought this would be a fun way for the staff to get to know one another as professionals and remind everyone why they went in to this career. I encouraged everyone to be creative as they shared their inspiration. During the gallery walk, it was great to overhear the conversations and continue to nurture the positive and collaborative culture of our staff. A few teachers have posted their #WhyITeach sign outside their classroom door.
Click here to download your own copy of the #WhyITeach templates.
One of my responsibilities as an Instructional Coach revolves around the area of parent and community outreach. Over the years I've used social media, brochures, and our Title I night to meet this responsibility.
This year, I added a new outreach opportunity to my building. I received a grant from the Dollar General Literacy Foundation to send home monthly math and literacy bags with every student. Each bag contains a new book, a reading activity, and a math activity that can be completed with a deck of cards. The cards were donated by Prairie Meadows. Students get to keep the resources, which means by May, we will have added six new books to every student's home library. On top of increasing the at home access to text, we also encourage parent involvement in their child's math and literacy achievement through the activities we send home. There aren't any usage requirements, and students aren't rewarded or penalized if they don't complete an activity, these are simply resources. Overall, students are loving this new outreach initiative, and can be heard exclaiming "I love these bags!" when I drop off the box in the classroom each month. I've had several teachers tell me their students love taking the bags home, and have even had a parent contact me to say thank you for building up their home library.
I plan on continuing the math and literacy take home bags, and will be applying for the grant again next year. I also want to continue to expand the level and type of parent and community outreach I provide.
"We've got to continually push ourselves, grow, innovate, and find ways to be different! The kids deserve it!" - Kids Deserve It! Pushing Boundaries and Challenging Conventional Thinking by Todd Nesloney and Adam Welcome
The quote above reminds me of a photo that frequently appears in my social media feeds:
Since leaving the classroom three years ago to serve as our building's Instructional Coach, I am frequently asked if I like this new role. The truth is, I love working with educators who are looking to grow as professionals, innovate their instruction, and make a difference for their students! I believe facilitating adult learning is allowing me to use my passions to reach more students than I ever could have imagined. Looking ahead, I am nearing the end of my Ed Leadership program, and plan to expand this impact to the systems level as I serve in a Curriculum Director capacity. I recognize it takes courage to step out of one's comfort zone, including reaching out to an Instructional Coach for assistance, but as the graphic shows, that truly is where the magic happens.
One of my favorite aspects of my job as an Instructional Coach is partnering with teachers and together working toward a goal. This has been going well, but I wanted to see more peer coaching occurring. After doing some research, I came across the idea of Peer Observation Partnerships. I adapted the information so it would fit my building, and ran the idea by my principal. Together, we decided that teachers would complete a minimum of one POP visit each trimester. Additionally, three "POP Share-Out Sessions" have been scheduled, during which teachers will meet as a whole group and share out their POP stories, moments of magic, and areas of focus for next time.
I look forward to seeing how the POP teams work this year, and it is definitely something I would hope to implement once I'm in an administrative role.
If you would like a copy of either document, I'd be happy to share! Use the contact form under "Connect" at the top of the page.
I had the privilege of presenting at the Iowa Reading Association's 2016 conference. Rather than doing a typical sit and get presentation, I had stations set up for participants to rotate through. Below you will find the handout I had available for participants.
If you would like information on any of these technology tools, including how I implement them with our K-5 students and teachers, let me know!
I recently attended the Iowa 1:1 Institute, and during a session for administrators, the following quote was shared:
“Walk with the dreamers, the believers, the courageous, the cheerful, the planners, the doers, the successful people with their heads in the clouds and their feet on the ground. Let their spirit ignite a fire within you to leave this world better than when you found it.”
As I finish my second year as an Instructional Coach, and am pursuing my PK-12 Principal/Supervisor of Special Education license from Viterbo, this quote spoke to the importance of finding staff, colleagues, and community members who will not only support you as an educator and leader, but also will push you. If, at the conclusion of each day, each teaching position, each administration role and, ultimately, at the end of my career, I can look back and say that I have successfully left education better than I found it, then I can truly say I didn’t shy away from greatness.
For the second to last assignment in my Directing and Supervising K-12 Reading Programs course, we were tasked with finding a cartoon that connects to schools, leadership and learning. It took me a few days of scouring the internet of past comic strips, but after reading countless Zits, Baby Blues, Non Sequitur, among others, all of a sudden I remembered one of my favorite quotes. For as long as I can remember, I've heard the following quote, and couldn't think of anything better to connect schools, leadership, and learning.