6 Books on My Summer Reading List. And How I Chose Them.

During the year, I always keep a running list of books I want to read. They’re an assortment of titles I hear about on podcasts, come across online or in other books I read, or are recommended from friends and colleagues. I may not have time to read them right then, but I know I’ll want to come back to these books at some point, so I write them down.

Since I usually build up a pretty long list over the school year, and don’t have time to read every one (even with the added leisure of summer days…ahhh), I have to decide which ones I’m going to invest in.

So. Here’s what I think about to help me decide which books will really be worthy of my summer time reading:

  • What did I struggle with this past year? What felt challenging?
  • What am I feeling really excited about for next year? What’s going to motivate me to keep getting better? What additional opportunities and experiences can I create for myself and teachers next year?

I’ve found that my answers to these two questions most always steer me in the right direction.

I think this is one that all of us who have ever done any kind of coaching have struggled with at one point or another: teacher motivation, buy-in, or change.

I worked with a teacher at the beginning of the year who I just couldn’t get off ‘go’. Even though we worked together through a full 6-week coaching cycle, we couldn’t get to a place where next steps were consistently implemented and a change in practice was supporting student achievement.

And it bugged me all year.

Not the teacher, but me. I bugged myself, because I knew I could have done better as a coach.

So to support myself with the skills and tools I know I’ll need to get better in this area next year, I’m going to check out the books shown below.

Tackling tricky conversations and teacher change, here I come!

 
  

One thing I’m getting myself pumped up about for next year is PD. I know. Kind of an odd area to get excited about, but it’s a big part of my role as a coach at our school. And our PD time and structure needs some shaking up!

I’ve got some good ideas for our PD Pad in mind that I’m getting excited about (think disco balls and whiteboard tables…woot woot!). And I’ve also got some ideas for how to take better advantage of technology to better differentiate and support teacher learning. I’ve fiddled with this in the past, but there’s so much more I could be doing.

Something else I started to get more into this year was Twitter and becoming a “connected educator.” Just this year, I’ve connected with so many other amazing educators on Twitter, and have been introduced to lots of great resources. Not sure how it took me so long to get on the Twitter train, but I’m on it, so let’s get connected! If you’re just getting started, here’s a really great guide that I read to get me up and going.

And back to books. Here are two I’ve picked out that I think will really align well with my “let’s get excited” goals for next year:

I really believe in the saying that “Leaders are Readers”. So let’s choose a few books to dig into this summer, shall we?

Let me know your book picks in the comments below.

By the way, have you checked out my “Walk Through a Coaching Cycle Workshop” yet? If not, make sure to take a look!

Talk to you soon,

6 Lessons I’ve Learned as an Instructional Coach

The close of this year will mark my fifth year anniversary as an Instructional Coach. Crazy.

My journey into the world of coaching wasn’t necessarily a planned one. So when I first got started, I really had no idea what I was doing. Just keeping it real.

But then guess what?

I embraced the discomfort, learned along the way, and…I started to get better! And then a little better. To the point where these days you might even think I know a bit about what I’m doing!

That’s not to say that I still don’t have a ton to learn. Because I do. For sure.

But in reflection, I thought I’d take some time today to share with you 6 of the most important lessons I’ve learned as a coach in these past five years of practice.

I was thinking I might try to keep the list to five so the post had a better ring to it (you know: 5 Lessons in 5 Years). But I really think all 6 are important :)

Here it goes:

1. Listen. And Then Listen Some More

This was probably one of my biggest first lessons. I had always considered myself a pretty good listener. Then I started coaching.

When you’re in the thick of a coaching conversation and doing your best to guide the flow of your chat and develop understandings along the way, you’ll discover one thing quickly:

You’ve got to learn to listen like whoa.

This is the only way you’re going to get better at this next piece…

2. Get Good at Asking Good Questions

Who knew asking good questions could be so hard? Geeze.

Then I started coaching.

Through coaching, I started to learn and understand more about the difference between a question and a really good question.

The ones you think about and plan for, that give teachers space to reflect and analyze their own instruction, resulting in improved understandings that will positively impact the quality of their next lesson.

Phew. This isn’t an easy task. And to make it trickier, you have to get good at asking these kinds of questions on the fly! Bah!

This is one I just have to keep working on getting good/better at.

3. Don’t Lose Your Street Cred

I’m a coach AND a teacher. Not either-or.

So I don’t want to lose my street cred.

Staying connected to the work that classroom teachers do everyday is super important for myself as an educator, as well as my work as a coach.

With more paperwork responsibilities on your plate as a coach, it’s easy to get caught at your desk and behind your computer for longer than you might like.

I make it a point to keep my teaching skills sharp and that street cred in place through modeling, co-teaching, or even jumping in to sub for a teacher!

Regular teaching keeps me engaged, passionate, and informed about the work I do.

4. Take Your Job Seriously. But Don’t Take Yourself too Seriously

I love the way that Stacie shared and expanded on the importance of this super smart advice.

Yes, I’m a coach and a leader, and I definitely have important work to accomplish during my days. But that doesn’t mean I have to be so dang serious and buttoned up about it.

So I smile often. I laugh out loud and act silly. I don’t try to use really big words and act like I know everything. Cuz I don’t.

I’m not afraid to say “I don’t know” and I definitely mess up.

Taking risks and working through the muck of moving towards classroom and school goals right alongside teachers is what I try to do.

5. Double Down on Knowledge

Make learning a priority. Read all of the books you can, take all the classes you can, and connect with as many other educators as you can.

Invest your time, and even money, into this knowledge. It will be one of your best investments ever.

Knowledge will get you to where you want to go as a Teacher Leader faster, you’ll be prepared for future opportunities, and most importantly all this smart-ness you’re accumulating will provide great value to the teachers and students you work with.

Double down.

Check out the Walk through a Coaching Cycle Workshop
I’ve got coming up!

6. Learn How to Be a Time Management Ninja

When you’re a teacher, your schedule is all neat and tidy. I loved this part of teaching.

I knew exactly when my planning times were everyday, when our weekly PD was scheduled, and of course I had my lesson plans for each subject all lined up and ready to go.

Then…I started coaching.

Goodbye neat and tidy. Helloooo unstructured, things always change, non-tidy schedule.

Man. I’m so routine oriented, so this was a hard one for me. I had to figure out some planning systems and structures, and quick.

It was a process of trial and error, and I continue to tweak and refine each year, but I now have a pretty good system in place that helps me bring some structure to my weeks.

It’s Here! The Time & ToDo Planner, Academic 2016-17 Calendar (updated and Awesome!)

I hope these few bits of advice will help you either reflect on your own journey with coaching, or if you’re just starting out, help you with getting started on the right foot.

Talk to you soon,

A Few Ways to Say Thank You to Teachers

Man oh man, do teachers ever work hard.

While I’m no longer in the classroom full time, I’ll never forget my classroom roots and the time, energy, and dedication that being an excellent educator demands.

There’s just no end to the amount of mad props these teacher-heroes deserve.

And as coaches, that’s what we’re dedicated to doing right? We work daily to support the work teachers do with quality feedback, a high five on a lesson well done, or just a basket of chocolate and a free flowing pot of coffee.

But did you know that Teacher Appreciation Week is right around the corner? (May 2nd-May 6th)

Well, I say we take this opportunity to show the teachers in our school and elsewhere some extra love.

Here are a few ideas to get your creative wheels spinning.

Teacher Appreciation Week Ideas

1. Share an Inspiring Video or Article

I. Love. This. Video. It makes me happy to be a teacher every time I watch it. Great job Google.

 

Oh, and don’t skip over this read. Such a well written article by Justin Minkel on the worthiness of teaching as a life long craft, worthy of lifetime’s practice. I wish every teacher I knew would read this, and refer back to it often.

2. Give a Special Note

Print this out on card stock and drop one in each teacher’s box recognizing them for something special. Maybe how proud you are of how far they’ve come this year, or just a thanks for welcoming you in their room.

Handwritten notes go a long way in making teachers feel special. I still keep a file of all the notes I’ve received through the years, looking back through them every now and then with a smile.

Teacher Appreciation Cards

Teacher Appreciation Note Card

DOWNLOAD HERE!

3. Treat em’!

Did someone say surprise/free staff treats?! I’m in!

Our principal will often surprise treat us with a catered lunch, personal little dessert treats, or just an “it’s on me” happy hour at the end of a long week. This along with a simple email of “Thanks for all the work you do” is much appreciated by staff.

4. Create a Staff Shout-Out Board

A thoughtful staff member at school created this, and I just love it! Each day when I walk into our staff lounge, I can’t wait to see what new “shout-outs” have been posted on the board.

It’s a fun way to build culture and community in your school, and you can initiate it!

Teacher Appreciation Week

So, what do you think?! What’s one thing you can initiate or share in your building to show teachers some extra love?

I’d love for you to let me know in the comments below!

Have a terrific week, and I’ll talk to you soon,