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Facilitating a Peer Classroom Visit

One of the best ways to really “get” good teaching, is to see it in action.

You can listen, learn, or read about what it’s supposed to look like all you want, but it doesn’t really click until you actually experience it — teaching that has a bang and makes a difference.

As I’ve shared in the Coaching Workshop, that’s one of the reasons why I think model lessons and classroom visits can be so impactful in building foundational understandings of teaching strategies, that you can then work with teachers on implementing themselves.

Now, when you can make this happen for a group of teachers, support it with a visual of the lesson plan beforehand, link your look-fors to specific teacher moves, follow-it up with a descriptive review protocol, and add in teacher commitments to next steps…well, then you’re really talkin’!

Peer Classroom Visit

This week I wrapped up a 4 week “deep dive” PD with our 3-5 teachers during which we learned about “Using Data to Sharpen Curriculum Implementation.”

It’s been pretty awesome, and I credit much of its success to our Peer Classroom Visit Kick-Off.

Let’s walk through the plan of action, shall we?

First things first. Start with your final outcome in mind, and plan backwards from there.

Here are some questions to consider:

  • What is your main goal/purpose for arranging this visit?
    • Will this lead into a sequence of follow-up PD sessions?
    • Will this visit support individualized coaching goals?
    • Will this visit kick-off a grade level coaching cycle?

Next up – recruit. Here’s who you’ll need:

 

 

 

OK, sweet. Now that I had the WHO all set-up, I needed to get my materials organized.

Knowing that the purpose of this classroom visit was to “kick-off” a series of future PD sessions, I wanted to help teachers stay organized with all the materials I would be giving them over the course of the next 4 weeks. Plus I wanted to spruce things up a bit, and help it feel more like an “experience” for teachers.

So I made a folder for each teacher, which greeted them on the morning of the visit. (logistics note: our Assistant Principal got coverage for all 12 teachers on this morning, so we were all able to go in together!)

 

 

After a pre-brief with teachers (overview of the Learning Target, self-assessment on target tracker, review of materials and observation norms), we were ready to head in!

 

Since teachers had to head back to their classrooms straight after the visit, I arranged for a follow-up debrief later that week.

There’s a lot of different forms/protocols you can use to structure a classroom visit debrief, but here’s one that can be found in my Coaching Kit.

 

 

Now coming back to the original purpose of this particular classroom visit…as I mentioned earlier, the learning that took place in observing Dina’s lesson was intended to kick-off a series of 4 follow-up PD sessions. The host of the visit, Dina, supported in facilitating these sessions and helped teachers apply the different pieces we had put into place around assessment to arrive at the tightly planned lesson they observed (logistics note: Dina is a teacher who I’ve coached actively this year. She was well prepared for the visit and the instructional practice we modeled for teachers.)

I’ve actually never set-up PD in this way, but I found that teachers were really engaged in the work and learning as a result of seeing it in “action.”

 

And there ya have it! Hope this post provided some inspiration for you as you think about organizing classroom visits within your own school to support teacher learning.

Thanks for reading!

 

 

P.S. Bonus tip: Listen to fun music when you plan. Sometimes I’ll even turn some tunes on for teachers at the start of PD! This one will get you feeling “Good as He**!”

P.P.S Excited about this year’s TTP?! (Time & ToDo Planner) – get signed up here for updates. Cool new cover design, binding, and….a folder this year! You won’t want to miss it.

Keep me posted about the Time & ToDo Planner

PD Pad Pick-Me-Up

Have you ever had one of those years at school that’s just been a bit…tough? This has been one of those years for us.

We’ve been working through some changes and challenges in leadership, that have left us all without a solid foundation to stand strong on, and just not our peppy selves.

As a coach, when you notice a dip in staff culture and morale, what can you do?

When I asked myself this question, I thought…well…hmm…what is something I’m pretty good at, I enjoy doing, and I know will help add some pep to our teacher’s step?? Think, think…I got it!

Creating beautiful spaces.

Working and learning in an inspiring space is something that makes us all feel good.

And where do we learn each week? The PD Pad!

So the designer in me stepped in and said, “Let’s do this.”

These past few weeks, using spare chunks of time, I’ve been chipping away at project: “PD Pad Pick-Me-Up”.

Alright, let’s take a tour, shall we? Come on in!

I made a Welcome Sign to greet teachers as they come in. I printed “Welcome” using a fun font on a turquoise background, cut out the letters, and matted them on different size sheets of black construction paper.

As you come in the room, to your right, you’ll see the three categories of our Work Plan Goals posted. Below those, are the Learning Targets guiding our work in PD. Some foliage always helps to liven up a space, so I got the plant in the corner at Hobby Lobby (not real, but still leafy :) and wrapped it in string lights. The star hanging above it is from Ikea. Lighting is one of those design pieces that can help take a room from drab to fab.

“Explore, Question, Create” are the three words that make up our school’s vision. So I knew I wanted these posted front and center. I asked a kindergartner to help me write the letters for the words, then backed them on a painted construction paper background that our art teacher had the first graders help her with.

OK, let’s take a look at the far side of the room. I love this corner of the space! Photos of students, and our character habits posted on the wall help anchor the room in the importance of the work we do everyday.

Oh, and you’ll see each table has a plastic basket to hold sticky notes, highlighters, and pens. I didn’t like the original colors the baskets came in, so I spray painted them a fun turquoise and gold to go with the color scheme of the room.

Here’s a closer look at the student photos. I wanted them to stand off the wall a bit, so I had canvas prints made at Walgreens.

On the wall, I added a smidge of color with gold strips of washi-tape. This also helped me cover up some ugly holes in the wall :)

Here’s our Habits wall. I made some DIY frames, then used white chalkboard marker on a black tag-board background to hand letter our staff norms connected to each of our Habits.

Above each of the three windows in the room, I strung the words “We Are Crew.” As an EL Education School, this phrase is really important to the work we do. To highlight it a bit more, I strung some bistro light strands right above.

As a teacher, I would always hang photos of students in the room to help illustrate that this was our space. And as a coach, I like to do the same thing. Black and white photos of each of the teachers, matted on a black background, with gold washi-tape, felt just right.

On the other side of the room is our snack station. It’s hard to add some pep to your step in an after school PD without snacks and caffeine :)

I designed this typography poster for a bit of motivation as teachers grab their snacks.

And there you have it! Hopefully this post gave you some ideas for how you might work to create beautiful spaces in your own building(s).

For more ideas and inspiration, here are two past PD Pads you can check out:

Creating a Professional Development Space

PD Pad Set-Up

And lastly, if you’re going through challenges of your own at school, don’t worry. They happen to all of us. Just remember, teachers need you as their coach to stay strong and positive. You got this!

Talk to you soon,

4 Steps for Creating a Coaching Cycle Schedule

Earlier this week, I broke out the cool new pens I got for Christmas and got to work on putting together my coaching cycle schedule for this next quarter.

Creating new schedules throughout the year is a cool opportunity for us coaches. It’s kind of like having a mini beginning-of-school-year kick off more than just once :)

You get to reset and regroup for a new journey ahead with new “students” to motivate and move forward.

I know that sometimes creating a coaching cycle schedule can feel overwhelming, so I wanted to share the steps I use to simplify the process a bit and make it fun.

OK, now that we’ve got those steps and tips down, grab yourself a nice bright sheet of white paper and head over to the printer. I just designed a new Scheduling Tool I want to share with you.

It’s simple, fun, and includes space at the top to jot down a few goals for your upcoming coaching cycles. And because I think quotes are cool and inspiring, I included one of those too :)

Once you have it printed out, you can pop it in your Coaching Kit. I like to put mine front and center, along with a color coded index of the teachers I’ll be working with. You know me and color coding :) The colors help me quickly find the different “sections” for teachers. So when I head into a classroom, I can just whip my Kit right open to that color.

Want to learn more about how I work through coaching cycles? Check out the Walk Through a Coaching Cycle Workshop, where we walk through a full coaching cycle together.

I’ll also help answer some of those logistic questions that come up:

  • How many teachers do you work with during your coaching cycles?
  • How many observations and feedback meetings do you schedule x week?
  • Do you always set-up face-face feedback meetings, or do you use email at all?

Here’s what Nancy C. had to say about her Coaching Workshop experience:

“First of all, I want to tell you that I absolutely LOVE your documentation and your videos! What a fantastic package you’ve put together. This is only my second year as a Literacy Coach so I’m really just learning as I go along and your clear and concise way of explaining the coaching cycle is EXACTLY what I needed. I cannot thank you enough.

Here we go Coaching Cycles, here we go!! Whoop whoop.

Alright friend, I’m feeling really good about this second half of the school year. If there are any other topics or resources you’d like me to share heading into this year, be sure to let me know!

7 Ways to Build Your Coaching Confidence

I’ve been thinking a lot about confidence lately.

And it all started with a recent trip to the grocery store.

So there I was, Saturday morning, groceries in hand waiting in the check-out line at Safeway. As I was looking around, I recognized a girl I knew through a mutual acquaintance. And not just any girl. This happened to be the girl who you look at and immediately think Confidence, with a capital C. Even on a Saturday morning in the grocery store, she walked with confidence, dressed with confidence, and even carried her vanilla latte with confidence.

First thought — Where’d she get all that dang confidence, and how could I get more of it?!

Confidence is something we all naturally want more of. It helps us feel better, do better, and achieve more.

And in our work as coaches, I’d say we especially want confidence on our side.

From one-on-one coaching convos, to leading whole staff PD, to facilitating grade level meetings–confidence comes in real handy.

So let’s talk about it. If confidence is something you struggle with, don’t worry. We all do! Even if we do a good job of hiding it, we all have insecurities that creep up now and then.

But don’t let that fear stop you from doing hard things.

Confidence can be developed and strengthened just like anything else. Here are a few tips and tricks I use to help me build my own confidence as a coach.

1. Check Your Language

If you catch yourself using or thinking any lame-o language like:

I can’t…
I hate…
I stink at…
I’m not…

STOP IT. Stop it right-this-second.

Your thoughts and words create your reality just as much as your actions.

So if you want to create a more confident reality, make sure the language you use reflects that. Be your own biggest cheerleader. Switch out those lame-o thoughts with others like:

I’m awesome at…
I can…
I AM…capable, smart, positive…

When I was in the classroom, one of the things I always used to say to my kids was: You Can Do Hard Things. And guess what? They could! And so can you.

Surround yourself with positive language. Post it on a sticky note, in your coaching office, and in your planner! Use this poster to get you started.

Download Here

 2. Use Your Strong Voice

Dana Perino is a news anchor who sure has achieved a lot in her career. And she needed a lot of confidence to do it.

In a recent interview, Dana shared that one of the best pieces of advice she could give to women in building their confidence: find and use your strong voice.

I appreciate this advice so much, I think I’ll say it again.

Find and use your strong voice.

When you have conversations with your principal, or with other teachers, pay attention to how your voice sounds. Is it weak and whiny, ending in a lot of question marks???

Share you advice, thoughts, or ideas with confidence. Use your strong voice.

Thanks Dana.

3. Develop Your Presence

On my walks with Sombra dog, I’ve been listening to the book Presence by Amy Cuddy. Amy does a great job of explaining the concept of presence, and how it contributes to us showing up more confidently in our daily lives.

One of the big things she talks about is body language. I have to constantly be reminding myself of this one.

Things like slumped shoulders, crossed arms, and your nail picking/biting habit (guilty) do NOT convey confidence.

Instead let’s try this: before your next coaching or PD meeting, strike a power pose. Essentially, stand like Super Woman. Hands on hips, shoulders back, and slap a big smile on your face. You might also envision your Coaching Cape flapping behind you :)

When you move into your coaching session, I’ll betcha feel more confident. Keep that posture straight, smile and nod as you listen, and coach away!

4. Prepare Your Booty Off

I read an interview recently with Megyn Kelly, in which she described owing much of her success to hard work and intense preparation.

Now if Megyn Kelly can’t teach us a thing or two about confidence, I’m not sure who can. She pretty much oozes confidence.

As Megyn said, when you’ve prepared well you know what you’re doing which leads to more confidence.

One of the things we’ll talk about in the upcoming Walk Through a Coaching Cycle Workshop (planning sheet included!), is how to prepare for (and feel more confident in) facilitating effective feedback sessions.

5. Get to Know Yourself

Guess what. You’re pretty awesome. And you should know exactly what makes you awesome.

Grab a sheet of paper right now, and write down 5 things you know you’re super good at.

Things like:

I’m a dang good compliment giver.

I can organize a classroom like a boss.

I’m pretty great at building relationships with other people. Even the sticklier ones.

I am ninja good at planning a guided reading lesson.

Knowing you’re strengths and what you have to offer your school and the teachers you work with, is worth a million confidence bucks.

6. Set Small Goals and Achieve Them

Try setting a goal, just a small one, then work to achieve it.

Maybe it’s something like setting aside 30 minutes to intentionally plan for each of your feedback sessions this week. Write it down in your planner, and check off each planning session accomplished.

You’ll look at that “got-it-done” check mark and feel great about yourself.

7. Get Outside of Your Comfort Zone

In your journey to increased confidence, you have got to push yourself outside of your comfort zone.

I’ll be the first to say, I’m not always great at this. I like my comfort zone and the ease that comes with staying in it.

But! Staying comfortable was never the factor that helped me achieve more, and in turn build more confidence.

Tough situations, those ones that cause you some anxiety and butterflies-in-the-stomach feelings, are the ones that will build your confidence. Move towards them, dance with them, and know they’re doing your confidence some good.

Bonus Tip: Exercise!

This one really does work. Some of my most confident days have come after a sweaty cycle class, jammin’ out to Lady Gaga.

Building your physical capabilities, builds your mental capabilities, which equals more confidence.

Even if it’s just a good playlist, and some dancing around to get those feel-good endorphins going, take advantage of movement as one of the most empowering activities out there.

And there you have it! Seven top tips for continuing to build your confidence. Try to choose one to focus on next week, and see how it goes.

If Coaching Convos and Cycles is an area you’re looking to build more confidence in, make sure you’re signed up for the Walk Through a Coaching Cycle Workshop!

The photo above of me working with Matalin, was taken during an actual feedback session. A video of this session will be one of the three offered as part of the “Coaching Cycle Case Study” in the workshop. With clear steps, a visual model, and a plan of action for moving forward, I am certain you’ll feel like a more Confident Coach after taking part in the workshop :)

Thanks for reading! You’re the BEST!

Clarifying Your Coaching Role (And Adjusting to Change)

I haven’t told you yet, but this year we got a new principal.

Oh, and we also got a new Assistant Principal, a new School Designer, another math coach, and added another teacher to our Leadership Team.

So needless to say, the start of this year has been one of change and adjustment for me, and the school as a whole.

But it’s cool, because as Peyton Manning says, you always have to be prepared to adjust.

One of the pieces we had to work through, was the clarification of coaching roles and responsibilities. With all of the new folks on board, Deb (my math coaching buddy) and I felt this was an important to-do in supporting our work for the year.

The question, “how do I clarify my role and share with teachers?” is one I get often, so I hope this post will be helpful.

Coaching Roles and Responsibilities

Whether you’re a first year coach, a coach going through a period of transition, or even if you’re a fairly seasoned and stable educator, I believe this is important thinking for all of us.

Here are the steps we took to clarify our coaching roles and responsibilities, and get everyone on the same page in moving forward.

1. Set a Date and Create an Agenda

The first thing we did was request a day and time for the whole leadership team to come together.

An hour of time was requested and the outcome was defined as: To develop shared understandings of the roles and responsibilities of Instructional Coaches.

We felt that actually coming together to present what we do to our new principal and the other members of the leadership team was critical. Emailing a summary of our work for review didn’t feel sufficient, and we wanted to ensure that all questions were addressed.

2. Define and Clarify

Once we had a date on the calendar, Deb and I came together to define and clarify our work. We pulled up a Google Doc and began to get our thoughts down on what we do on a daily, weekly, and even monthly basis to support the school. Here is some of what we recorded:

And the list went on!

It was super helpful to talk with Deb during this step. Through our conversation we were able to expand and build on our thinking, reminding each other that, “Hey! We also do this!” or “Eh, we should probably clarify that a bit more.”

If you don’t have a colleague to brainstorm with, try using this list above to get some ideas going.

Download Your Free Coaching Roles and Responsibilities Brainstorm Sheet

3. Present and Get on the Same Page

The next step was to come together, present, and get on the same page.

In this discussion we were also able to clarify our beliefs that coaching is a partnership approach, non-evaluative, and the confidentiality of coaching conversations is to be respected.

Because we had prepared well, remained open, and clarified key points, the meeting was a success!

We recorded next steps on chart paper and were ready to move on to sharing with the staff.

4. Share with Staff

If you’re able to hold a staff meeting to share your clarified role as an Instructional Coach and how your work connects to the school’s overall support structure, my vote would be to start here.

I realize though, that in many cases an in-person staff meeting isn’t an option, and so email is your next best bet.

For us, we had a staff meeting a few years back, and since then have largely built a strong ‘culture of coaching’. So we didn’t see the need for this again.

To be transparent however, we did want to share the outcomes of our meeting with new and returning teachers alike. We delivered this via a simple and concise email.

From there, I have further worked to clarify coaching cycles with teachers on a one-one basis during our kick-off meetings.

OK, let’s pause here for a quick reflection. Where are your thoughts in connection to the following questions:

  • Can I easily explain the work I do as an Instructional Coach to others?
  • Do I feel clear on the work I am doing on a daily basis?
  • Am I on the same page as my principal and leadership team as to my coaching role and responsibilities?
  • Do teachers clearly understand how my work connects to the school’s overall support structure?
  • Do teachers understand how I am able to support them as a coach?

Hmmm. If you’re not feeling super confident in answering YES! to any of these questions, consider if there may be some further work to do on clarifying your Instructional Coaching role.

If you have any thoughts or questions that I may be able to help with, please share in the comments below. You can also always reach out to me through email. I’m here!

To clear skies and smooth sailing ahead,

 

 

PS: If you’re interested in learning more about Coaching Cycles, make sure to sign up for my Coaching Cycle Workshop! It’s available now!

DIY Creative School Welcome Wall

The kids have arrived! And it’s been fun, fun to see how excited everyone is to be back at school. The school is looking pretty good, and teachers are getting back into the routine and flow of our school days. But last week was a different story! Everyone was hustling to get classrooms set-up, first week plans figured out, and the school overall ready to greet kids for the first day.

One of the hustle projects I worked on was DIY-ing a Creative School Welcome Wall. It’s a project I’ve done for the past few years, and each year I think about how to do it a little differently. This year I was inspired to create a cool watercolor theme, and was super psyched about the result.

A school welcome wall is a terrific way to add some positivity and beauty to a school environment.

In case you’re thinking you might like to work on a School Welcome Wall yourself, here are the steps I took to create ours.

1. Choose a Space 

You can go big or small with the space you choose, but I’m always about bigger can be better when it comes to designing showcase boards/walls such as a Welcome Space. With this particular wall, I’m introducing our staff so I wanted to get as creative and artistic as I could in doing so. And for that, I needed a bigger space.

At first glance it was just a plain white wall, that I could have stuck a few photos to and called it good. But that just wouldn’t be my style.

So I fancied it up with some cool cabinet knobs that I found at Hobby Lobby. I asked our custodian to help me drill them in, then I had the perfect photo hanging accessory. A little black string tied from knob to knob, and voila! I’ve just created the perfect space to work with.

2. Take Some Photos

Next step – photos. I grabbed my camera, chose a consistent neutral background, and snapped away during a staff meeting break. That way, I had all 35+ staff members in the same location, and didn’t have to spend a ton of time tracking everyone down.

3. Gather Your Materials

Ooo, this was the fun part. I started by designing the watercolor “theme” I was going to go with, which included a Welcome sign, name frames, and small squares to serve as a backing for each teacher’s “fun fact.” (note – I printed all these materials on thick white paper both for better color and sturdiness)

And guess what?! I put together all the materials I created for the Welcome Wall in a downloadable kit just for you. Woo Hoo!

Sign up for blog updates and get the Free Watercolor Welcome Board Printables

4. Start Assembling

With the watercolor theme in mind, I chose black and kraft-colored card stock for the backing, and some fun washi tape for matting the photos.

I also asked teachers to write a “fun fact” about themselves on a post it note. These will be put on top of the watercolor squares.

5. Put It Up!

After each photo collage was assembled, I hung them up using more washi tape, and organized them by grade level/administration/specialist team. Teachers have been super busy with the first week of school, so I don’t have all the ‘fun facts’ up yet, but we’ll get there.

Once I had each photo hung, I stood back, admired my work, and gave myself a pat on the back for a job well done. It’s been fun to hear from teachers how excited they were to see the new staff Welcome Wall :)

And just for kicks, the glorious before and after of this fun and rewarding DIY project:

I hope you had some fun reading this post and thinking about what Welcome Space you may be able to create at your school for this year. If you do decide to DIY a Creative School Welcome Wall, send me a pic! I’d love to see it.

Happy School DIY-ing!

8 Ways to Get Pumped for the School Year

I woke up on Monday morning this week and thought:

Oh man. This is it. My last week of Summer 2016.

Sad day.

Here’s the thing: A little case of the Summer’s Over Blues is totally normal and allowed. So I let myself get a little blue-sy, thought about all of my fun summer memories, but then I knew it was time to move on and get those blues turned around. STAT.

So this week I swung myself into Let’s Get Pumped for School Mode. And I’m feeling goooood!

If you’ve been feeling a little Summer’s Over Blue-sy too, or you’re just looking to add a bit more swagger in your step as you head into the new year, I’ve got you covered.

Here are a few of my favorite ‘Get Pumped for the School Year’ tips and resources.

BTW – Make sure you get to the last tip. I’ve got a special little treat for you :)

1. Back to School Shopping

Back in my elementary school days, there was pretty much nothing that used to get me more excited than Back to School shopping. Seriously! The smell of a new back pack, new crayons and My Little Pony Folders, and of course a brand new pair of shoes. One year my mom bought me a pair of Reebok Pumps (remember those?!) and made me wait until the very first day of school to wear them. I was SO excited for the first day and my new Reebok Pumps, I couldn’t even stand it!!!

And to this day, I still go Back to School Shopping with my mom, pick out a new outfit, and set it aside for the first day of school. It’s so fun! Here are a few cute things I grabbed for this year:

2. Get Organized

You know me…I looooove getting organized. And for good reason. Organization makes you feel happy, confident, and calm in the midst of what can be our chaotic days as educators.

This week I went through my Master List, got my August Monthly Plans in place, and broke out my new Time & ToDo Planner (TTP) for the year. I also got my Coaching Kit put together, Google Docs organized, and my bag all cleaned out. Feels great to be all set up and ready to jump back into the routine of my school days!

3. Decorate

I love decorating just about as much as I love organizing. And there’s pretty much no better time to decorate than the beginning of the school year. Just think of the possibilities!…your PD Pad, coaching office, or TTP. A well decorated space, big or small, helps you feel inspired and motivated to take on your day.

More details coming up this month on my updated coaching space, but it will definitely include lots of pics of the Sommie Dog and cool prints. (in the meantime, check out Michelle’s space)

And since I think you’re awesome and want you to have an inspiring space too, I made this print just for you!

When you download it you’ll find a 16×20″ file which you can print off at Walgreens, frame and put in your office. Sweet! I also made you a smaller letter size version of the poster, which you can laminate and put on the inside of your TTP or Coaching Kit so it’ll keep you going throughout the day :)

Sign up for blog updates and get the Free BE BOLD Poster

4. Set Some Goals

Last year I made this Goal Setting Tool to help you think about what you want to get better at as a coach. If you’ve already downloaded your copy (and if not, make sure to grab it!) and filled it out, take some time to revisit the goals you set for yourself and assess how you did. Is there an area where you’d like to put more of a focus on this year? Write that goal down and post it somewhere you’ll see it frequently.

Push yourself, learn along the way, and keep getting better.

5. Plan for Great PD

Planning PD can either be a dreaded, can’t someone else do it experience, OR something you’re pumped about and looking forward to. Something I’ve found to make PD planning and facilitation more exciting, is to make it fun! And by that I mean think about how you can shake things up this year from the standard talk, read, take notes model.

I went in this week and met with my coaching teammies to plan our beginning of year PD and it was fun! I’m definitely pumped for what we have planned for our new teachers next week.

And don’t you worry. I’ll for sure be sharing some fun ways to plan for great PD in these next few months :)

6. Coach a Coach

What do I mean by this? Teaching others about what you do is one of the best and maybe most important ways to get excited about your work. Just look at this blog! Staying connected with you and sharing about what I’m doing and learning as a coach totally gets me more excited about what I do.

And this will be an extra special year, since I get to work with Melissa as she begins to make her move into the world of coaching. She’ll likely be shadowing me for the beginning of the year to learn some coaching fundamentals, before she begins to get into a few classrooms on her own. I’m psyched!

So for you, is there anyone in your building who is interested in coaching or just taking on more of a leadership role? Could you initiate a connection with them somehow, or invite them to tag along with you for a coaching convo? Think creatively about how you might be able to inspire, mentor, or lead others.

7. Work It Out

Gretchen over at the awesome Always a Lesson Podcast, asked me in our chat last week what advice I have for teachers to stay ignited and passionate about their work. And the advice I have is pretty simple, but not always easy to do: Take Care of Yourself.

With all the demands of our days, and everyone else we’re taking care of in classrooms and schools, it’s so important to look out for yourself too.

And one of the best ways to do that is to Work It Out. In the morning, at lunch, after school, whenever. It doesn’t really matter when you do it, just do your best to make moving your body each day a non-negotiable in your schedule.

After a good cycle class in the morning, I feel like superwoman – pumped up and ready to attack the day!

And speaking of getting your body moving…

8. Dance Par-tay!

OK! How ya feeling? Hopefully you’ve got a big smile on your face and the first word that comes to mind is P-U-M-P-E-D, PUMPED!

Now listen up, because this part is important. Don’t forget the “STAY Pumped” part of this whole thing. When those tricky days come up (which they will), don’t forget about these tips. Maybe bookmark this post, and come on back here and we’ll dance it up together to get you back on the right track.

Here’s to a great year!

 

 

PS: Here are a few other posts you might like to check out as you get going with the year:

The First Weeks of School What Do I Do?

My First Week Back

PPS: If you’re feeling pumped up, please take a sec to share this post with others or leave a comment below. I sure would appreciate it!

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 heard Beth Houf mention this as a lesson she learned, and I thought it was so true.

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,