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Getting Started with Blended Instructional Coaching

In a recent meeting with updates on distance learning, I saw a visual during the presentation that made me go, “Ah-ha!” That makes sense!

Essentially, the visual inspired me to make the connection between blended learning and blended instructional coaching. Just as students can engage in meaningful learning in a variety of environments, so can teachers. It makes our work as coaches a little trickier, but doable.

Whether you are currently coaching remote, hybrid, or in-person I would say that moving forward, all of our work will be blended in some capacity. And so I created this graphic to help me better understand how we can approach supporting the professional learning of teachers in a blended environment.

If you’d like to learn more about how I’ve been applying this blended coaching framework in my role, please consider joining me in the Getting Started with Instructional Coaching Pocket PD.

I’ve also created a fun planning kit to go along with the learning!

In this Pocket PD I’ll walk you through how I have been applying this blended coaching framework to my own work this year.

And lastly, there will be an optional follow-up Q&A on Zoom offered. Let’s chat and figure this out together!

Looking forward to it!

How I Use Block Scheduling to Structure My Days

Hello, and welcome back! How’s distance coaching/teaching been going for you?

I feel like I’m finally starting to get my groove with all of the distance learning things (now that school is almost over, geez!). And just like you, I’ve been adjusting to new technology, new schedules, new expectations, and establishing a “new normal” work-life balance.

Today I thought I’d walk you through what my schedule is currently looking like and how I’m managing my time, so my days don’t turn into one big blursday (ha!). Let’s get started!

Distance Learning

So the main strategy I’ve used to help give structure to my days and weeks is…block scheduling or time blocking. Time Blocking! It’s pretty amazing when you put it to good use. Jordan Page at Fun Cheap or Free has a great blog post I recently revisited that got me energized to use the time blocking strategy during these distance learning days.

Let me start by giving you an overview of how I’ve set up my distance learning blocks/schedule.

I created this schedule given the guidelines provided by our school, but I was also able to “bundle” my instructional time to all be in the morning which works better for me.

Since I’m nearing the end of the school year, I’ve also done some planning ahead for what I want my summer time blocks to look like. You’ll see they look very similar to what my current blocks look like! I just switched out the “teach” block with work I’ll be doing for myself…working on my blog, as well as keeping up with the FIVE classes I have signed up to take this summer!

Summer Block Schedule

OK. Now that you have the overview in mind, I’ll give you a closer look at what’s happening in each of my blocks.

And as we take this walk through be thinking about how you might structure your own time blocks!

I’m a morning person, so my morning block is a big chunk of my day…and my favorite! I’ve structured this time so I’m able to work on my priority projects and also get myself set-up and energized for a great teach from home day.

Next up, is my “Teach” block. As I mentioned, I was able to bundle all of my student instructional time to be during this block which has really worked well. My instructional time includes daily crew meetings with students, one-on-one instructional support time, as well as small group instruction.

I’ve been working from the kitchen table which has been just fine. I set up all of my supplies…laptop, Time & ToDo Planner, weekly work-box, water bottle and I’m ready to go!

After teaching and before planning meetings I make time for a tea break with my favorite work from home buddy…Sombra! (Luke is holding up a treat for him to pose for the pic, so he’s looking very serious :)

For my morning meetings:

  • Every day I meet with the third grade team for planning and check-in’s.
  • And on Tuesdays, I meet with IDT. This is our instructional design team. We’re currently getting started on work planning for next year.

Oh, and as far as coaching goes, my primary focus during this time has been on teaching. Lynsey (math coach/teaching partner) and I have been able to collaborate to share and present ideas with teachers for how to structure their small group instruction. Otherwise, coaching has really taken a back seat. Depending on what next year looks like, distance/virtual coaching is something I’m really going to need to wrap my brain around!

Instructional Coaching

After a morning of teaching and a few meetings, it’s time for my “Plan & Meet” block. First, I’ll stop and have some lunch. One positive about working from home is that Luke and I have been able to have lunch together every day. He has always worked from home, though my being here to make him something to eat has been a treat!

After lunch I’ll work on any planning related tasks, and I’ll take another look through any emails that have come in.

In the later part of the afternoon, I often have various meetings. A few this past week have included:

  • Interviews
  • Planning for coaching next year with our principal
  • Planning for the new interventionist roles for next year
  • Meeting with our new interventionists (I will start next year as a mentor for this team)
  • Leadership Team
Instructional Coaching Distance Learning

Next up, is my “Personal” block! First, I’ll head out and take Sombra for his afternoon walk so we can both get some fresh air. I’ve been working hard during the day so I may also make a cup of tea and catch up on a book I’ve been reading.

Distance Learning Instructional Coaching

And then lastly, it’s time for my “Evening” block. I’ll make some dinner, clean up the kitchen, and pat myself on the back for a job well done today. After all that is done, Luke, Sombra and I will snuggle up and either watch a show together OR I might just jump straight into bed with my book! (Yes, I do go to bed quite early :).

Instructional Coaching Dinner

A few additional tips for time blocking your days:

  • Color code your planner/calendar -> I like to draw colored lines in my Time & ToDo Planner to help me stay visually on track throughout the day (ps – 2020-21 planners are coming soon!)
  • I also LOVE to use checklists for routine or recurring tasks during each of my blocks. For school I have been using Google Keep. And for home, I keep a laminated checklist in my planner.
Time Blocking Distance Learning

Phew, we made it! That was fun, huh? I know I love a good day in the life post.

I hope I have given you some ideas for how you might integrate time blocking into your own time management system. Whether this week, this summer, or even next year, give it a try!

As always, thanks for taking the time to hang out with me today and I will talk to you soon!

Happy New Year! Let’s Catch Up.

How are YOU?? Good start to the new year? I hope so.

My school year has been…a change, but great! I went back to the classroom 1/2 day this past August, teaching literacy in the afternoon. Crazy, I know!

It was actually a change I requested and after eight years of coaching full day, felt like a change I was needing.

I share a classroom with our math coach. In this second half of the year, the plan is to open up our room more as a “demonstration” classroom so other teachers can learn from our modeling. (though I still have plenty to learn myself, eek!)

While you’re here let me show you around our classroom…

Being back in the classroom has been exciting, busy-busy-busy, and overall I feel reengaged in the work.

There is just so much that goes into managing a well run, well behaved classroom where kids enjoy coming every day and are making academic gains. Phew.

I’ve really had to rely on my time management system to help me keep up.

OK, now that we’ve caught up, let’s talk about plans for the New Year!

First, I’ve been working on an updated guide/planning kit for new and veteran coaches alike. It revolves around a six step system I created to help us coaches do our best work.

I feel like I’m continually weaving in and out of all six steps (ha!), though this next quarter I’m planning to zoom in on Step 4 in my own work. Here is a sneak peek…

I’ve also signed up for a Reflective Reading Course online.

The course allows you to select which books you want to read for your own professional development, and you’ll receive one salary advancement credit for each book you read.

My goal is to read 1-2 professional books a month, not only because there’s so much I’m excited to learn(!!), but I’m also working on building up my salary advancement credits this year.

If you’re interested in joining, here’s what I’m reading this month:

Now that my blogging brain has turned back on, I also have so much I’m wanting to share with you in this coming year!

If there is a particular topic you are interested in or question you’d like to have addressed on the blog, feel free to leave it in the comments or send me an email :)

Lastly, as we head into this New Year, there’s a fun song I’ve been listening to, to get me pumped up. Here is one of the lines from the song I really like…

Thanks as always for reading, and let’s get this new year started!

Interview Tips for Instructional Coaches: You’ve Got This!

It’s the end of the year, and I’ve got interviewing on my mind!

These past few weeks I’ve been on the interview committee for a few different positions in our building, one of which is for a new instructional coach.

Sitting in on these interviews has got me thinking a lot about how to best present yourself and showcase your knowledge, talents, and experiences while under the pressure of having questions fired at you by a scrutinizing interviewing committee of at least five. Gah! (are you sweating just thinking about it??)

Now, I’m not an interviewing expert nor am I claiming to be one (I don’t even like interviews!!), but I tend to be a strong observer as well as an overachiever and over-planner. As a result, I’ve gathered quite a bit of info on interviews and interviewing that I thought would be helpful to share.

OK, first things first.

You might be thinking, “Duh Kristin! I know!” But we’re still going to talk about it. From your head to your toes, make sure you are dressed to impress. Show up 15 minutes early so you can fix any wind blow hair. Carry one professional bag, not three bulky ones. Make sure your shoes match your outfit and aren’t badly scuffed. No chipped nail polish. I’m just saying…think about all those little details because they matter!

We want to get to know you!!

As an interview candidate, your job is to make the best case you can that you’re the right person for the job. And the candidates who really grab my attention are those who are able to provide specific examples or stories that relate to particular questions asked.

A great way to prepare for this is to think ahead of specific examples that would lend themselves to different categories of behavioral type questions you may be asked. You might also consider bringing in actual artifacts as well…a coaching plan or PD plan for example.

Preparing yourself to talk about your experiences in this way will really help you sell yourself as a candidate.

… don’t take it too easy either. I think sometimes when you hear “just be yourself” it can be a permission pass to not take the interview as seriously and you may come off a little lackadaisical.

So just remember to smile, answer the questions you’re asked honestly, and let your personality shine through in a professional and polished way.

Instructional Coach Intervieww

Then REPEAT!!

It can feel a little weird rehearsing answers to your questions out loud, so many candidates don’t practice.

Especially when you’re not as naturally confident, or you get a bad case of the nerves in interviews, not practicing can really put you at a disadvantage.

Practice in a way that aligns to the actual interview as much as possible. Write out a list of the questions you anticipate being asked, write out sample answers, practice your answers out loud in front of a mirror or with a friend. Video tape yourself and revise accordingly.

For a handy guide to support you with preparing for an instructional coach or leadership position interview, please check out the Interview Prep Planning Kit I recently created.

This planning kit includes a list of questions you’ll most likely be asked, planning templates for artifacts to bring, and much more.

Although I’m not actively interviewing, thinking through this process has really helped me reflect on my own practice and consider ways I can improve.

Thanks for reading!

5 Routines that Help me Keep it Together

Hello! Long time no blog. How are things?

Things with me are good! I just wrapped up a small group coaching cycle, am full swing into unpacking curriculum modules with our K-2 team, and have also been Work Planning with our leadership team for next year. Oh, and on the side, we’ve been hard at work getting next year’s Time & ToDo Planner going…exciting!

So yes, things have been good, but they sure have been busy.

And I have to say these last few days and weeks, I’ve been feeling especially overwhelmed.

More like I’m frantically thrashing through my days, rather than calmly and confidently flowing through them.

Do you ever have those days or weeks?

During those times when I’m feeling especially overwhelmed with lots of meetings, planning to do, and other commitments, I have to take a pause and get back to the basics. What are the basics for me?

Routines.

Yep. Routines, Routines, Routines.

Daily routines provide structure for our days and everything we do.

There are five key, daily routines that really help me to feel more in control of my days and on track.

Morning Routine

Oh my cherished, morning routine. I wake up particularly early. When it’s dark, it’s quiet, and it’s blissful.

This is my time to organize my thoughts and tasks for the day. To have some time for solitude and reflection. To “reset the room” from the night before, and launch myself forward into a successful day.

There are a few key morning habits, sequenced into a routine, that help make a great start to my day.

Start Up Routine

Once at school, I give myself 20 minutes to get set-up for the day.

Rather than diving straight into the thick of things, my start-up routine helps me make a smooth and organized transition from at home Kristin to Coaching Kristin :)

Shutdown Routine

In these past few weeks, I’ve found myself not making time for my shutdown routine. Not good!

When I don’t take time to get “clear and current” at the end of the day, and organize for the next, I find myself taking more work home with me and creating more stress for myself the following day as I try to catch up.

20-30 organized minutes at the end of the day serves me well in setting up for the next.

Afternoon Routine

When I get home after a long day, it’s super tempting to just sling my bag on the dining room table and throw myself down on the couch.

But nope. I’ve still got things to do.

The afternoons are when I take care of several of my “home management” tasks. Having a tidy home really helps keep me calm and happy :)

Evening Routine

And so the day is done. After dinner, I have just a few more key tasks to complete that makeup my evening routine.

One of the most important being, shine the sink! When I give the kitchen and the sink a good shine before I go to bed, it makes the tomorrow’s early morning something to look forward to.

What a routine packed day, huh?!

How about you? Do you have any key routines that help you keep it together?

Or maybe you’d like to work on putting a few key routines into place. If so, I’d probably start with the afternoon/evening routines. Those two make a really good foundation to build from.

And if you’re interested in reading more about building positive habits and routines into your day, these are a few books I’d recommend checking out.

Thanks as always for reading! Looking forward to checking in again soon :)

Creating a Coaching Invitation

Wouldn’t it be super awesome if you had teachers constantly knocking on your door throughout the year, excitedly asking to work with you in a coaching cycle?

“Hey Kristin! I’d love to get started in a student centered coaching cycle with you connected to the 3rd grade informative writing standard. This is an area I’d really love for my students to make growth in next quarter. I can get started on creating a pre-assessment for us to work from if that works for you??”

OR

“Kristin! What do you think about co-teaching together next quarter? I’m working to get a handle on this new curriculum and I’d love you as a thought partner in helping plan through some of the lessons. It’d be extra cool if you could micro-model a portion of the close read aloud and then we could conference with a few students together and learn from each other’s formative assessment data!!”

Ahhh, dreamy.

I’d love to say this is my reality throughout the year, but it’s not.

And that’s ok.

Teachers get busy, and stressed, and overwhelmed, and sometimes getting excited about working in a coaching cycle is the last thing on their minds.

So, what to do? Well you don’t just sit around and wait for the excited knocks to come, feeling defeated when they don’t.

You stay positive, get out there, and continue to nurture the culture of coaching you’ve worked hard to create.

One way I worked to put this move into practice earlier this week, was by sending out an invite. Yep, a coaching invite.

There were a few things I worked to keep in mind in creating this. Let me walk you through my invitation creation process.

 

 

Push yourself to work your creative muscles a bit, and think outside the standard text in an email message. Sure, it gets the job done, but you’re working to get teachers excited about coaching remember? So could you try:

  • Make a short animated video as an invite.
  • Create an colorful brochure using Canva, export it as a PDF, and embed it in your email.
  • Design a color print-out with some fun graphics, maybe throw in some candy, and drop it off in teachers boxes.
  • Build an illustrated newsletter using Smore.

The sky’s the limit!

 

 

You like being given some choices with your learning, and so do teachers. They may be up for working with you, just not right now.

When creating your invite, pull out your Time & ToDo Planner. Consider what chunks of time you have for the remainder of this year to work with teachers, and which periods of time work best, given breaks and testing schedules. Based on this, provide options for teachers around the time period when they might work with you.

 

 

Do teachers in your building even have a solid understanding of what coaching with you will look like? The time commitment included? How it will benefit them?

Hmmm…

Even if you have worked with teachers before, you may have changed some things, or maybe it’s just been awhile. Not to mention the new teachers who may be in your building this year.

Either way, this could be a good opportunity for you to revisit what a coaching cycle actually is. The overview is brief!

Think about how to distill the work you do down down to 3-5 major bullet points, and share this in your invite.

 

 

Teachers will naturally have wonders, worries, or concerns about working in a coaching cycle that may be preventing them from signing up. Take a minute to think through what these might be. Great. Now consider how you might tactfully address 2-3 of these, very briefly, in your invite.

Here are a few that came up for me:

  • I have a lot going on, is this going to feel like something extra added to my plate?
  • Can you tell me a bit more about what “coaching in the classroom” will look like?
  • I’d love to work in a coaching cycle with my team. Is this a possibility?

 

 

Consider how you’d like to structure your coaching cycles throughout the year. How many rounds will you do? How many teachers can you work with in each round?

Also consider teacher needs. Send your invitation out well before you’d like your next cycle to start. Give them some time to process your invite, and respond.

I decided to send my invite out two weeks before fall break, as I’d like to start my next round right when we get back.

Oh, and don’t forget to give yourself plenty of time to actually create the invite. It took me a good few hours to draft, edit, and finalize mine.

 

 

OK, so here’s a look at what your invite might look/sound like when it’s all put together.

 

 

You sent it! Great job!

But…you’re not done there. Just because you sent the initial invite doesn’t mean every teacher will be banging down your door with a “YES!” RSVP. You will likely have to follow-up with teachers.

 

 

Plan to follow-up personally with the teacher who you would like to work with but hasn’t responded yet. I like to think of my coaching invite as a conversation starter. So, no pressure here, just follow-up with them to chat about what might be on their minds for coaching.

I hope this post gave you some ideas for how you might think about how you work to invite teachers into coaching cycles with you.

Let me know if you have questions in the comments, otherwise get those fun and fresh invites going!

My Instructional Coaching Kit Set-Up

As I was walking through Target the other day, I got all excited when I came across the “back to school” aisle. I’m pretty much like a little kid when it comes to back to school prep. I love it!

One of my back to school purchases for this year was a new discbound agenda to use for setting up my Coaching Kit.

I’ve been using an Instructional Coaching Planning Kit now for the past several years, and it’s one of the most important tools in my “stay organized” coaching system.

For the past few days, I’ve been working on getting mine set up for this year, and I thought I’d give you a little walk-through of how it’s coming along.

Let’s take a look!

As I mentioned, I highly recommend using a discbound notebook for your Coaching Kit over a clipboard, three ring binder, or really anything else. They lay flat, and fold over nicely which comes in so handy when I’m in classrooms taking notes, meeting with teachers, or need my PD agenda ready to reference.

I love discbound planners so much, I designed one for Time & ToDo Planner. These discbound planners are brand new for this year!

I made a customized cover for myself to place in the front. I chose Turquoise to compliment my Time & ToDo Planner. In the shop, I’m offering customized covers if you’d like one as well!

Customized Covers - Cover

The Coaching Kit’s table of contents has a suggested order for setting things up. However, feel free to identify and order your sections in whichever way makes the most sense to you. And remember, you can always tweak and adjust as the year goes on.

I have both “school” and “personal” tabs in my Kit, as I find that my school and personal lives overlap in many ways. For example, I like to keep my Weekly Meal Planning sheets as a section, so I can stay on track with my goals for the week.

For the tabs themselves, you can use something as simple as white Avery label dividers, or you can purchase discbound dividers. To add a bit more color, I also like to use Washi Tape for making my labels.

Here are the current sections I have:

  • Coaching
  • Meetings
  • Grade Levels
  • PD
  • Projects
  • Flylady
  • Biz
  • Meals
  • Notes
  • Reference

Behind my cover page, I have a Vertical Year at a Glance. While I do keep all of my appointments and dates in my Time & ToDo Planner (TTP), I find that it is also helpful for me to have this Year at a Glance in my Coaching Kit for those occasions that I may not have my TTP on me. I also like the friendly overview of the school year that this calendar provides.

On to the first tab of my Kit, “Coaching.” To start, I printed off a copy of my First 90 Days as a Instructional Coach printable. Even though I’ve been coaching for awhile now, I still find it nice to have this as a reference to help guide me through those first weeks/months.

I also plan to use this printable to help me establish goals for the 1st Quarter. Goal setting I feel, is a great practice for all of us to take on in both our personal and professional lives. Having clear goals helps me stay motivated and driven in my work.

Although I won’t be starting any official coaching cycles the first few weeks of school, I’ve printed off a copy of my Coaching Schedule printable so I’m ready to go when I meet with our principal to discuss teachers to work with.

The next section is reserved for Meetings. Whether for an after school staff meeting, our weekly coaches meeting, or an impromptu meeting with a teacher, I have printed off a few of my Meeting Notes forms so I’m ready to go.

In my PD section, I have a copy of the PD Year Plan from my PD Planning Kit. It helps me to have a visual of PD scheduled for the year, as well as any sessions I will be responsible for facilitating so that I can give myself plenty of time to plan and prep.

I also have my agenda printed and ready to go for our first PD with new teachers this week!

I decided to include a Projects section this year, as I often find myself taking on different kinds of projects throughout the year. I use this sheet to help me plan, set timelines, and keep track of the different tasks connected to that single project.

Next up, I have my Flylady section. I use this as part of my home management/cleaning system. There’s nothing better than coming home to a clean and orderly house at the end of a long day, and this is one of the tools I use to help me with this. I plan my zone cleaning tasks weekly, and complete them after school. If you’d like to learn more about how I use the Flylady system, leave me a note in the comments :)

As I mentioned earlier, I do keep my Weekly Meal Planning sheets in my Kit. I actually find I glance at my meal plan rather frequently, either to remind myself of what we’re having for dinner and what I need to do when I get home, or to quickly jot down an item I’ve remembered that I need to get at the store that week.

My Notes section is reserved for any free form planning or brainstorming I might do during the day.

And lastly, I have a Reference section. As of now, I have our school calendar for the year printed off, a Resource Checkout Form which I know I’ll soon need, and an Idea Tracker. I use my idea Tracker to capture all those random thoughts/ideas that come up during the day, which don’t need to be recorded as a to-do in my Time & ToDo Planner, yet I don’t want to loose sight of them either.

So there it is! Having this ready to go for school beginning this week, has helped me feel much more relaxed and confident in starting the school year. There will be a lot to do, but my Coaching Kit will work its magic as always in helping me to stay organized.

All of these printables can be found in either my Coaching Kit, or other listings in my shop. Check it out, and please let me know if you have any questions!

Talk soon, and thanks for reading!

How to use Binders for Organizing Your Coaching Notes

Say what?! Binders?! Aren’t those a totally old school way to stay organized?

Well, I guess it depends on who you ask, but for me the answer is — Uh…no! Let’s chat.

At the end of the year, one thing I like to do is reflect back on all of the systems and structures I used to help me with my work and stay organized. I’m pretty much always tweaking, revising, or trying out different ideas.

One of the new systems I tried out this year to keep all of my notes organized, was a binder system. And I loved it!

Paper helps me think, process, and solidify all my various types of notes much more deeply than my laptop.

As explained in the article, “The Pen is Mightier than the Keyboard,” taking notes on your laptop may result in shallower processing and less effective learning. In using pen and paper to take observation notes, coaching meeting notes, or planning notes, you’re forced to more thoroughly process the information coming in and record key takeaways you know will be valuable, versus just transcribing everything.

And for coaches, this is super important!! I would also argue that paper notes support focus, and are less distracting than having a screen in front of you all the time.

To be clear, I’m not anti-tech. I use G-Drive and Evernote as an extension of my note taking system, but largely paper is where it’s “mightily” at for me :)

OK, paper vs. tech debate aside, let’s talk binders.

I always thought binders were kind of dumb and annoying because the only ones I had ever really used were the standard plastic, flimsy ones. Then I watched a video of Alejandra (fellow neat freak!) share how she uses Better Binders to organize her home office. She got me thinking that these binders could be the ideal tool to help me keep my paper notes and plans organized.

I headed to Staples, grabbed a few, and found that they would be the perfect fit for my binder storage system.

Each binder would essentially be a different “bucket” for organizing my notes. I didn’t want too many, so I narrowed it down to four binders:

Each binder would also have different sections. So for the section tabs, I went with the Avery Ready Index Tabs. They’re super light weight, so they don’t take up a bunch of space, and I like how they provide a friendly table of contents view right up front.

OK, now that we’ve gone over the set-up of this binder system, let’s talk about how I actually use them to keep me organized!

In my Coaching Kit, I have a section titled, “Daily Materials.” At the start of each day, I’ll plan out what notes, observation forms, materials, etc. I’ll need for that day. Some of these notes/materials are often a continuation of work from the day before or earlier in the week. When this is the case, I’ll reference the appropriate binder, grab what I need, and quickly be ready to start the day.

Then at the end of the day, I’ll go through all my “Daily Materials” notes, check for any to-dos to add to my Time & ToDo Planner, then file the remaining notes back into my binders.

note taking system

This overall process ensures that my notes remain active and alive, rather than being buried in a notebook and forgotten about. I’m constantly reviewing and reflecting on past work which helps me to more accurately plan upcoming work. Furthermore, it’s hard for me to miss a “to-do” captured in my notes since this system of review just doesn’t allow it.

I’m feeling pretty good in my end of year reflection, as this will definitely be a system that I use again next year.

And speaking of next year, I’d love your feedback!

If you have a second, I would really appreciate if you shared your thoughts for how I can continue to support and motivate you in your work as a coach. As a thank you, here is a free download of the binder covers I use! They’re also editable so you can customize them with a monogram and title, to your liking :)

Share your thoughts, Get Free Binder Covers

Thanks so much, and hope your year is winding down well! If you have any questions, always feel free to ask in the comments.

Planning for Differentiated PD. Let’s Change It Up!

Blah..Blah, blah..Blah, blah.

This is usually what’s running through my head when I’ve attended a bad PD session.

And what do I mean by bad PD? I mean irrelevant, impractical, poorly managed, and (gasp!)…boring!!

There’s pretty much nothing worse.

So when you know how annoying bad PD can be, and you happen to be the one planning for the work, you REALLY want to make sure teachers are feeling engaged and excited to be there with you.

No pressure!! :)

As I’m currently working through a differentiated PD cycle myself, this is a topic I’ve been thinking about lately, so I thought I’d share some thoughts.

And because it’s always more fun to see thoughts/ideas “in action”, let’s do this with a case study!

What follows are the steps we worked through to create our Differentiated PD sessions. It’s always flexible, so take a look, and let it spark some ideas for what you might do.

1. Ask for Input, yet Know your Goals

Here’s an idea. How about asking teachers what areas they feel they need more support in, or are interested in learning about?

Sometimes we (admin/leadership) think we know what’s best for teachers. We might make assumptions on their behalf because “the data says” or “it’s their first year”, which isn’t really the best way to treat teachers as professionals and engage buy-in to learning.

Yet data is important, and PD should be data driven. But it doesn’t mean that teacher voice and choice isn’t also important.

What we did is ask teachers what areas they would be interested in learning more about, that were connected to our school’s Work Plan goals. Teachers then ranked their level of interest for the different areas provided.

2. Consider Grouping

After we collected the completed surveys, we were able to use this feedback to form the differentiated PD groups — we called them “Learning Cohorts.”

Small groups is usually a good way to go when thinking about differentiating PD. Though there are definitely some cool ways to differentiate-it-up with technology.

Anyhow, once you’ve got your groups formed, you can start thinking about how to divvy-up the facilitation roles.

3. Calling All Teacher Leaders!

This is kinda what I feel like we did, when we asked on the Inquiry Form if teachers would be interested in facilitating/co-facilitating any of the Learning Cohorts.

And the response was a little underwhelming. Not because certain teachers didn’t have the know-how or interest, but because facilitating adult learning can be outside of their comfort zone and teachers are already super busy. So this may feel like one more thing.

In response to these challenges, you may have to more actively recruit those teacher leaders on staff. Let them know that they’re the Bomb(!), they’ve got a lot to share, and you’ve got their back in planning and facilitating.

4. Stay Organized

When you have more than one PD group, several facilitators, and a range of session dates you’ve got to stay organized! Thanks a million to our school designer who took the lead on this and created two guiding documents for all of us to stay on the same page.

5. Fun with Format

Now it’s time to really dive into planning for the learning. Think about how to change up the format, and provide experiences/tools that will make your time with teachers highly relevant, supportive, and fun! Here are just a few ideas:

  • Book Study
  • Field Trips
  • Live Model Lessons
  • Videos
  • Interactive Agenda

Here’s part of an Interactive Agenda I created for one of our sessions:

6. Monitor and Adjust

Continue to ask for feedback and differentiate along the way. We have a total of 7 Learning Cohort sessions planned, so it’s important that at the end of each session we ask teachers to fill out a quick exit ticket, so we know what to add/skip/adjust for the next session.

 

7. Celebrate!

After all this awesome learning going on in differentiated groups, plan a final session to come together, share their work, and celebrate!

Hope this post gave you some good ideas to think about how you might implement or improve any differentiated PD structures at your school(s).

Thanks for reading!

And if you’d like some more support with planning and prepping PD, check out the PD Planning Kit I’ve put together for you!

 

The Journey of a First Year Coach – Part One

I just finished reading a really good memoir called, “Born to Rise.” It’s the story of educator Deborah Kenny, and her journey as the founder of Harlem Village Academies. I finished the book feeling inspired and renewed.

Reading this book made me think about the importance of sharing stories.

And then a podcast interview I heard this week with Tom Rademacher, author of “It Won’t Be Easy: An Exceedingly Honest Book About Teaching,” pretty much said the same thing — You’re an educator. You have cool and interesting things to talk about. No matter where you are in your journey.

He’s right. So, I’m sharing a story.

Not my story, since I share a lot.

But the story of another coach, who’s just starting out. Today you’ll hear Part 1, and we’ll check in with Part 2 and 3 as the year goes on.

Enjoy!

Can you share a bit about your background? What got you interested in coaching?

I worked as a classroom teacher for 7 years, in first and second grade. I first started to get interested in coaching/teacher leadership when a teammate and I had the opportunity to lead a PD session together…I had a blast! At that point I started to realize that I really liked, and was interested in teaching adults.

When I was teaching, I was entrusted a lot as a lead teacher and was given opportunities to share classroom strategies with other teachers. I really enjoyed these discussions!

I also really enjoyed the coaching cycles I participated in when teaching. I really learned a lot through this work, and liked the structure of it. It felt like a partnership…coaching felt “friendly.” I felt very free to share and learn, and it was a great opportunity for me to really grow.

When I decided I needed to leave my position to be a mom, my principal invited me into a part time coaching role so I could continue to work. I was able to work alongside a new teacher and support her with classroom management. I loved it!  Though I was only able to continue that year, I knew I would want to do more when the time was right.

After a two year break, I am now working as the school’s part time math coach.

What are you really loving so far about coaching?

I love that I get to work and learn with teachers in the whole building, and not just my grade level. This is fun! But this can also feel like a challenge at times…as a teacher you work so closely with your team which feels comforting and great, and as a coach it’s different. I’m able to work with Kristin and our principal, but it still feels different and scheduling your day and time is different than when I was a teacher.

I also really like the facilitation work I’ve been able to do so far this year. Planning for PD is in many ways similar to planning lessons for the classroom. I like being a part of the school’s planning process for PD, and having a voice is great. Working with adults is different from working with kids and can be hard, but I like it!

I’m also able to participate in a weekly coaches meeting, which feels like important work. I work to keep students best interests first and foremost in mind, and provide a voice for teacher support in the building.

What has been your biggest success or celebration this year?

I’m working in my first ever coaching cycle right now, and that has felt like a success so far! Kristin went with me to our Kick-Off meeting, and I felt great afterwards. I’ve worked really hard at making sure that the feedback I offer is specific and manageable. I notice a lot of things when I’m in her room, so I really have to zoom it in and not overwhelm her! And so far the feedback I’ve shared has been well accepted.

Another success was my interview for this Teacher Leader position in the district! I was really nervous going in, but I really prepared and I showed myself well. At the end, one of the interviewers said she wished I was her coach! :)

What areas are you working on improving at this point in your coaching journey?

Facilitation for PD. Parts of the facilitation work I’ve done so far have felt successful and have felt like “me” and what I envision successful PD to look like. I’ve had good models before as a teacher and want to replicate what I’ve experienced, but I also want to be true to who I am and my style of facilitation so that it feels just right. I’m still working on figuring out what that exactly is (!), but I’m making steps forward with each time I do it. In planning for my first ever whole staff PD I felt overwhelmed, but I told myself, “You can do this!” I asked for feedback and reflected with Kristin, did a lot of planning and preparation, and my efforts payed off! I feel like I’m getting better and better. I also appreciated the opportunity to get started with practicing my facilitation skills right away! Our principal gave me a chance to get in front of the staff in a smaller role at first, and I built up from there. I’ve learned along the way that I really need a good amount of time to plan for a good PD! I’m not sure I gave myself enough time at first.

Another challenge has been rolling out a brand new curriculum. There is a lot to learn! I’m learning as much as I can as fast as I can, but it still feels overwhelming at times.

What has been most supportive to your learning so far this year?

Our leadership has been so supportive. I’m grateful. I don’t feel like I’m drowning, and things feel manageable! Kristin has been a great partner for me too. She’s someone who has gone through it and has collected a lot of wisdom along the way. She helps me with bite-sized goals, what to work on and think about. I took her Coaching Workshop, printed the resources, and used it a lot at the start of the year!

What are your goals moving forward in this next quarter?

I’d like to keep working on reaching out to other teachers, who for different reasons, I may feel are a little outside of my “comfort zone”…some teachers may have a different personality than me, may be a bit quieter, or I just don’t know them yet. I’m working really hard to get into everyone’s room, and also make connections with teachers…by just sitting and talking with them at lunch, or at PD!

I also need to work on nailing down a more predictable schedule for myself :)

If you were able to share any advice with another new/aspiring coach, what would you say?

Tackle things that you know you’ll have some success with. Classroom management is a strength of mine, so I felt good about providing coaching support in this area early on. Too much “new” would have felt overwhelming for me. I think it’s important to try to find a balance with “new” and with what feels comfortable, so you experience some success!!

And look out for those successes!…you know that excitement you feel when you see your class is starting to get something??…seeing a teacher/classroom you’re working with starting to put into place what you’ve been working on in coaching, feels just like that!…it’s great!

Leadership and having a mentor is really important. Do what you can to find someone to support you or work with.

That’s it! Thanks Kristin!

Thank YOU!! I’m excited to continue to tag along with you throughout this year, and share your “to be continued” story with the MsHouser community.

Take-Aways

  • Approach every day, every experience, every conversation with a “Beginner’s Mind” — there’s always something new to learn and be appreciative of, if you’re open to it.
  • You can do hard things — but maybe not too many hard things at once :)
  • Collaboration with school leadership is important.
  • You probably have a story too. Maybe you could share it?

Get the easy to follow, step-by-step guide of your first 90 Days as an Instructional Coach.

Thanks for reading. Talk to you soon!