Category Archives: Collaboration

The Coach – Administrator Connection: Module 5

Connecting and Collaborating with Administrators as an Instructional Technology Coach

This week in my final blog post of the quarter for my class on Educational Technology Leadership my question has led me to investigate how an instructional technology coach can partner with administrators to support and extend the learning that is happening through coaching. I have an interest in asking this question because I think that in my coaching role increased engagement and collaboration with administrators would benefit my coaching practice and the teachers and students at my schools. As I’ve written about before however, based on the literature I’ve read I am also in a unique position being in multiple schools. In addition to being in multiple schools, the fact that I’m in the middle of my first year as a coach also probably helps to explain why I may feel a slight disconnect to administrators in my building. So my questions, what does an engaged administrator do to support a coach in their building? And how can I help to engage administrators to make the most of my coaching role in their schools? Those questions will likely make sense to my peers who have been reading my previous posts this quarter because they are in a similar vein to my other posts. I was excited to investigate what an engaged administrator might look like from a coaching role, and brainstorm what I might be able to do to help further engage the administrators I work with. I also want to add that my past experience as a teacher in a school with an administrator who collaborated and met with her coaches regularly, did in fact give me an idea about some of the things an engaged administrator might do with coaches.

As I was looking for resources to guide my investigation I found a blog post written by Elena Aguilar titled “10 Ways for Administrators to Support Coaches,” which made my search fairly easy.

Some of the takeaways for me from this post are:

  • Align on a coaching model

That is one of the things I have been wondering about during this year. What do principals expect of me as a coach? What is their idea of the coaching model I am following? Aguilar suggests that coaches and administrators discuss these questions and more, then she adds, “Discussing these with a coach can lead to more cohesion and clarity as well as surface any large discrepancies” Aguilar (2014). In my monthly meetings with administrators I would like to get a better sense of what type of coaching model would best benefit their school.

  • Learn Together

Our team has often talked about what learning is happening at elementary leadership meetings but as of now we are not included. I think knowing that learning would help us support each other. The point of Elena Aguilar, (2014) though is, principals can ask questions of coaches to learn about instructional best practices and I think if principals were doing that collegiality between administrators and coaches would grow as well. Maybe another approach is inviting administrators to our professional development. Maybe asking them to come to NCCE is an opportunity to build trust, and mutual support for one another.   

  • Support Your Coaches Learning

This point encourages administrators to invest in a coaches learning and growth through PD. The author suggests that learning to instruct adults is often the most difficult thing for coaches to learn, so investing in that growth will in turn help coaches and teachers. As I provide PD for schools this year I’m going to ask for explicit feedback about how to improve my work. I was able to give my first whole staff PD last Friday, and now I think my next step is to solicit feedback form the principal and assistant principal.

  • Offer Leadership Guidance

Aguilar says, “coaches are leaders who need leadership development” (2014),  and that is definitely how I feel. Certain staff members, but not all, do seem to look to me as a leader. Often, I’m asked about the plans of the district. A lot of that depends on my coaching relationship with that staff member. Guidance from a leader is definitely something I am looking for in my position and in each of my schools. Again, I think this often comes up in whole staff PD settings so asking administrators who sit in for those trainings about how I handle staff questions is a good next step for me.

  • Appreciate your Coaches

This point is about recognizing the contribution that a coach makes to your school. I understand that I’m still working on my contributions, but I admit it would be nice if an administrator knew what I was doing. In my monthly meetings with administrators we do get to talk about what I‘m doing in the school, but usually I’m leading that part of the conversation. I am hopeful though that sometime later in the year, they hear about my work from a teacher and mention it to me in one of our meetings. That’s recognition for me!

It also seems that as I am given the opportunity to speak in front of a staff more often and if I continue to ask for feedback from administrators they will certainly see some of the work I am doing. As an instructional coach in a handful of schools my role might be unique or at least of less focus in the literature I have read but many of the same concepts still apply. One overarching theme this quarter has been building relationships and I recognize that just as I am doing that with teachers, I am still definitely doing that with administrators. I’m hoping that the reading I’ve done for this post will keep me moving in the direction of strengthening relationships with administrators and in turn will allow me to experience greater buy-in and participation in coaching in each of my schools. 

Resources

Aguilar, E. (2014, October 9). 10 Ways for Administrators to Support Coaches. Retrieved December 10, 2017, from http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/coaching_teachers/2014/10/10_ways_for_administrators_to_.html?cmp=SOC-SHR-FB

Foltos, L. (2013). Peer Coaching : Unlocking the Power of Collaboration. Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin.

Walpert-Gawron, H. (2016, June). How to Be a Change Agent:The Many Roles of an Instructional Coach. Educational Leadership, 73. Retrieved December 11, 2017, from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/jun16/vol73/num09/The-Many-Roles-of-an-Instructional-Coach.aspx

EDTC 6105 : Maintaining Balance While Teaching and Supporting Others

Anyone who’s ever worked in a school, knows that the school day for teachers does not end when the bell rings.  The question many then ask is, what are teachers still doing at school 2 hours after the bell, or why was there car parked there all day Saturday?  Looking at this week’s coaching standards for my Masters program (see below), led me to question how teacher’s find balance in their lives to avoid wearing too many hats or living the life of the spinster teacher of a hundred years ago who dedicated her entire life to the children and the community?

This school year has taken my career in a new direction, owed to pursuing my Masters in Digital Education Leadership. Teaching full-time and trying to find time to support others with tech integration has proven to be a challenge.  Staying at school late is not an option for me or my family. Working on weekends in the classroom would only be possible if my 5 year old came with me.  

So then, how can I effectively model tech integration for others with the responsibilities of a classroom teacher?

Through reflection, I kept getting drawn back to three main factors: common traits of teachers, resources, and understanding personal boundaries.  Our mentor text this quarter, Peer Coaching, frequently refers to relationships and resources. In hindsight, I wish I had thought about all of this in August, but as I prepare for Winter Break, it gives me time to rejuvenate and set new goals for the second half of the school year. I also need to remind myself, this time I am the student, learning how to better support colleagues.

Common Traits of Teachers

Having established that relationships are vital to a coaching partnership, has led me to think about teachers in general. What common traits can be found amongst teachers?  According to Teach.com, there are five common personality traits found amongst great teachers:

  • Empathy
  • Enthusiasm
  • Creativity
  • Dedication
  • Discipline

Focusing on understanding the common traits lends itself to generating enthusiasm for collaboration and recognising colleagues strengths.  Part of coaching is helping others recognise their strengths and how to use them to intentionally support student growth goals. In addition to recognising teacher strengths, it’s important to survey teachers to know how they might be interested in supporting colleagues.  For example, those teachers that are extremely creative, let them share some lessons that they’ve had great success with.  For the teacher’s who struggle with getting specific students engaged, seek out those who’ve had a positive connection with that student. Coaching is not just about supporting all staff, but also about how to manage a supportive collaborative environment.

Understanding Limitations with Resources

Resources is a broad term, yet extremely impactful with tech integration.  Resources can bring the best intentions to a halt.  As a classroom teacher, I am not fully aware of resources available or the politics about how they are distributed in the district. What I do know however, is that without support from administration, access to technology, and time to collaborate, my mentoring/coaching efforts are doomed to fail.  

Integrating any new curriculum or tool requires thoughtful planning in order to be sustainable.  As a classroom teacher, and not a coach, I struggle with time to ask and find answers to questions before trying to jump in and support my colleagues. This means that planning in isolation, even with the best intentions, is likely to end in frustration. In regards to technology, coaches and mentors must first consult administrators, tech specialists from the district, and possibly content coaches before simply supporting a teacher’s vision with digital tools. This again, requires time, which may turn some teachers away from implementation.

Juggling Multiple Roles

As mentioned before, teachers work well beyond the bell.  Emails abound offering or requesting teachers to be part of a PLC, lead after school tutoring, coach an after school activity for students, or participate in Professional Development. How can teacher mentors and coaches then find time to collaborate with others?

Teacher mentors and coaches can easily fall into a trap of taking on too much. Despite their enthusiasm and dedication, teachers can take on more than they can handle.  Pedro Diaz, the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute, offers some great advice in his post How to Avoid Taking on Too Much Work. First, he identifies the common traps when asked to take on another task at work. Three common problems, which I know I’m guilty of: we want to please others, our lack of self-awareness, and we don’t think we have a choice.

Moreover, Diaz offers strategies on how to approach multiple responsibilities.  He emphasizes learning how to wait.  It’s okay to think about something without committing right away. While contemplating, ask yourself what specific role you’re being asked to support, will you need further training to complete the task, and does it fit into your schedule?

Next Steps

As I prepare for Winter Break, I want to be realistic, proactive, and fully engaged in what I’m doing.  In order to to achieve these personal goals, I’m looking at the school calendar for next term.  Along with teaching, I am responsible for state testing for 4 grade levels.  I want to continue mentoring colleagues with tech integration and encourage others who are showing interest.

Knowing that I will be asked to participate in other areas as well, or fill in, I’ve realised I need to give myself time to reflect before committing. Wanting to adhere to Diaz’s advice, I’ve created The Juggling Act criteria (see above). Before taking on anything else this year, it’s important to ask: what is the specific task, time commitment, skills required, and if anyone else is similarly qualified to complete the task.  Then before saying, yes, consider workload so that I don’t jeopardize my current commitments.

Resources

Diaz, P. (2017, June 8). How to Avoid Taking on Too Much Work. Retrieved December 08, 2017, from https://www.wmhi.com.au/mental-health/how-to-avoid-taking-on-too-much-work/

Foltos, L. (2013). Peer Coaching: Unlocking the power of collaboration. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Hertz, M. B. (2011, November 14). Mentoring and Coaching for Effective Tech Integration. Retrieved December 08, 2017, from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/mentoring-coaching-tech-integration-mary-beth-hertz

Mormando, S. (2017, May 04). 5 Tips for Preparing Teachers for New Classroom Tech Tools. Retrieved December 08, 2017, from https://edtechmagazine.com/k12/article/2017/05/5-tips-preparing-teachers-new-classroom-tech-tools

EDTC 6105: Peer Coaching Without Overwhelming

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How can peer coaches support colleagues without overwhelming them?

This quarter, at SPU, we’re being asked to practice peer coaching, and of course, I’m beginning to realise how daunting of a task that can truly be. Approaching colleagues with good intentions is not enough to ensure a productive outcome.  We are all busy, new hurdles arise almost daily, and without an intentional plan and willingness from both parties, the energy begins to fizzle and gets lost like so many other inspiring ideas we’ve had along the way.

Working with a new colleague, I’ve recently pondered “How can I offer support without overwhelming them”? Below are 9 tips that I feel apply to novice coaches, like myself, who want to help others integrate technology to boost the learning of students.

Establish Trust

As I mentioned in a previous post, Establishing Trust Before Technology in the Classroom, establishing trust is critical, especially when both participants are new in their roles. This takes time!  So before jumping in and sharing your expertise… Make time to hear their story, respect their experiences, and understand their needs. Reaffirm your role is to help, not evaluate.

A colleague recently shared he doesn’t understand the role or value of coaches based on two experiences he’s had. Both broke the level of trust early on in the coaching relationship which has led him to see coaches as being inadequately trained or qualified to support his needs. His concerns led to questions he presented to me, such as who evaluates coaches, what standards are they held accountable for, and why would I want a stranger coming in and telling me what to do?

Make Time To Collaborate

My colleague’s last concern, segues into collaboration time.  I asked him if coaches met with him prior to observing and he answered, no.  They would observe then meet after.  This continued to create a barrier of trust.

One of the biggest challenges I’ve found this quarter, has to do with time to collaborate.  Granted I am not an actual coach with a flexible schedule, so trying to find time where two educators who work on different grade level teams is challenging.  Add to that the reality that most teachers have after school programs, conferences, planning, or professional development, and you are left with maybe 5 minutes in passing in the hallway. Both teachers need to be willing to collaborate and commit to scheduling time (or rescheduling if needed), but setting aside time to meet in person, or if needed via phone or technology.

Ask Supportive Questions

When colleagues collaborate, the time is valuable, and should be designed to support the needs of the coachee.  This is where intentional planning comes into play for the coach, through the means of asking supporting questions that help guide the coachee in a positive and productive direction. In Jessica Hagy’s article, 6 Leading Questions You Must Ask, she offers leaders tips on how to avoid just telling others what to do, but using questioning to guide their work and offer support when needed. Although these were designed for the business world, I feel they can be applied to meet the needs of educators also.

  1. How can I help?
  2. What problem are we solving? (What standards are we addressing, how are you differentiating, how do you see technology helping?)
  3. Who’s going to be there? (Who are your students?)
  4. Does this make sense?
  5. Can we break this down?
  6. Do you have what you need?

Create a Shared Vision

The questioning, lends itself to a shared vision between coach and coachee. This should also include administrative support. The purpose of tech integration needs to be centered around student production and accessibility, not just about using a new tool. This shared vision should also align to grade level standards and shared grade level of school goals.  By focusing on shared goals, some of the hard work is already being implemented, and helps to reduce stress of adding to the coachee’s workload.

Set a SMART Goal

Once this shared vision is established, it’s time to develop a SMART Goal.  This is an important step in again, supporting the coachee without overwhelming them.  The purpose of the SMART Goal remains specific, measurable, agreed upon, realistic, and time-based.  Keeping the focus on a specific standard helps drive collaboration and feedback.

Face Hurdles Together

Reality is, every plan will face hurdles.   Coaches need to be accessible and responsive when coachee’s ask for feedback. It is imperative for coachee’s to feel supported and there is someone on their side who can guide them through challenges.  The most important role of the coach during this phase is to simply listen and ask supportive questions.

Adjust Plan When Needed

When facing challenges, coachee’s also need to know they are still the one driving instruction and meeting their students needs.  Although coaches are there to offer support, when issues arise, it is the coachee that needs to be in control of modifying lessons. Although coaches may offer support, the decision making needs to come from the coachee and remain aligned to student outcomes. To avoid feeling overwhelmed, this is the time to revisit the SMART Goal.  Coaches should again use questioning to help the coachee talk through how things are going and how they can still successfully assess students.

Share Tech Integration with Others

Once coachees have successfully navigated tech integration, it’s time to encourage them to share with their colleagues.  To help facilitate a school culture around collaboration and tech integration, encourage staff collaborate and share with each other. This can be achieved through Professional Development or better yet, through Learning Walks where teachers have the opportunity to see technology in action.  Utilizing students can help reach out to more staff by allowing students to visit other classrooms and share what they are learning.  Sharing with others can help teachers feel less isolated and create opportunities for teachers to co-teach or model for their peers. I’ve seen this done particularly well when there are new units introduced at my school.  One teacher who might have more training becomes the expert and models the lesson for the entire grade level. The teachers take turns becoming experts for various lessons, so it evens out the workload in the end.

Expand PLN

Once coachee’s agree to continue with tech integration, the next step is to connect them with more like-minded people.  Encouraging coachee’s to expand their Personal Learning Network, fosters a collaborative team they can collaborate with rather than relying on just their coach.  This can be achieved through communicating with colleagues in the building, elsewhere in the district, state, or through social media. Social media is a great tool today for discussing and troubleshooting technology.  It creates opportunities to share successes, challenges, and ask for help and receive quick feedback from their PLN.

Concluding Thoughts…

These 9 tips are simply a guide on how to help colleagues avoid feeling overwhelmed.  However, one other critical element, is that coachee’s must be willing participants.  Without their buy-in, everything will be a struggle.

References

Conley, Laurie. “Overcoming Obstacles – The Digital Librarian.” The Digital Librarian, 2010, https://sites.google.com/site/thedigitallibrarian/

Hagy, Jessica. “6 Leading Questions You Must Ask.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 28 Sept. 2017, www.forbes.com/sites/jessicahagy/2017/09/28/6-leading-questions-you-must-ask/#7d676d8b25e9.

Marcinek, Andrew. “Tech Integration and School Culture.” Edutopia, 20 May 2014, www.edutopia.org/blog/tech-integration-and-school-culture-andrew-marcinek

Supporting Online Learning Environments to Optimize Collaboration

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As part of my recent exploration of peer coaching, I have recently examined what it means to peer coach reluctant learners and what the 21st-century feedback loop looks like when peer coaching.  Now we are turning our attention to something more specific and how we can use what we learned thus far to improve lessons.  And as the program and activities I am working with are all online and being taught to educated professional adults I am going to research and examine; How can an instructor or coach design an online learning environment to support group collaboration?  I am interested in looking at how to create the most creative and engaging learning environment online. Basically, if the most convenient PD will happen online and we don’t want to distribute training but coach teachers to keep learning how can we do that online without losing engagement and excitement.  

Andrew Marcinek, Director of Technology and EducatorU.org Co-founder, states in a recent Edutopia blog post “if your edtech professional development resembles a TED talk, you might want to reconsider the method of delivery. This is not to say that lecture is an ineffective means of delivering content, but edtech professional development (PD) should include time to explore. It should be hands-on, and groups or teams should have time to share their learning.” Furthermore, as I stated to my cohort members recently it was always difficult for me to mentally reconcile the contrasting approach to collaboration and delivery when it came to PD for teachers. I have countless memories of PD being delivered to my colleagues and me about something they wanted us to implement (i.e., blended learning, flipped classrooms, or PBL) but the PD itself was delivered in a traditional sit and get style lecture. This system felt like the Admins wanted the teachers to continually be creative and think on their feet when teaching students but when it came to the PD given to the teachers, they could not think of a better way of giving us the information.  When teachers have a chance to collaborate and tinker they can “walk away from this kind of PD ready to integrate what they’ve learned in the classroom. Also, administrators should model personal learning networks and leverage a wide range of social media for on-demand learning opportunities” (Edutopia, 2014).  I also think there is a certain protocol of PD that I will outline for optimization.  I took a deeper look at the way Information and Communication Technology (ICT) of Singapore explains meaningful learning design in five different dimensions.  These dimensions represent the ways I also believe that instructional technologist can up the ante when it comes to professional development for teachers in their districts or companies.  Keep in mind the following when creating and implementing PD. 

Learning by Doing

Doing and knowing are reciprocal and participation inevitably involves doing. In well-designed lessons, learning by doing should lead to knowledge creation in which students uncover the subject matter through their performances.

Engage Students’ Prior Knowledge

The more prior knowledge the students have on one topic, the easier it would be for students to relate the new knowledge of theory to their own experiences and learn better. There is a positive prior correlation between prior knowledge comprehensive ability. Students find it easier to retain knowledge when prior knowledge is built upon; building on their prior makes learning personal for the students.

Self-Directed Learning

Learning through participation drawing on acquired knowledge and creating new understanding happens all the time when one is involved in learning guided by self-direction.  I personally believe that self-directed learning like through MOOCs or course by correspondence is difficult.  The program that I am auditing through Edmodo is guided in parts but also self-directed as the professionals taking the course must delegate their time between their full-time jobs and their PD course we created for them.

Real World Connections

In order for learning to be meaningful learners need to be provided with opportunities to call upon what they know as a point of reference, use it as a basis for new knowledge to grow.  This will help students to see the relevance of learning. Real-world connections provide these opportunities.

Collaborative Learning

As Wang stated in ICT for Self-directed and Meaningful Learning 2010, “Technology is not a panacea. However, it has great potential to address some of the above challenges” (784).

Within ICT for Self-directed and Meaningful Learning, “Some design strategies must be applied to promote collaboration. A number of strategies work well in face-to-face classroom settings such as think-pair-share, jigsaw, or ro

Screen Shot 2017-11-25 at 6.18.02 PM.pngle play. But they do not work at all in an online learning environment as they often need people to meet physically. Also, collaborative learning has a number of challenges,” (783) So we know some strategies that work for in-person dynamic group collaboration but when it comes to online grouping there are different strategies to get the members engaged and active.  I know that because our SPU Digital Educational Leadership cohort meets every week and we have assignments we are expected to have ready it makes me more professional accountable.  If our cohort did not meet in a routine calendared manner I am not sure I would get my work down and continue to push myself independently of the program.

The overall general design principle summarized from this study is: If teachers want to design online learning environments for the purpose of coordinating and monitoring the collaborative learning process they are advised to implement the dimensions of meaningful learning and collaboration.

Resources:

Darling-Hammond, L., Hyler, M. E., & Gardner, M. (2017, January 05). Effective Teacher Professional Development. Retrieved November 20, 2017, from https://learningpolicyinstitute.org/product/effective-teacher-professional-development-report

Marcinek, A. (2014, May 20). Tech Integration and School Culture. Retrieved November 24, 2017, from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/tech-integration-and-school-culture-andrew-marcinek

Tan, A. (2010). Wikis. In Chai, C.S., & Wang, Q. (Eds.), ICT for Self-directed and Meaningful Learning (pp. 783 – 795). Singapore: Pearson. http://international.slo.nl/bestanden/Ch37.pdf/

 


Collegial Relationships and Instructional Coaching: Module 2

Introduction to Module 2 and My Question

This week I was thinking about developing professional relationships when in a new role. I wanted to reflect on that process and find out what was normal. At the same time I wanted to consider ISTE 1 d for coaches, how coaches advocate for change, that is the standard behind our module. So in my research for my M.Ed. in Digital Education Leadership Program at SPU, I decided to look for some sources outside of the world of education where coaching has been around and has been popular for some time. I will try to share best practices for building collegial relationships and some things that stood out to me in particular as useful from what I found in the business world and a connection between instructional technology coaching and literacy coaching. 

Building Collegial Relationships

 

How do we build collegial relationships? I find myself wondering about that, probably in part because I am building collegial relationships across schools, in a new district all at the same time. It’s common practice for coaches to only go into classes after they have been invited, probably to avoid any feeling of evaluative practice being associated with them. So here I am waiting for an invitation. How do instructional technology coaches develop relationships across multiple school buildings? It is something that takes time as I’ve read multiple times in the book Peer Coaching: Unlocking the Power of Collaboration (Foltos, 2013),  and in other resources I’ve used for my past two blog posts. I came across an article at Mindtools about building great relationships at work. I don’t want to summarize the entire article here, but you can go and read it if you would like, but I do think much of it applies to new coaches and anyone who has many interpersonal interactions at work. Instead I want to talk about parts of the article that stood out to me as an instructional technology coach. The article does link Mindfulness to building great relationships at work. That seems to be a hot term lately in education, and for good reason. I wrote about  mindfulness in my mission and vision as a digital education leader earlier in my program. Being mindful seems to draw us out of ourselves, that reflection leads us to think more about others and their needs and concerns, not just focusing on our own. It makes sense that practicing mindfulness in regard to your words and actions would lead to better work relationships. A couple other ideas stood out to me from this article, one was identifying your relationship needs along with focusing on your EI and listening actively and being positive  (Mindtools, n.d.).

It seems important to know what you need from others and what they need from you, especially in the position of a coach (Mindtools, n.d.). Part of a coaches role is helping teachers to figure out what they can do to grow their practice, through reflection. To me that seems like another way to say, understand what others need from you. As an instructional technology coach I also need to know what I need from others, or what I can learn from them. There is so much to learn, it’s important to keep that in mind in order to take advantage of the many opportunities I have to learn from others. In addition, I want to be sure to voice what I have learned or am learning from them, to emphasize the peer to peer relationship we have. Continue reading Collegial Relationships and Instructional Coaching: Module 2

EDTC 6105: Visionary Leadership and Peer Coaching

Beginning my second year of Grad School has me shifting from learning about digital education as a teacher and into the role of coaching supporting other educators. This year I’ll be exploring more of the ISTE coaching standards, beginning with Standard 1: Visionary Leadership. B. Contribute to the planning, development, communication, implementation, and evaluation of technology-infused strategic plans at the district and school levels. For my first post I’ll be exploring how coaches can successfully inspire and assist peers with planning, implementing, and evaluating technology integration.

What is a coach?

When I hear the word “coach”, I immediately envision my dad.  My dad has played and coached sports since before I was born. Having limited coaching experience myself, my memories are as a spectator and what I’ve observed over the years.  As I thought more deeply about the label “coach”, I realised there are a lot of parallels between what I saw in my dad and what I’ve seen in education.

Take basketball for example.  My dad would spend hours watching teams play at various levels, always with a notebook in hand.  He’d write down plays, ideas, and enjoyed talking to our family about what he looked forward to sharing with his team. He started each season hoping to help his players develop new skills and be better athletes both on and off the court by the end of the season. During practice he’d explain, model, select players to carry them out, and modify based on the outcome.  Nothing was ever set in stone.  He guided them, but never did things for them. A coach can’t run on the court to help a player when they get nervous and players learn to work together, communicate, and actively be in the moment if they want to win. No matter the outcome of each game, there was always discussion about what went well, what they can try to improve before the next game, and praise about what the players achieved, not praise of the coach.

I feel these strategies also apply to peer coaching in education. Gaining insight into coaching through Les Foltos’ book, Peer Coaching, I’m beginning to see coaching as an extension of working with students. We want to inspire others to challenge what they know and continuously explore new skills.  We also want teachers to have a toolkit of resources that they can recommend to students so that students can explore which tools help them succeed. So what qualities are needed to establish a positive coaching relationship? After looking at sources from multiple countries, a few key principles keep re-surfacing.

  • Willingness
  • Personal Relationship
  • Trust and Support vs Judgement
  • Understanding of the Education System
  • Time
  • Reciprocal Communication

Willingness

In peer coaching, both educators need to be willing participants. In addition, they need to feel supported by others (colleagues, administrators, district). Both educators also need to see the value in collaboration and establish a realistic goal that they are trying to achieve to increase student achievement. The teacher needs to be willing to take risks, explore, and understand that the partnership is fluid .

Personal Relationship

If the participants do not already know each other on a personal or professional level, then the next step is to take time and understand the needs of the teacher and the students.  Les Foltos recommends that coaches spend the first meeting getting to know the teacher and allowing the teacher’s needs to guide the direction of their time together. What is also implied with establishing a relationship is that the coach’s role begins as a listener, not someone offering advice. As a listener, coach’s can paraphrase their understanding of the teacher’s needs and begin to understand the teacher’s perceptions and experiences with technology before discussing integration.

Trust and Support vs Judgement

Teachers need to feel they can trust their coach as a friend, not someone who’s coming into their classroom to judge them.  Establishing trust takes time. For the partnership to be effective, the coach needs to enter without power, judgement, or evaluative mindset.  The coach should appear knowledgeable but not assume the role as expert, creating a hierarchy in the relationship. Trust is also important for when challenges arise in order for the partnership to remain intact.

Understanding of the Education System

I’m sure most teachers can relate, but when I think of Professional Development trainings that were a waste of time, a few reasons immediately come to mind: 1. mandatory attendance, 2. the presenter has no idea what my student population is, 3. the presenter knows nothing about the resources available in our district, 4. this has nothing to do with my content area.  The worst trainings combine all four!  

For example, I teach ELL offering language support during reading and writing.  A few years ago, our district adopted a new Math curriculum with mandatory trainings for all certificated staff.  So I sat there for three days, frustrated at my use of time. I quickly learned all the teachers who teach Math were also frustrated and do not see how this curriculum would work in their classroom, it added fuel to the fire and a mob mentality.  Our speaker promoted using the curriculum on computers and tablets during the lessons on a regular basis and talked about great tech features.  The problem was we did not have a computer lab and averaged 1 device to 5 students.  His lack of knowledge about our district led to a group of educators leaving the training frustrated rather than excited to try what he’d presented.

Point being, coaches need to do some research, and ask questions to better understand the building they’re serving and the teacher needs. Even within the same building, peer coaches need to look at the specific grade level and content area they wish to support. Coaches need to see the teacher’s classroom environment before offering any recommendations. In regards to technology, what already exists in the building or district, who else might be available to observe in action, and what options are available to help the teacher successfully integrate technology in the classroom? What concerns does the teacher have about technology integration?

Time

Time is a big factor for teachers.  It feels like there is never enough!  In a peer coaching partnership, both participants need to establish a timeline for the long-term as well as protocols to follow with each meeting in order to respect each other’s time.  In addition, realistic goals and timelines need to be discussed and adjusted as needed.  This ties back to willing participants.  If teachers feel pressured or that something will be lost versus something will be enhanced they will begin to resist, and coaches have to work much harder to bring them back on board. Meetings should typically have an agenda, protocol, allow time for the teacher to feel their time is validated and end with an action plan.  This ties into communication.

Reciprocal Communication

With time being valuable, to respect all involved, communication preferences should also be discussed in the early stages of collaboration. Today there are so many ways for teachers to collaborate beyond the classroom.  Once communication methods are in place, these can be used as reminders for upcoming collaboration.  For example, if email is the chosen form of communication outside of scheduled in-person meetings, then the emails should serve as reminders for both participants responsibilities for how to come prepared. This may also require communication with other staff in the building, administration, or outside. Teachers need to feel they can reach their coach and receive feedback in a timely manner.  

Connection to Technology Integration

Technology can be daunting for teachers.  There are so many unknowns, and for teachers who are used to be in control, adding digital devices into the classroom can create anxiety.  So how can peer coaches then use the above guiding principles to support their colleagues? Coaches need to do research after each meeting so explore what tools are available that could meet the teacher’s needs to enhance student achievement.  With that, coaches need to share technology as an approach to help students meet grade level standards and develop 21st century skills.  This needs to be done carefully to avoid teachers feeling pressured to add more to their day.

Conclusion

In conclusion, like sports, peer coaches need to recognise that teachers come in with a wide range of abilities and strengths.  The coach needs to support teachers in recognising their long term goal and create opportunities for them to work towards successfully meeting that goal.  The coach’s role should guide the teacher to independence and self-discovery for what works best for them and their students, while providing access, not direct instruction.  Although this is simply the tip of the iceberg, I feel it’s a starting point for me as I look into peer coaching opportunities within my own building this year.

Cited by Queensland Government

References

Brown, L. (2014, February 28). The Importance of Trust. Retrieved October 14, 2017, from http://teachforall.org/en/network-learning/importance-trust

Cavanagh, M., Grant, A., & Kemp, T. (2015). Evidence-Based Coaching Volume 1 : Theory, Research and Practice from the Behavioural Sciences. Australian Academic Press.

Foltos, L. (2013). Peer coaching: Unlocking the power of collaboration. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

“Role of Coaching in an Educational Setting.” Queensland Government, Department of Education and Training, 29 Jan. 2015, from education.qld.gov.au/staff/development/performance/resources/readings/role-coaching-educational-settings.pdf

Community Engagement Project – EDTC 6104

Increasing Family Engagement Through Digital Portfolios

This summer I’ve stepped outside of my comfort zone.  In my own building, I worked as the Site Coordinator for summer school, my first time truly managing other staff and being in charge of a building.  With my Masters program through SPU, I’ve submitted my first proposal to a conference.  While this has been daunting, I have enjoyed both challenges.  Having taught ELL for seven years, I’ve taught summer school, both initiated and led before and after school programs, and attended workshops, but have never sought out a leadership role.  This summer has shifted my own perception of what I’m capable of and how I can contribute to others.

Trying New Strategies to Engage ELL Families

One of my greatest challenges as an educator and coach has been communication with families.  Working in schools where the majority of the parents are not native English speakers, communication is often limited, lost in translation, and we frequently rely on students to be the translator to get messages through to families. Based on my own experience in Title 1 schools in two different states, ELL families are less likely to initiate communication with teachers and less likely to use email as a frequent communication tool. Numerous studies agree that in general, low-income and/or ethnic/racial minority families are less likely to participate in school events and certain aspects of the children’s education. (Dong-shin Shin and Wendy Seger 2016). Many of these same families have limited access to technology and less exposure to 21st century skills.  Therefore, I feel it is important for teachers to not only introduce 21st century skills to students, but also help coach their families in how to use technology as a communication tool, professionally, and share their funds of knowledge.

What do we know about family involvement in Title 1 schools?

The most extensive research comes from the Hoover-Demspey and Sandler study known as the HDS Model.  Their findings claim parent involvement is based on these key factors:

The Parent Institute, 2012

This chart supports evidence that parents who do not speak English or were not educated in the American education system are more likely to find it difficult to participate at the school site. Furthermore, these families may have varying cultural views on what parent involvement entails based on their own cultural experiences. Particularly in low-income/immigrant families, parents may be limited in time by constraints related to their occupation, caring for other family members, or cultural commitments. So how can I connect families to what’s happening in the classroom when they are unable to attend our events? How do we support our illiterate parents?

This past year I’ve been searching for digital tools that help connect with families and offer translation.  Partially motivated by several great digital programs students have used for projects without a common way to share their work with families. I was fortunate enough to attend the International TESOL Convention to learn more about what other teachers are doing around the world and what I might be able to apply in my own building. These challenges inspired my quest for a better system to increase parent engagement, empower students, while still meeting performance standards.

My search led me to discovering digital portfolios.  With the intention of supporting students and increasing family engagement, the platform I am most eager to explore at this time is Seesaw.  

Digital Portfolios – Empower Students and Engage Families

My Proposal

Searching for conferences to submit proposals to was a foreign concept to me.  After looking at larger conferences, I decided to do some google searching of my own and happened upon the WAESOL (Washington Association for the Education of Speakers of Other Languages) website.  I was so excited to see that they were accepting proposals for their 2017 conference to be held this upcoming October.  My greatest challenge was the deadline to apply, in July.  I had anticipated having all summer to explore apps, compare, and learn.

The 2017 WAESOL Conference will take place in October in Des Moines, WA.  My proposal was for a Teacher Demonstration session which is 45 minutes.  Knowing the conference targets ELL teachers, I feel I have a fair understanding of the participants who attend these workshops. Also, knowing the state standards we all address, I felt I could really streamline how digital portfolios can support teachers, students, and families.

How can I encourage others to buy in to using digital portfolios?

When thinking about how to get others excited, I thought back to various workshops I attended at the TESOL convention.  How did speakers get and maintain my attention? Beyond teachers wanting to learn about the topic, I want them to understand I am like them.  I am currently teaching, at times overwhelmed feeling I can’t take on anything else, yet wanting to serve our population and advocate for the ELL families in our state.

With attendees coming from around the state, we share the same teaching standards, evaluation systems, language barriers, gaps in formal education, as well as successes and challenges.  Rather than simply digitizing portfolios, this platform allows us to record students speaking and reading which is critical in their language development.  Students can monitor their own progress as well as have some control over the work they choose to publish.  Parents will have the opportunity to become involved digitally without needing to come to the school.  

In lieu of adding to the work day, digital portfolios can create a classroom system where students become more actively involved in their published work with the awareness of an authentic audience. Attendees will be able to make connections between digital tools and what they are already doing in the classroom. How can I achieve this in just 45 minutes?

Below is a mini-version of my slide presentation.  Starting with questions to gauge the audience, I might modify the direction of the workshop.  My intent is to truly highlight strengths of Seesaw and how it aligns well to tools and standards already utilised in K-12 classrooms. Again, by addressing the standards met and how teachers can use digital portfolios as evidence of their own professional growth, it is simply modifying how teachers capture the work already taking place.

After sharing how Seesaw can work for students, teachers, and parents, attendees will have the opportunity to explore Seesaw or another platform on a personal or shared device. Attendees will log in to a mock class as a student and be asked to upload photos, record audio, and take notes.  The audio and note-taking questions will align with teacher background which in turn will give me a better understanding of the who’s in attendance. If teachers prefer another platform, I’d like to hear about it and why it works for them.

Why Seesaw?  

So Why Seesaw?  Yes, there are other great platforms out there, however at this time, I am choosing to implement and promote Seesaw.  As mentioned in previous posts, many of our ELL students come from high poverty families without internet access, consistent working phones, first generation to have formal education.  Seesaw does not require an app like some other platforms. At this time, Seesaw allows teachers to assess reading, writing, and speaking, which all ELL teachers do anyway, now they can simply store data in one location. Seesaw offers voice messaging, which most platforms do not.

For example, we’ll look at one of my students from Guatemala.  He speaks Spanish. Great! We have Spanish support in my building so easy solution is send home all information in Spanish.  However, neither of his parents had more than 4 years of school.  His mother struggles to read in Spanish and his dad works long hours.  Who will translate? His mom does however have a phone and they frequently go to a coffee shop where she can access free wi-fi to chat with family back home.  How can I utilize this knowledge to support the family?  His mother can use the QR code to access Seesaw and look up his published work while she’s at the coffee shop and leave him voice messages.  

How else can Seesaw help?  Parents can give access to other family members.  We have many students who go to outside agencies for after school tutoring.  Those agencies then contact us wanting progress reports.  To eliminate this step, we could simply give the access to Seesaw and they can log in on their own to see how the students are performing as well as give feedback.  It’s another way to show students we all work as a team to support their academic growth and language development.

How does Seesaw support teachers in the classroom?  In my limited experience (one month) Seesaw has great support for teachers using the platform.  Through frequent email updates, I’ve learned about free webinars, updates to the system, Facebook groups to join that are grade level or content specific, and have joined a new group of educators who vary in experience. This is one of the driving reasons why I feel I can recommend Seesaw to others.  I may not know the answer to a question, but I feel I now have a support network I can quickly turn to and be directed to the person who has the answer.

Resources

The Parent Institute (2012) Why is parent involvement important? Retrieved from https://www.parent-institute.com/pdf-samples/h-d-and-s-model.pdf

Park, S. S., & Holloway, S. D. (2012, November 30). No Parent Left Behind: Predicting Parental Involvement in Adolescents’ Education within a Sociodemographically Diverse Population. Retrieved August 13, 2017, from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1012012

Shin, D., & Seger, W. (2016, January 13). Web 2.0 Technologies and Parent Involvement of ELL Students: An Ecological Perspective. Retrieved August 13, 2017, from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1100691

Module 1: Blended Learning in PD

This quarter we will consider how to best create and support digital learning environments through the lens of a technology coach. In module 1 we are focusing on performance indicators a & c under ISTE Standard 3 for Coaches. Those two indicators ask how collaboration and classroom management can be used effectively to maximize the use of digital tools and resources in technology-rich learning environments by teachers and students, (ISTE, 2011). Indicator 3c asks coaches to “coach teachers in and model the use of blended learning, digital content and collaborative learning networks to support and extend student learning as well as expand opportunities and choices for online professional development for teachers and administrators,” (ISTE, 2011). The part that stands out to me most as I transition into my new role is indicator 3c. I decided to continue my investigation into best practices in professional development, work that I started in my final post last quarter that can be read here (link). In that post I talked broadly about professional development (PD) and about how it could be improved to best serve teachers who integrate  technology into teaching. Here I will continue that work by focusing on how technology coaches can support teachers to through the PD.  Today my question deals specifically with blended learning, and asks how it can be incorporated into professional development for teachers so that they can begin to use it in their classroom. 

My reading notes are below:

Blended Learning in the Classroom

As I was reading about how to best incorporate the blended learning model into a classroom I read that the most effective way is to have technology integration that is perfectly matched to a curriculum. Karen Johnson writes that for Pamela Baack to commit to blended learning the school’s choice to use Zearn allowed all activities to be focused on the same goals, (Johnson, 2016, June 14). I think this is an ideal approach but in my experience it would be rare for teachers to have that option. Instead as technology coaches I think part of our work is to show, and maybe talk about, how it is an ongoing process to find a blended learning tool that works well within a classroom. That work is likely never finished.

In my research a lot of what I read about personalization of learning in a classroom through blended learning applies to adult learning as well. I often read about practices that are used with students being applied to PD. Two articles by the same author gave me a basic plan for how I might demonstrate blended learning to teachers within a PD session and they left me with many other questions to investigate.

Ideas for Blended Learning in PD

The first idea from the EdSurge article by Stepan Mekhitarian is to incorporate some blended learning into your demonstration or use of technology within the PD session. He does write that it shouldn’t just included for the sake of having it in there, it should be thoughtfully integrated and tied to the overall instructional focus and goal of the PD session. In other words, pick a tool “to further advance learning and progress toward the objective” (Mekhitarian, 2016, November 19). The author says this might look like using Google Docs to collaborate during a PD on questioning. Or collect responses from participants and use them in the activity. These both sound like fine ways to demonstrate integration of technology but they seem to be low on the ladder in SAMR. I would think they are at the Substitution level and maybe collecting survey responses instantaneously might land in the Augmentation or Modification stage. I still wonder what a more powerful demonstration of blended learning might look like for teachers.

The next suggestion is to co-plan and co-lead professional development with teachers to build capacity in those teachers as school leaders and instructional experts. This is an area where I see a lot of potential growth for my previous district  and I’m interested to know where my new district is at with this point. I see great potential in this area because many teachers have a wide range of technology skills and many no doubt have powerful and innovative applications of technology that they are using in their classroom however, in order to build this practice in teachers I think that there would need to be a more consistent focus on encouraging those teachers to present. In my previous district there were times where teachers were asked to share a PD because of an area of strength they showed, but the PD provided was sporadic and often seemed disconnected from the larger vision of the district or the plan of individual schools. I don’t yet know all that goes into planning PD for an entire district, nor do I know how much flexibility there is in sight based PD throughout the year but I hope to find that there will be an opportunity to co-plan and co-lead PD with teachers who are harnessing the power of tech to improve instructional outcomes.

The final idea suggested in the EdSurge article from Stepan Mekhitarian is to offer a place for optional workshops where teachers who use blended learning resources can gather to discuss and compare resources as well as continue to learn about resources that were introduced in a PD session.

In the second article Mekhitarian suggests some similar ways of incorporating blended learning models into PD for teachers. He adds a more explicit call for peer observation, which I think would benefit teachers in multiple ways including building a peer group around blended learning. Both articles have good points but I also would have liked a more clear example for many of his ideas. Hopefully as I work to provide PD for teachers I am able to record some ways that I demonstrate using blended learning and I can add those back to this post. In the end I think a clear vision and purpose for PD from administration will support teachers. This quote from Ellen Dorr resonated with me, “teachers are going to create strong learning environments for their students when they are involved in similar environments themselves–and it’s up to you to support them, administrators” (Dorr, 2015). Now I will have a role in that work.

Resources

Dorr, E. (2015, November 4). How Administrators Can Design the Best Learning Experiences for Teachers – EdSurge News. Retrieved July 5, 2017, from https://www.edsurge.com/news/2015-11-04-how-administrators-can-design-the-best-learning-experiences-for-teachers

ISTE Standards For Coaches. (2011). Retrieved July 1, 2017, from http://www.iste.org/standards/standards/standards-for-coaches

Johnson, K. (2016, June 14). 6 Steps to Make Math Personal—Tech Makes It Possible, Teachers Make It Happen – EdSurge News. Retrieved July 7, 2017, from https://www.edsurge.com/news/2016-06-14-6-steps-to-make-math-personal-tech-makes-it-possible-teachers-make-it-happen

Mekhitarian, S. (2016, November 19). Understanding Blended Learning Through Innovative Professional Development – EdSurge News. Retrieved July 7, 2017, from https://www.edsurge.com/news/2016-11-19-understanding-blended-learning-through-innovative-professional-development

Strauss, V. (2015, June 15–500). Blended learning: The great new thing or the great new hype? Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2015/06/21/blended-learning-the-great-new-thing-or-the-great-new-hype/

The Role of the Librarian in Facilitating Project Based Learning Experiences

Overview Being an English teacher, I have had the chance to work closely with my school librarian over my five years of teaching.  I somewhat selfishly… As technology brings changes to the learning environment, this also alters the roles educators play in how they guide students and facilitate learning experiences.  This changing role is particularly […]

Module 3: Collaboration with Parents, Student Motivation, and Success

Collaboration and Success

This week we were looking at the ISTE Standard for Teachers, #3 and specifically it seems to deal with parent communication or collaboration with parents, peers or the community. So based on my interpretation of the standards and conversations we had in our class that led me to two related questions. How does collaboration with parents, peers, or community members support student success and innovation? How can asynchronous collaboration or communication be used to increase parent, peer, or community involvement in the classroom as an aid to student success? Those two questions are obviously big questions, with complicated answers, but I think it is something teachers are constantly considering. As teachers we have limited time with students. Taking into account the different subjects, changing classes in middle through high school, state testing, other required assessments, daily interruptions to the regular schedule, not to mention absences, appointments and behavior challenges and the giant chunk of time we think we have is whittled away like a piece of stone for a sculpture. Without vision and laser focus it turns into nothing more than chunks of rock on the floor, signs of a missed opportunity. I know I have had years like that as an elementary teacher. I reflect on my year with a particular class or my work with a specific student and ask, where did the time go? It is difficult to measure what I have accomplished and I can be left thinking about missed opportunities.

In that respect partnering with parents and other members of the community to aid student success is particularly interesting to me for a couple reasons. First, if partnering with a member of the community or a parent does in fact provide additional motivation to students then it would likely lead to increased student success during the school year. I would likely see results in the classroom. There have been rare instances where I’ve felt like this has worked, or almost worked. One instance was this year. I introduced a student to a series of books and he started reading them like crazy. He went from reading fiction reluctantly to being a ravenous reader. He read nearly 20 short chapter books in just a few months or so. I was excited and I thought I had clearly communicated that excitement with his parents. However, I didn’t know that at home his parents were saying that the books he was reading were too easy for him. They were concerned that he needed to be reading more difficult books. Instead of partnering we ended up battling about appropriate level of reading for this student. Honestly, I just wanted him to be interested in reading so I didn’t push the issue too much, and he is still finding books that interest him. He is just reading more slowly as he tackles more complex texts. This week I’ve been reflecting on that story and I can’t help thinking that it was a missed opportunity. It might be that because parents in my class were not more familiar with the reading curriculum, this particular parent didn’t understand that there is complex work to do in a text in spite of the level of that text.

The second reason partnering with parents or other community members is so interesting and intriguing is that it provides a path for students to continue their learning outside of the classroom and beyond the school year. Robby Desmond writes in his blog post about some exciting possibilities that could come from partnering with parents. His perspective is that of an online reading tutor, but I think that his enthusiastic approach to involving parents should at least cause us to reflect on our own involvement of parents and community members. He suggests that exposing parents to the goals of lessons and a curriculum then parents will become a part of the learning process (Desmond, 2013).

An added benefit of involving parents and authentic learning is shared by actual students in the video about Expeditionary Learning (EL) at King Middle School. The school is unique of course, embarking on a 4 month investigation that is supported by teachers of different disciplines allows for deeper learning. Students are designers, creators and problem solvers. Through this project they use many of the categories of skills for deeper learning (Kabaker, 2015). It is hard to say whether it is because the EL approach to learning in general or specifically because of the parent integration at the end of the project but two of the students who are highlighted in the video reflected on their presentations in a way that seems to show that they positively affected performance. “This is live, you’re showing what you’re learning to other people, which kind of gives you something more back I think.” said Emma Schwartz. “You have to be clear and concise. Giving presentations is so important because it really arms you with skills that you will need later in life” shared Liva Pierce (EL Education, 2013).

Portland Maine Problem Solvers from EL Education on Vimeo.

At King Middle School, an EL Mentor School, teachers have swapped traditional curriculum for an unusually comprehensive science curriculum that emphasizes problem-solving, with a little help from some robots.

Do I think that it is possible (or even helpful) for parents to know absolutely everything that is happening in my classroom? I don’t think many parents want that. I’m not even sure how to provide that kind of access based on my current teaching. I feel torn between providing more information to parents to extend the learning like Desmond suggests and reluctant because parent involvement is never universal.

Ultimately I think in order to provide some kind of consistent communication that is beneficial to parents, teachers and students it needs to be a school wide implementation. I find that my communication is usually lacking often because of a lack of time. Maybe I haven’t given it enough of a try to see the way it can transform learning. In her article Linda Flanagan provides some ideas that really resonate with me as an elementary teacher. She says, “To make outreach more attractive to teachers, schools need to make communication central to the teachers’ work, not just an add-on to their growing list of responsibilities. In practice, that means making time during the school day for teachers to contact parents, Kraft says (Flanagan, 2015). That would help. In the meantime I have seen some beneficial aids to communication in recent years, Flanagan mentions text message based communication in her article and I think that Remind.com is a tool that is doing a great job of connecting parents and teachers through text messages. To me parent communication is one of those measures that is tricky to quantify. I know it positively impacts students but I’m still left searching for the best way to reach parents in a meaningful way while focusing on all of the other responsibilities we have as teachers.

Resources:

Desmond, R. (2013, March 12). Asynchronous Teaching, Helping Parents, and the Connected Teacher [Blog]. Retrieved from http://rossier.usc.edu/95468/

EL Education. (2013). Portland Maine Problem Solvers [News Video]. Retrieved from https://vimeo.com/68323188

Flanagan, L. (2015, November 17). What Can Be Done to Improve Parent-Teacher Communication? [Blog]. Retrieved from https://ww2.kqed.org/mindshift/2015/11/17/what-can-be-done-to-improve-parent-teacher-communication/

Kabaker, J. (2015, February 11). Supporting Deeper Learning in the Classroom. Retrieved from http://digitalpromise.org/2015/02/11/supporting-deeper-learning-in-the-classroom/