Browse Category: Reflections

What’s Next? May Questions and August Goals

Although it may not feel like it, the last few weeks of the year are a great time to set goals for the following year.  May is often an intense summary of the school year when we are most keenly aware of the consequences of our decisions and actions throughout the year, and with the exhaustion of fourth quarter comes the opportunity to reflect on beginning the next year better than the current year.

As I’m reflecting on my third year of EdTech Coaching, I’m encountering many questions–questions that demand an honest answer to make my reflection relevant and productive.  Here are a few of the questions I am considering and the resources that are helping me evaluate my own coaching practice in the final days of this school year.  I hope they are helpful during your transition between this school year and the next.

Start with the ISTE Coaching Standards.

If the Coaching Standards were your job description, how would you be evaluated at the end of this year?  Where did you excel, and where do you need to spend some time building skills or knowledge?  How can you better organize your time to meet these standards?  What tasks can you give up or delegate that don’t meet the standards?

I encourage you to pick a standard and commit to strengthening your implementation of this standard throughout next year.  Depending on your mindset, you may pick a standard where you are weak, with the goal of gaining proficiency or pick a standard where you show proficiency, with the goal of reaching excellence in that area.  I chose to focus on teaching, learning, and assessment at the beginning of this year and have spent time throughout the year, along with our instructional coach, developing a system of instructional rounds that facilitate non-judgmental classroom visits across my building.  The results have been encouraging and we have plans to develop the rounds further next year, giving me more opportunities to focus on this standard.  Even though the process has required time and energy, I am comfortable with the required effort because it aligns with the personal goal to strengthen my implementation of this standard.   This standard also guided my planning for next year as I worked with building leadership to create our professional development schedule.

Look at your mission statement

You can use either your district’s, school’s, or personal mission statement for this–or a combination of these.  My building adopted a new mission statement in November, and we have been very intentional in aligning our Professional Learning Communities and Professional Development with the new mission statement as we plan for next year.  If your mission statement were your compass, is it heading you in the right direction or getting you lost along the way?  Do you need to revise or rewrite your mission statement to align with the role you play within your building or district?  Does your mission statement align with your district’s and could a misalignment be the root cause of any conflict, frustration, or confusion?

Listen to your teachers

What are your teacher’s needs?  Where have they grown and what are their next steps?  What are their goals for next year? How will you help them grow to meet their own professional goals in the coming year?  What is their mission statement, and how do you fit into helping them achieve this?

Take time to look at the revised ISTE Teacher Standards when they are released in June.  We will focus a portion of the EdTech Coaches PLN Annual Membership Meeting (June 26, 5:30-6:45 pm)  on these new standards, giving our members time to discuss our role as coaches in supporting teachers as they work towards meeting these new standards.  If you are attending #ISTE17, please join us and contribute to this conversation.

Listen to your colleagues

Every coach needs a team of coaches in their cheering section.  Talk to your colleagues about their successes during the year.  How did they achieve this, and can you duplicate their success in your own setting?  Where did they struggle and how can you learn from their challenges?  How will you grow your PLN and how will you actively contribute to your PLN next year?  Along with our Annual Membership Meeting at #ISTE17, the EdTech Coaches PLN will host a Networking Event June 26 from 7:00 – 9:00 pm and the EdTech Coaches Playground on June 27 from 9:30 am to 1:00 pm.  These events are designed to facilitate sharing and listening opportunities that will grow and strengthen personal learning networks.

Attend a conference, host an EdTech Coaches Meeting during a local conference, read blogs, participate in the EdTech Coaches Blogging Buddies, participate in a Twitter chat, post a question to the EdTech Coaches PLN Discussion Board or Google+ Group, answer a question posted to the PLN Discussion Board or Google+ Group, or post a comment on a colleague’s blog.  Don’t forget that your colleagues are also listening to you–so don’t hesitate to share your successes and challenges as they learn from your experiences.

Use the summer to recharge and sharpen the saw

Make plans to begin the first day of school with enough energy and enthusiasm to share with anyone needing the encouragement to begin the year.  How will you spend your time over the summer to meet your personal and professional needs that will, in turn, enable you to meet the personal and professional needs of your staff?  What problems or failures will you leave with this school year and forbid from influencing next year?  Take advantage of the opportunity to start fresh next August–don’t bring baggage from previous years that will destroy this fresh start and set you on a cycle of repeating the past. How will you devote your energy to tackling the challenges of the present rather than the failures of the past?

Share your thoughts

How are you reflecting on this year and what is driving your goals for next year?  How do you plan to meet your goals for next year?  Please share in the comments or post your own blog entries (and share with #ETCoaches through Twitter) to keep the conversation going.

Teaching Blogs as a Non-Fiction Text

My experiences as a librarian and tech coach met at an intersection earlier this week as a seventh grade ELA teacher and I were helping her students set up their own blogs for the purpose of publishing their writing to an authentic audience.  A few minutes into explaining how to create their student Blogger profiles, I realized that most of the seventh graders in the room had likely never seen a blog and certainly never explored the organizational structure common to most blogging platforms.  I quickly made a comparison between the organizational structures of printed books and online blogs, and then prepared a more organized presentation for her second and third classes who were completing the same activity later in the day.  My primary shortcoming in coaching this teacher was not missing the fact that her students were unfamiliar with the structure of blogs–my failure was that I did not suggest that she spend some time teaching blogs as she would any other non-fiction text before asking her students to create their own blogs.

I realize that all blogs are not non-fiction, and many contain clear examples of fiction writing at best, and highly biased information at worst.  When I say non-fiction, I am referring to the organized structure that accompanies most non-fiction writing.  Tables of content, indexes, tables, charts, captions, etc., can be directly compared to navigation panes, widgets, information pages, posts, archives, and feeds–thus blogs have more structural similarities to non-fiction texts than to fiction texts.  Talking about blogs as information sources also opens the door for digital literacy conversations, which are even more important in an online environment.  While a student has access to a professionally curated non-fiction library at school, they are the primary curator of the material they access online.  Blogs present great opportunities to teach fact and opinion, bias, evaluation of sources, intended audience, purpose, and author tone, among other elements of writing.

I remember teaching basic non-fiction text features to my elementary library students as they explored a variety of books and reference materials.  The purpose of this instruction was to familiarize them with the structure of informational texts and help them access, read, interpret, and evaluate non-fiction texts in the future.  Blogs are certainly not a new format, and I see no indication that they are reaching the end of their life cycle–so are we addressing this growing informational text structure with the attention necessary to equip students to consume, evaluate, and respond to the information communicated within blogs and the Internet at large?

As fake news currently receives heightened attention following the election, we are reminded that misinformation is not only being presented, but this misinformation is being intentionally presented and shared with the intent of persuading the audience with false and exaggerated information.  Our students do not have to find poor informational sources, these sources will find them in their daily journies through social media and online spaces.  Using blogs as a teaching tool is not only about understanding the organization of information contained within the site, it is about navigating through the information itself with the critical thinking skills necessary to detect good sources from poor sources–which has always been the objective of any teacher charged with guiding students through the research and writing process.

Investigating Instructional Rounds

I have made several attempts over the past two years to encourage teachers to connect with educators outside of the building–but I missed a step.  Although I didn’t realize it at the time, I was assuming that teachers were already connecting with other educators in the building.  Or, I was underestimating the interactions that I saw as connections built on trust and focused on a common goal to improve instruction and learning.  Was I really listening to the conversations between teachers?  Where those participating in the conversations truly engaged or just complying in an effort to outlast the meeting?  In all the talk about student engagement, what about teacher engagement?  What does that look like?  How do you assess quality teacher engagement?  And how do you support those who truly want to engage with other faculty members in deep and focused conversations aimed at improving student learning?

At the beginning of the year, the instructional facilitator and I were brainstorming ways to spend more time in classrooms and replace a culture based on a fear of evaluation and judgment with a culture of support and collective learning.  We set a goal to visit every classroom in the building as a first step.  As we discussed this, we thought it be great to eventually bring other teachers along with us during future classroom visits.  After some investigation, we discovered instructional rounds as a possible model to facilitate this cultural shift.  After some reading and connecting with other educators who had utilized rounds, we decided to implement the rounds in phases, giving us time to explore rounds and customize the practice to the needs of our learning community.

  1. The instructional facilitators visit each classroom and plan the instructional rounds debrief process and prepare for stage 4
  2. The instructional facilitators will read Instructional Rounds in Education and Leading Instructional Rounds in Education for guidance in implementing rounds
  3. The PLC will participate in an article study* and discussion to prepare for phase 4
  4. The PLC will practice the debrief process after watching a short classroom video
  5. The instructional facilitators will bring PLC members along with us to refine the process including the debrief process and norms. We will also be exploring problems of practice that are present throughout the building.
  6. The facilitators and PLC members will take other teachers on rounds with us and facilitate the debrief process. We will focus these rounds on the problems of practice that we define in phase 4

I know this process is subject to multiple changes and course corrections, and many adjustments have already been made in the recent weeks.  I’m anxious to see the process unfold and facilitate opportunities for our staff to improve their instructional skills in a collaborative setting.