Reassessments- My journey to doing them...less?

Standards-based grading is becoming standard practice in many schools. But when I started teaching 7 years ago, I chose to embrace the grading practice as my own. I can honestly say, however, that I haven't kept my system the same in any of that time. I feel like professional learning is truly a practice of failing forward and my assessment journey has been just that. When I started teaching, my summative assessments generally looked the same. Difficult, conceptual questions asked in essay form that required students to apply understanding and explain thinking in depth. These essays definitely showed understanding, but they were also a beast to grade and often did little to connect learning to the real world. Seriously, though, 125 students writing 3-4 essays all at the same time meant my social life pulled a disappearing act whenever it came time to measure learning. I remember thinking that there had to be a better way. I came into teaching knowing that it was far more than a 9-5, but I owed my family a little more than a few glancing moments on the weekend. In pursuit of a more efficient process, my feedback journey continued from using google forms to generate feedback documents to using Schoology as a LMS. But it also changed as I stepped away from essays and into more projects. I liked projects because they facilitated learning as much as they measured it. I also appreciated how easily I could attach my projects to the real world. 

Which brings me to where I am now... a class where projects with detailed, standards-based rubrics are the norm and essay questions are the exception. 

At the end of the school year last year, I noticed something interesting happened to my assessment practices. I was no longer taking weekends to offer meaningful feedback to students. I may have actually panicked thinking that in the throes of my instructional guide work I had not givens students meaningful feedback on their understanding.  But I distinctly remember cracking open my Canvas course and feeling relieved. Not only were my students given meaningful feedback, but their assessments showed that nearly all students had attained a baseline understanding or more. So what was I doing differently? How was I giving feedback without getting sucked into the black hole that is grading?!

Well, I noticed the answer during fourth quarter. Students were finishing up a project where they had to draw analogies to the center of the Earth. As with all of my projects, students were provided with clear expectations and a rubric that outlined what each level of understanding looked like. When students declared their work complete they would show it to me and wait for feedback. In the past, I would accept the project, grade it, give detailed feedback, and require reassessment. But my pattern has changed. The interactions started to look a little something like this:

  • Student: Mrs B, I am done. 
  • Me: Sweet. Let me see it. (Skim the project) Ok. Did you look at the rubric?
  • Student: Yeah.
  • Me: Ok. So here's the thing. Right now your analogies are pretty simple. Remember how I said to add details about your understanding through comparing similarities and differences?
  • Student: Yea. I did some of that. 
  • Me: Absolutely! I see that. But I think you can add more. Right now, I am thinking you are showing a baseline level of understanding. But I know you can do more. What might you add to show that you understand this even better?
  • [Student leaves and continues working on project using my feedback and the rubric to drive their changes]

Now I am not saying that essay tests or other summative assessment practices aren't needed. Remember, I mentioned that other types exist within my space. But I have learned that a rubric is a powerful tool to guide metacognition in students! Also choosing not to accept an assignment until it is up to the standards of my class matters. It saves time and energy, but more importantly...it gives students real, in the moment, feedback that they can use to deepen their learning. 

 

Can you help me find ________________?

Am I the only one that geeks out on research? Journals, blogs, videos, twitter, newspapers, websites...you name it. I LOVE to comb through it to find something valuable. Unfortunately, my reality as a classroom teacher was that there was never enough time to really delve into the way that I wanted. I think that is why I love hearing, "Can you help find information about ___________?" as an instructional guide. Like someone from a cartoon detective show, you can bet "I'm on it!" After all, supporting others is what I am all about!

I like to start places that I know have a broad range of information. Here are two of my go-to starting points:

  1. Educational Leadership by the ASCD- I love this publication because it mailing is centered around a topic. If a teacher is interested in personalized learning, teaching citizenship, alternate grading practices, inclusivity, etc. I know that Educational Leadership likely has a publication on the topic which makes for a great starting point. 
  2. AMLE Magazine by the AMLE- As a middle school instructional guide, a grade level specific publication gets at the needs of my staff because let's face it...middle schoolers are weird (and so are those who choose to teach them ;))

**An honorable mention goes to EdWeek and Edutopia. I can find great things at both of these sources, but I find myself having to sift through for best a practice a little bit more. 

If the teacher is hoping for something more content specific, I am always impressed with the journals published by the professional organizations related to the content like the NSTA or NCTE examples: The Science Teacher or English Education

If I am still not finding enough information...then I go to twitter and google because the access to professional knowledge is out of this world through both of those sources. I am amazed that simple questions can yield amazing results as we connect with others. 

What are your favorite resources? Please share ideas below!

 

Survey Results and Opportunities to Grow...

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In my line of work, feedback comes in a million forms from whispered comments to frustrated emails, from thankful notes to exhausted declarations. The reality of the job is that I have the privilege to work with a lot of hard-working adults and for me...adults are not as easy as kids. When I am in the classroom, I can see, feel, hear, and touch my success. I am a middle school teacher, so I am going to leave smell out of it. While adults definitely smell better, their feedback is so much less tangible. So what do we end up doing? Surveys. Lots of surveys.

Surveys are great. They give you data. They collect thoughts. They organize information. Surveys are an acceptable choice because they are efficient. What they aren't is kind, considerate, caring, or sensitive. Unlike a respected mentor, surveys cannot highlight your areas for growth in a way that simultaneously grows and encourages you. How could they? Surveys are intimate objects. So when the cold, hard data rolls in...as a leader, I have to navigate the frustrations, exhaustion, excitement, and celebrations to find the kernels of feedback that will truly help me grow. 

I am going to be honest, step one for me is to focus on the frustrated comments. Like throw on some sweatpants, grab a bowl of ice cream, and mope in a corner kind of focus on the frustrations. As my own worst critic, it is easy for me to contemplate all of the ways in which I fail. Reflection is a beloved past time of mine with a regular dabbling in over-thinking. So please, imagine what goes on in my mind when someone comes close to touching on an insecurity. Please tell me that I am not the only one that picks up the irritated quips rather than the accolades?! But at the end of step one, I question if it's all worth it. I pull out my, "why" and ask myself if I believe it.

Being able to take anonymous feedback for growth requires maturity. 

Step two generally comes within 24 hours. Step two is where the growth starts. Because during step two, I step back confident that what I am trying to accomplish is worth boop-boops to my pride (I have a 3 year old). It is here that I turn OFF the emotional responses and the focuses on failure. Instead, I turn ON my analytical eyes. I search for patterns. How many people said x, what does that mean for my practice? I ask a trusted mentor or colleague to read through and share what they see. I pull out trends. I sift through comments that are not really about me. Then I start asking myself, "What parts of this can I own?" for the rest. Often times, there is something there. (Thank you to Deb for that insight). You see, what I am realizing over and over is that being able to take anonymous feedback and use it to grow requires maturity. It is easy to write off the negative. It is just as easy to become consumed by it. What isn't easy is creating a plan to grow. 

Step three. Now that I have taken time to think through this data and analyze the comments... I have to ask myself "What am I going to do about it?". This is where the magic happens. As imperfect beings, we are always going to have shortfalls, but that does not mean we give up. It means we dig in. I like to write out my conclusions, think about what I would need to do differently to address the conclusions, identify clear and achievable action steps, and then move to step four.

Step four is all about follow through. Seriously, I embrace the old Nike adage and "Just Do It". I always feel better when I do. Set goals. Revisit the goals. Reflect on the goals. Keep going. An insightful friend recently reminded me that if you have hit step four, you are likely doing amazing things already. Because a person is willing to do the work and end up in step four is committed. Those people believe in what they are doing. They have a "why" that is strong enough to forge through the darkest depths of self-doubt.  

Step five...I move forward knowing that another survey will come. More data will be collected. More comments will be made. Some will notice and note the positive changes. Some will "find" and relay new growth areas. It will probably sting. I may find myself at Step One all over again. But I will move through the steps. I will reflect. I will grow. And I will be better for it. I hope you join me and do the same. 

A peak into my classroom...Earthquake Shake Off

One of the best parts of the Instructional Guide role in Nevada is that I still get to teach! Granted it is only two classes, but I will be honest...somedays, those classes are the charge of electricity I need to serve others. 

We are just getting started with Geology, which I love! Hands-on, anyone?! Well...I like to kick off the learning with a little engineering. I challenged students with the questions, "What makes a structure "safe" during an earthquake?" and "What happens during an earthquake?" I told them the parameters of the "Earthquake Shake Off Challenge" and then...I just let them go. 

What I love about asking intriguing questions and clearly defining success is that students get to be the drivers. The teaching part for me was in the planning and the expectations I set up to allow students to engage without constant berating by Mrs. B. What I can tell you is that in this type of learning format, students can truly shine. All students...no matter their struggles or advancements. Students are able to create, problem-solve, and collaborate all while having fun. So cool right?!? Man, I love my job!


Here are my resources if you want to do it too!

Challenge Slides

Rubric

#ASCDL2L with Brian Mendler - Greatest Takeaway?

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Last night, I took the opportunity to join in on the #ASCDL2L twitter chat featuring Brian Mendler. I have heard a few colleagues rave about trainings they have experiences with Mendler, a specialist discipline with dignity. The chat did not disappoint. I learned a lot and found myself eager to learn more. My big takeaway was a result of Question 4. 

If you are unfamiliar with twitter chats, they tend to be focused on questions in which all participants respond and then engage in dialogue around the topic. I think it is an incredible learning tool as you get a chance to collaborate with others across the country or even world. As I reflect on my greatest learning, I find myself most excited about L.A.A.D.

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True story, our kids have emotions. We are all better if we acknowledge the emotions rather than trying to correct them in a high-intensity moment. 

What?! This seems obvious, but I am going to go ahead and say that L.A.A.D would NOT be my first instinct when reading his example. The student is being disrespectful! But here is my AHA, Brian does not say to let the disrespect go, he says to deal with it later. Why? Because later allows for everyone to calm down a bit and BOTH have a rational conversation. With the L.A.A.D. approach, you can break the cycle of disruption by responding to a student in an unexpected way. It is eye opening to remember to step outside of my needs and show the value to the student. Trite statement here but, our kids have emotions. We are all better if we acknowledge the emotions rather than trying to correct them during a high-intensity moment. This is where my other favorite acronym from the chat came in. 

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Q.T.I.P...oh my goodness. I am thinking a giant QTIP in my classroom feels appropriate. It is so easy to slip into the mistake of taking a students behavior personally. I can think of 2 times this year where I apologized to a student for my frustrated response. Talk about humble pie! But, ultimately, serving myself a giant slice is always worth protecting the relationship I have with a student. But my pride (and love for my kids) would appreciate employing a better strategy.

This is why I am so excited about L.A.A.D. It is a simple, applicable way to diffuse a situation, honor the student, and move forward. I have already used it today! I love when I get a chance to engage in PD I can immediately apply to my context. If you get a chance, join in on a #ASCDL2L. They happen the first Tuesday of the Month at 7pm CST. 


Interested in other potential ed chats? You can find a compiled list of Chats, Dates, and Times here.

Interested in learning about how to engage in an ed chat? Check out this article.

Is your building better BECAUSE you lead it?

This was the title of a session I attended with Principal Kafele at Empower18. If you haven't gotten a chance to hear Kafele speak, I encourage you to look for an opportunity or check out him out on YouTube. 

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The energy in the room was contagious as Principal Kafele challenged us to look in the mirror as a leader. Initially, I felt intimidated. I was sitting in a large ballroom full of successful individuals: Principals, Superintendents, and Central Office people...and me, a teacher leader. Was I in the right session? But as Kafele continued to share, I realized I needed the message as much as any other individual in the room. We were challenged to ask ourselves these questions: What is my leadership identity? What is my leadership mission? What is my leadership purpose? What is my leadership vision?

I was humbled when I realized that I did not, easily, have answers. I am not a decision maker in our building. I am a teacher leader. I am a support person. Did I really need to know my thoughts on these questions? Simply...yes. Because the answer to these questions have been the breath to my lungs whenever situations have gotten difficult. 

Because the answer to these questions have been the breath to my lungs whenever situations have gotten difficult. 

I was humbled when I realized that I did not, easily, have answers. I am not a decision maker in our building. I am a teacher leader. I am a support person. Did I really need to know my thoughts on these questions? Simply...yes. Because the answer to these questions have been the breath to my lungs whenever situations have gotten difficult over the last week. Vision, mission, why...those are like a shot of adrenaline to the leader who is weary. 

What is my leadership identity?

I am an advocate. I see justice a moral imperative. I believe in the idealized power of education. I also live in the reality that our educational systems are not set up to engage all students and provide every child the opportunity to succeed. While I cannot fix every injustice within an educational system, I have to believe in my ability to positively impact the world around me. "When you know better, you do better." Being an instructional leader means that I get to share a lot and learn even more as work with the incredible teachers and administrators of Nevada to provide the best educational opportunities for all of our students. 

What is my leadership mission?

I want to delve into deep personal and professional development in order provide all of my students with the best learning environment possible and support my colleagues as they do the same because I believe education, when done properly, can open doors that otherwise seemed closed.

What is my leadership purpose?

I work with incredible educators who want to achieve great things with their students. I also know my colleagues are often nearing capacity. My role is to come alongside my peers and make growth accessible given the immense demands of teaching. 

What is my leadership vision?

In 2 years NMS will have an established structure of coaching and supports that will meet teachers where they are at as they engage students in the best learning environment we can possibly provide. 

I am beyond excited about this vision. I had some HUGE revelations at ASCD that are already impacting our coaching plans for 2018-2019. I cannot wait to share the entire vision with all of you soon. 

Vision, mission, why...those are like a shot of adrenaline to the leader who is weary. 

SO...is your building better BECAUSE you lead it? If you have a moment, share your responses to the questions below. I would love to connect with you around them. 

Dialogical Coaching?

Listen...I am not going to deceive you. Dialogical coaching was not "new" to me. I have had the opportunity to learn from a few Jim Knight books AND attend his training on "Better Conversations". But sometimes... you just aren't ready to hear information until a specific time. One of those moments came about at ASCD's Empower18 Conference.

As an instructional guide, I nerd out on coaching. Coaching books. Coaches training. Coaching articles, webinars, blogs...you name it and I want to learn. What can I say?! I LOVE the idea supporting my peers as they seek to provide the best instruction for our students. I also believe in partnership rather than a hierarchy within schools. One of the most powerful learning experiences around coaching was Cognitive Coaching. The CC approach highlights the internal capacity of professionals. At its core, CC advocates for paraphrasing and using meditative questions to walk an individual through their thinking. This facilitative approach is excellent to build up teachers and ensure that coaching remains focused on the recipient and not vice versa. I believe in CC. I have seen it work wonders. But I have also felt like there were times I did not fully meet the needs of my colleague by attempting to avoid sharing my ideas. Giving suggestions is where coaching can get murky. So, in general, I have avoided it.

Cue Jim Knight's "Every Teacher Deserves a Coach" presentation at Empower18. 

As I listened to Jim present, I appreciated rehearing some of the learning I have happily gulped up from previous experiences with his Instructional Coaching Model. But then I heard something that had not struck me before. Why now? I don't know. More context? More learning? More experience? 

Here is what I heard. There are three types of coaching. 

  • CC seemed to fit well into the facilitative coaching approach. Facilitative coaching was the zone I was comfortable in. 
  • Directive Coaching was a hard pass for me. Not my job. Not my vision. Not my goal.
  • But then...Dialogical Coaching...
Excuse my messy notes. You should see what my mind following Todd Whitaker looked like! Hint: it's not pretty. 

Excuse my messy notes. You should see what my mind following Todd Whitaker looked like! Hint: it's not pretty. 

Dialogical Coaching: an explanation

Dialogical Coaching is all about partnership. Thinking together! It begins in the facilitative realm to ensure that facilitation is not the only thing needed, but then...it moves into the sharing of ideas. This was it! This was where I struggled.

Dialogical coaching is about shared thinking to identify the best solution for the situation. 

In CC, we switch hats to collaboration or consultation when facilitation is no longer working. But with a dialogical approach, you simply offer choices. Multiple options. Different ways to address a potential problem so that the individual receiving the coaching has the opportunity to choose what works best in their context. It's not about giving advice. Dialogical coaching is about shared thinking to identify the best solution for the situation. 

Dialogical Coaching: an experience.

Like any nerdy learner, I was excited to put this AHA into practice. So after arriving home in Ankeny at 11:30 pm the night before, I came to school running on the fumes of excitement. I had an appointment scheduled with Karen, a colleague and friend. Karen loves Social Studies and is willing to try new things to keep her teaching fresh and to better engage her students. This year, Karen had focused attention on personalized learning. As the final quarter of the year quickly approached, Karen was ready to plan for three final personalized learning experiences. Through a facilitative approach, I was excited to hear that Karen intended to use the experiences as scaffolds-- adding complexity as the students moved from one experience to the next. Karen expressed wanting students to have choice in their process and product during all 3 experiences. During our conversation, we identified pace being the component she most desired to maintain control over. After all, the year is quickly drawing to a close. This is where Karen found herself stuck and I had a few ideas.

I suggested: You could give kids a pacing guide. Tell them where you would like them to be and when OR You could conference with kids multiple times a week as accountability for their progression. Karen liked the idea of conferencing but was concerned the conferencing would limit her availability to all students. Good point.

So I suggested: You could create a reflection document that students have to complete each day. In the document, students could be expected to share their goal and evidence for each class period. Karen loved the idea, but noted that goal setting was something her 6th graders were still developing. Together we thought through the problem and decided to gradually release the goal setting responsibility to allow students to learn how to control their own pace. Project one would have goals set by Karen. Project two would have goals set as a class, Project three would have goals set independently. Through partnering, Karen and I had identified a solution that worked best in her context! Awesome!

Dialogical Coaching: a reflection

When I think through the process I had with Karen, I am so excited about the potential. Jim Knight explained that facilitative coaching is an incredible tool, but often people are coming to you because they are stuck and would like suggestions. Just like Karen. Dialogical coaching gave me a context for doing it without feeling like I am telling someone what to do in their space. Karen said she appreciated the experience as she was, "stuck and [dialogical coaching] helped [her] move forward with where [she sees] the program going."

Thanks, Jim Knight and ASCD for an amazing conference that impacted my coaching within hours of being back at NMS. 

If you are interested in Jim Knight's books, I suggest The Impact Cycle and Better Conversations!

Share an experience you had with dialogical coaching below. I would love to hear from you!

The Negative Impacts of Our Strengths?

During a conversation yesterday, I started to reflect on a pivotal experience that lead to extensive personal and professional growth. If you'll indulge my reflection, here is my story.

In a Coaches training during the summer of 2014, I was challenged to think about my strengths. I would generally think of my self as a fairly reflective person...so picking out strengths was pretty easy. 

  • Loyal 
  • Caring
  • Passionate about what I believe in
  • Analytical
  • Able to learn and synthesize information quickly
  • Driver
  • Highly Expressive

Then...they asked us to slim it down to 3. 3 characteristics that most accurately convey who we are?! Hmmm...that was going to be a bit more challenging. I remember writing and crossing out ideas. Repeatedly. Listen, I am an analytical person. This challenge was not easy for me. I may (or may not) have leaned over to my close friend and asked for help. This is what we arrived at:

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  • Passionate about what I believe in 
  • Highly Expressive
  • Able to learn and synthesize information quickly
  • Driver

What?! I struggled to settle on three...so four worked fine and the process wasn't too bad. But our next steps were humbling in the best possible way. Honestly, this single experience impacted me personally and professionally from that day forward. We were challenged to think about how our strengths can negatively impact others if not managed properly. Yikes.  So I started the list...

  • Passionate about what I believe in 
    • Overwhelming
    • Off-putting
    • Talk too much
    • Frustrated easily by those not on the same page
  • Highly Expressive
    • Dominated verbal & nonverbal communication
    • Forgets to stop & listen
    • Too blunt
  • Able to learn and synthesize information quickly
    • Assumes everyone is on the same page as me
    • Misses out on social learning opportunities
    • Alienates those who can't do the same (processes information differently)
  • Driver
    • Controlling
    • Not good at delegation (which leads to burn out)
    • Wants things done my way
    • Seen as not flexible or rigid

"Oh my gosh..." I remember whispering, "I am such a jerk." My sweet friend replied, "You are not a jerk! But sometimes people might see you that way."

I cannot control how others PERCEIVE me, but I can control how others EXPERIENCE me. 

It was like a light bulb flicked on and illuminated multiple experiences from my past. My entire adult life, I had been told that I was intimidating. Each time I heard it, I fell discouraged. I love people. I care about people a lot. I have never wanted someone to be intimidated by me. But...I could not and cannot control the perceptions of others. Which is precisely the point of the exercise. I cannot control how others PERCEIVE me, but I can control how others EXPERIENCE me. 

Here are the strategies I developed after identifying the icky, icky impacts of my strengths if unmanaged. 

  • When working with others, choose not to be the first one speaking.
  • Try to clarify PRIOR to adding information.
  • Summarizing the thoughts of others is key.
  • Value ideas even if they are different than mine.
  • Check my response both verbal and non-verbal.
  • Slow down.
  • Remember, in every moment, we are always better as a team. 

Since I am on a trip down memory lane, I sought out my reflection after completing this professional development. I thought I would share it below:

"Perhaps the best place to start a personal AIW local coaching reflection lies in the more intimate, lower half of the coaching diamond. My journey to becoming an AIW coach coincided with some other life-changing events including my first pregnancy and my first child. Decidedly the conglomeration of these events has led to one of the most challenging and rewarding years of my personal and professional life. In fact, the original draft of this reflection was written on my smartphone in Gmail while in bed lying next to my newborn son. It has been in moments like these and the ones that I will discuss below that I have learned invaluable things about teaching, learning, and, most of all, about myself.

The beginning of my development into an AIW coach started with embracing who I am. I admit, on our first day of coaches training, as I scribbled out my strengths and shadow-sides, I became transfixed with the less than desirable outcomes of my personality. I missed that my passion drives me to learn deeply and often inspires others as I communicate with enthusiasm. I ignored that my ability to take in information, contextualize and analyze it quickly can help others in the process of thinking things through. I overlooked how my outgoing and friendly personality makes others feel welcome. I was unaware of the simple fact that my work ethic drives change. Instead, I focused on my tendency to lack balance, railroad others, make snap judgments, talk too much, overwhelm and make people feel under-valued. I found myself wishing that I could be the person that just wants to make everyone happy. I was so misguided. Understanding and accepting who I am is not only important in my life, it is essential to the strength of my AIW teams. Without a doubt, "people focused" individuals are needed, but so are drivers. Trying to be anything other than oneself will only result in the malnourishment of an entire group; the unit is healthier when individual parts are varied.  Groups are healthiest when each part is growing professionally and personally."

Now I am a little bit older, I have two babies rather than one. I am quickly becoming part of the "older" group of teachers. I have had a billion experiences, failures, and opportunities to grow. Still...I will always appreciate this exercise because it helped me accept myself and reflect on my impacts. I use the outcomes from this activity on a daily basis. I have colleagues comment on my changes over the years. Some of the changes are attributed to becoming a mother, but many are attributed to a hard look in the mirror!

If you work with leaders or are a leader yourself, I strongly suggest that you lead your team in an exercise similar to this. I have included a free Presentation and Graphic Organizer to use if it would be valuable. 



I would love to hear your strengths and the impacts of those. Share your thoughts with me! 

Just Popping In?

Perhaps one of the most fun parts of my position as Instructional Guide is the ability to pop into the spaces of my colleagues. Honestly, I wish everyone had the opportunity to do the same. When you step into the space of another professional, learning opportunities are endless. I have seen things that have inspired me to improve my instruction more times than I can count. I love the opportunity to write a teacher a positive email about the amazing things happening in their spaces. Let's be honest...teachers need to hear positive things!

But, I have to admit, I feel most useful when a teacher gives me permission to ask questions, share notes, or lead a reflective/planning conversation. I, by no means, have all the answers. I am not an expert in all contents and their individual methods. But...I am a second set of eyes. A second set of judgment-free, non-evaluative eyes. A second set of eyes who believes in the Nevada Middle School teachers and students. Let me give an example...

Last year, during pop-ins, I had the opportunity to step into a social studies space. The teacher was leading a study about Native American tokens of peace and friendship. I left thinking about what our tokens of friendship are today. When I emailed the teacher, I asked the teacher if she had considered allowing students to investigate these type of questions, "How do we exemplify friendship in our culture today?" and "How is this similar and different from the tokens used by the Native Americans?" 

The teacher decided to encourage her students to delve into these ideas. Later, she shared with me that the conversations were fun. Students came up with various examples and had the opportunity to apply their understanding to today's culture. The students also analyzed similarities and differences between cultures. Value Beyond School? Yes! Disciplinary Process Evident? Sure! Awesome discussion? Absolutely!

All because of a pop in. A willingness to accept the gift of "a second set of eyes". All I did was ask a few questions of a willing colleague. The teacher took it to the next step. She had developed the culture in her space to have great conversations. I got to be the support and I loved it!

Popping in is great for teachers from encouragement to feedback. Which reminds me... Wednesday sounds like a good day to get into spaces. 

Mind the Gap?

                                    Graphic Source

                                   Graphic Source

The first time I heard "most resistance to change is not related to a will issue..." it felt like a breath of fresh air. I believe in my colleagues. But I have, also, felt the sting of resistance as I lead learning experiences. At times, I found the reactions of my peers devastating. Why were my friends reacting to new learning with such frustration? I couldn't reconcile what I knew (the teachers I work with care deeply about kids and do great things) and what I felt (the teachers I work with are frustrated with new learning related to best practice). This is why   "Mind the Gap" has been so powerful. It is not about me!

When working with others, believing the best is key. Always. Simple as that.

Very few people actually have a will gap, meaning that they are completely unwilling to embrace x, y, or z. Instead, there is usually more to the story! It is so easy to get caught up in the frustrations of others and miss what is really happening. So here is a simple piece of advice: When working with others, believing the best is key! Always. Simple as that.

Mind the Gap gives coaches a frame of reference when helping a peer work through their frustrations. Knowing where someone is coming from is essential in communicating value and care for an individual. Here is an example.

Last year, when working with a young teacher, Jenni. I noticed Jenni increasingly frustrated with the behavior of her students. The kids were being disrespectful and she was over it. Why were they treating her so poorly?! She is an engaging teacher who loves kids. Quickly, the frustrations grew to disenchantment. Jenni started to wonder if middle school was for her. Luckily, she had multiple levels of support via myself, a learning team coach, and a peer mentor. Together...we quickly identified the gap. Jenni had not been trained in a district initiative which served as a cornerstone for building relationships and managing student behavior. Without this training, she was feeling cut off at the feet. This is where the various levels of support got to jump in. We helped brainstorm some temporary solutions for Jenni's classroom and ensured that she experienced the training as soon as possible.

Knowing Jenni's gap was essential in this situation. She was missing a skill. Her frustrations weren't about the initiatives or even the kids. They were truly related to needing some skills she did not come to Nevada with. Now Jenni is still the same engaging teacher who loves kids, but she also has tools to further build relationships and manage behavior. 

The applications of Mind the Gap are endless within a coaching environment. I can tell you, from experience, that keeping these things in mind helps me depersonalize frustration and do what I am here for- support my peers. 

If you are interested in learning more about Mind the Gap, I suggest reading Elena Aguilar's "The Art of Coaching". Interested in a shorter read? Check out this article.

Why blog about my journey?

I have realized, over time, that stories and learning are best remembered when placed in a permanent location. In the past, I have recorded my journey in notebooks, lesson plans, highlighted pages of books, emails, post-it notes, napkins, etc. However, my gift of organization makes tracking that learning in a sequential and valuable way...limited. I should note that by the gift of organization, I mean... my tendency to rely on my ever decreasing mental capacity to remember where I placed X, Y, and Z.

Why is my mental capacity decreasing, you may ask? Well, their names are Naomi and Eli. They are the best parts of me, but man having little people sure changes your intellectual fortitude. Loss of sleep? Obsession with their well being? Lack of personal space and time? I have no idea. But I do know that my husband has taken to reminding our children that, "they used to have intelligent parents." 

None the less, here I am to document my learning, my opportunities to grow, and my privilege to serve. I hope you enjoy my ramblings because given my cognitive capacity...learning might be a bit winding.