Monday, September 22, 2014

20 Thoughts on Instructional Coaching

Thursday and Friday I attended an incredible training by Steve Barkley. If you haven't heard of him, get to know him. If you have heard of him and haven't attended one of his sessions then get going and attend one. As a coach, this is one of those must attend events.

What I learned is forever going to change how I look at the coaching process and teaching, in general. I know this is true and, from talking to the other coaches in attendance, I know others felt the same.

 Here are 20 things mentioned in these two days that caused me to stop and ponder:

  1. How can your teachers trust each other if they've never been in each others' classrooms?
  2. Are your teachers a franchise or are they a team?
  3. Department Heads should be the model classroom.   
  4. When using rubrics have the "top" line be created by the students.
  5. Students cause student achievement. Teachers do not cause student achievement. Therefore, coaches need to focus on students when they observe.  
  6. You can't teach a student math. You teach a student how to learn math.
  7. Teachers should use their inclusion teachers to model expected behaviors, thinking, and discussions.
  8. Schools should do Emotional Walkthroughs. On a 1 - 5 scale what is the emotional level of each classroom?
  9. When you walk through your school, how many Wow!'s to you get?
  10. If students complete the exact work assigned they should get a "C." Go Beyond that for a "B" and go above B-work for an "A."
  11. A student's major work shouldn't be graded until the end of semester or year and students should have multiple opportunities to revise/edit.
  12. Students should be exposed to more book options. One teacher put 5 books on each of 20 tables at beginning of the school year. Students rotated, table to table, and scored the books based upon interest. At the end of one class period they had seen 100 books and should have seen a few that met with their satisfaction.
  13. The hardest part of teaching is when the students aren't there.
  14. Coaches, you have been hired by your school to change kid's behaviors.
  15. Homework should never be the same for the entire class.
  16. Teachers should have a 3 year commitment to kids: Spend time with them the year before they come to you. Spend time with all of the students on your grade level. Then spend time with them the year after you have them to see how they are doing.
  17. We tend to do vertical alignment without the students.
  18. Instructional coaches should be evaluated on the teacher growth during the year.
  19. We were hired to bring discomfort to our school. We want a culture where our teachers are comfortable with discomfort.
  20. The biggest coaching mistake is to let teachers know what the coach is thinking before the coach knows what the teacher is thinking.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Google Apps - Someone Needs To Be In Charge

Labor Day weekend. Time to take a break from our first week with students. Time to relax, have a cook out, watch some football. And, time to organize my folders for the semester planning sessions that are about to roll into full swing this week.

Our school district uses Google Apps and, therefore, we have the ability to collaborate with people - in real time- from wherever they may be. And, we can share documents - placing them into folders accessible to our coworkers at any hour of the day and, even on holidays!

Today I organized our school's folders. In particular, there is a general "Planning" folder and inside that folder are folders for the four testable content areas. Inside each of these four folders are folders for each of the grade levels. Going to the next level we have Assessments, Lesson Plans, and other resource folders. And, eventually each of those will have folders within them.

The TRICKY part is the sharing of these folders. If you, for example, share the main Planning folder with everyone and allow them all editing rights, then everyone will be able to go down to the smallest file in the deepest folder and edit it. So someone, with no malicious thoughts, goes in and finds a file and starts editing it. Then they decide they want to move the file into their personal folder (a folder with no sharing rights). Suddenly, poof!, no other teachers see this file any more. It happens. Quite a bit.

After 6 years of using Google Apps, I know to go in and make the outer most folder "View Only." Teachers can make copies of any file they want and make it their own - leaving the original undisturbed.  But what about this collaboration that is so great with Google Docs? That's where I go in and make conscious decisions about the rights of every folder - from the outside, in.

For example, if my 6th grade math teachers go inside the math folder and then open up the 6th grade folder they will find they have editing rights to everything inside of that folder. My 7th grade math folks have view only to the 6th grade folders - we don't want them accidentally removing or destroying an important file for the other teachers.

Google Docs are an incredibly great tool for teachers to use. Having someone in charge of the overall rights to the folders makes everyone a LOT happier.