Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Coaching for Impact with Samantha Bennett

I had the pleasure of learning from the highly engaging, super positive Samantha Bennett at my local CESA this week. I saw Sam speak at WSRA last spring and was thrilled to learn from her again. She did not disappoint.

We began the day by asking questions, making connections and reflecting on three learning targets Sam had for us. They were...
  • I can articulate my beliefs about what matters most to teacher learning that impacts student learning.
    • I can support my beliefs with best-practice theory/research.
    • I can describe how my use of time aligns with my beliefs.
  • I can use research to analyze a professional development experience.
  • I can (re)design a learning experience for a teacher, a PLC, a school, or a district meeting that puts what matters MOST (backed by research) 'to work'.

We then spent some time reading pieces of articles and research that Sam has found helpful in her practice. She stressed the importance to know who "has your back". During the readings we looked for connections to our beliefs. I chose to read an excerpt from Professional Capital: Transforming Teaching in Every School by Andy Hargreaves and Michael Fullen. I had read this book when it first came out and enjoyed reading through this passage. What really resonated with me was the following quote, "The more the student becomes the teacher and the more the teacher becomes the learner then the more successful the outcome." We must think about who is doing the work. Our students should be working harder than us and we should be spending the majority of the time observing and coaching them.

Sam then walked us her learning lab experience. It involved 8 steps which we jigsawed. Sam begins the lab with a prep email and then the host teacher writes a context letter back to Sam. The next steps include an observation, a response letter, co-planning, day 2 lab in which a group of teachers comes in to observe student learning, another response letter, teacher reflection on lab experience and then ripples are hopefully occurring due to the experience. One key component of this work is to get the teacher focusing on spending 2/3 of the workshop time with students engaged in their work. 

I look forward to infusing Sam's ideas for learning labs with Diane Sweeney's ideas for student-centered learning labs next year as we continue to use them as part of our professional development.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Student-Centered Learning Lab

This week I facilitated my first student-centered learning lab with our 4th and 5th grade staff. I have been a part of learning labs before both as the host teacher and as an observer, but being a facilitator is very new to me.

In my previous experiences in labs, they were more of a model classroom set up. The focus was teacher centered and observers were observing how the host teacher was teaching and then would bring that implementation back to the classroom. This model classroom had received intensive coaching to ensure that they provided high-quality instruction to their students for teachers to observe.

I have been reading Diane Sweeney's book Student Centered Coaching.
Image result for student centered coaching
It has opened my eyes to a style of coaching that is less intrusive & judgemental. It's focus is on the students, which is why we are all in the profession. As Diane states, "The focus isn't on improving them but instead is on improving the achievement of their students." It also aligns with the way we discuss student writing by using the learning progressions with student on-demand pieces with the Units of Study. A perfect match!

valuable resource is each other.jpg

Our district has offered three 1/2 days for work to be done around the Units of Study in Writing by Lucy Calkins. This was our second 1/2 day. I asked for volunteers to be the host, and I had one brave and curious soul come forward. I met with this teacher ahead of time to explain the procedure and to get her thinking of a focus for the lab.

These were our thoughts for the day:

  • The focus is on improving the achievement of our students.
  • Use student observations/evidence to determine where the students are in their learning.
  • Build a community of teachers who are skilled at analyzing student evidence to make decisions that best support student learning.

We followed Diane Sweeney's protocol for student-centered learning labs to help guide our thinking, observing and discussing. We began with a prebrief where our host teacher explained what was happening currently in her room and what her goal was for today. The goal was, "How can writing partnerships be productive?"
Then we brainstormed "look-fors". In a perfect world, what would writing partnerships look like/sound like? Then we had time to review the protocol and our expectations for time spent in the room.

Our next step was to watch the lesson with the focus on writing partnerships. Our host teacher did a fantastic job setting us up for the day and preparing the lesson to maximize our learning experience. 

After the lesson we debriefed by using a "whip-around" procedure. In this model, the discussion moved along in an orderly fashion from one person to the next. I did give the option to pass, but no one did. We again followed Diane Sweeney's protocol for debriefing. In round 1 we discussed the student evidence/observations; in round 2 we discussed implications; in round 3 our host teacher responded to what was shared; and in round 4 each group member shared their next steps in instruction.

I was so pleased with how the learning lab went. I felt that all teachers were engaged and participated to their fullest potential. I also feel like our students are going to benefit from this experience, which is why we chose to use this format.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Professional Learning with TCRWP Instructional Leadership

This is my third post reflecting on the learning that took place during a one day conference with presenters Laurie Passah and Mary Ehrenworth from the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. You can read my first post here and my second post here.

Laurie was a former principal and lead this portion of the conference focusing on instructional leadership. Here are some of her key points:
  • Be clear about your vision and let that guide you to when you do and do not say, "Yes."
  • Be the most visible learner in your building.
  • Develop school-wide structures that support collaboration.
  • Decide if and when assessment windows will fall.
  • Establish common planning times.
  • Develop school-wide systems of note-taking and data collections.
  • Support establishment of teacher leaders (some emerge out of study groups).
  • Seize every opportunity for PD (longer am recess, etc).
  • Support study groups that pop up.
  • Start thinking NOW (December) about June planning.
  • Schedule walkthroughs with teacher leaders and administration. (choose one indicator to look for, what are we noticing/wondering. Do this in EVERY SINGLE classroom.
  • Find problems and rally people around them.
  • Help people work smarter, not harder.
  • Develop a community of learners that read and write together.
  • Be the protector of the learning time (for both teachers and students).

I have been in buildings with these types of leaders and have been inspired to grow. Strong instructional leaders who build up more leaders in their building are whom I want to work for and strive to be like.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Professional Learning with TCRWP Reading

This is my second post reflecting on the learning that took place during a one day conference with presenters Laurie Passah and Mary Ehrenworth. You can read my first post here.

Mary Ehrenworth kicked off the reading portion of the day by diving into read alouds. She said that read alouds need to be highly planned and strategic (not the lap reading we do with our youngest children at home). The Teacher's College had Doug Reeves come in and do professional work with them. He noted, "The highest level of cognitive demand that children experience is during the read aloud." However, there lacked transfer. Mary suggested that students bring their book to the read aloud to move transfer. Partnerships should be solid, not groups of 3, as partnerships lend themselves to nearly 100% engagement, 100% of the time.

During strategic read aloud, there should be:
  • interrupted reading
  • partner discussion
  • prompting, practice, feedback, practice
  • deepening of reading practices
  • strategic text selection

Mary also suggested limiting the number of years you use a read aloud, as this allows for Power over Balance. If you read the same text year after year, the teacher has too much power.

Classroom libraries are key to improving student reading achievement. Classroom libraries can be leveled in levels A-F, but after that categorize them. She reminded us that children who read book series as children, most likely turn into adults who read. 

My next post will focus on instructional leadership around the Units of Study and workshop model.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Professional Learning with TCRWP Writing

I was tickled to be able to attend a one day workshop put on by Teacher's College and The Reading and Writing Project this week. Mary Erhenworth and Laurie Pessah were our presenters and they did not disappoint.

We began the day learning about writing workshop. Mary's questioning got us immediately reflecting on the writing that was taking place in our buildings. She asked:

  • How is writing going?
  • How do you know?
  • Is there growth?
  • What are the systems in place for writing over time?
She highly encouraged us to begin each year with narrative. This is a time to gain insight into our children's lives. Writing in the narrative genre gives these children the gift of telling their own stories with knowledge, insight, power and grace. We teach the kids to write so their voices will be heard. We look for who the child is emerging through the writing. It is a true way to research our kids.

As teachers this is a time to begin talking about writing. Our ability to talk about writing directly relates to our ability to teach writing. Teachers at this point of the year, gather to look at student writing through multiple lenses. We must take great care to democratize the level of teaching knowledge to improve students' writing. This is done by looking at pieces of student writing and discussing the evidence we found by looking through the lenses of genre, focus, structure, craft, conventions and volume.

Laurie then walked us through evidence we should look for to determine the quality of writing workshops that are taking place in our building. It is not enough to just have it in your schedule.
  • Students are spending most of their time writing.
  • Folder and notebooks are chock full (& amounts of writing are changing over time).
  • Children can talk about their writing, what they are trying to convey and what their goals are.
  • Strategies on charts are reflected in student writing (ask students, "What charts are most helpful to you?)
  • Writing improves dramatically over time in many ways, including structure, elaboration and conventions.
  • Mini lessons are slimmed down to 10-15 minutes (not a time for Q & A).
  • Teachers are meeting with 7-12 kids a day.
  • Students are energized & uplifted when teachers confer with them.
  • Kids use partnerships to rehearse, give advice and to react to each other's writing (not just when the T says, "work with your partner"). 
  • Kids are advising each other with evidence there was crystal clear teaching.

 A tool to measure volumes of writing.

In another post, I will share more of what we learned about reading and instructional leadership.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Lucy Professional Development

I spent the last 3 days, facilitating professional development with our K-5 staff around Lucy Calkins Units of Study in Writing. It can be very difficult for teachers to be out of their classrooms, so I tried to make the learning environment as productive as possible.

3 Things that are important parts of the writing units of study are the following:
  • Professional learning for writing development
  • Assessment system
  • Units of study around writing and individual lessons

We focused on the first two pieces this week. Our teachers began the day by reading the unit overview for their next unit and getting to know what it is their students are expected to do by the end. It is good to orientate yourself to the unit prior to teaching...good to know where the flash drafts are, where the revisions take place, and where they finally pick their piece to take to completion. This prevents the teacher from feeling frantic all through the unit.

We have multi-age in our building. Our primary multi-age teachers teach grades 1, 2 and 3. They found the time very purposeful in seeing similarities between the 1st and 3rd grade informational UOS and then made a decision to move the 2nd grade informational UOS to align with their science topic.

After this, we normed the on-demand preassessment piece they gave their students prior to meeting. I blogged about norming here previously. This process is so valuable in that teachers are having rich conversations around student writing. One teacher explained, "I really don't like this process as it is very time consuming, but I really am getting to know my writers and seeing strengths I typically would have overlooked, based on other areas of weakness." Another teacher realized her Kindergarten students were more developed as writers than she thought. Many teachers commented on how they could clearly see where their students were moving into grade level expectations and where they needed more support.

The teachers are seeing echos of their previous lessons in their student writing and seeing strengths and areas of growth. Immediately teachers began to see purposeful groupings for small group work and got a feel of what skills their students are bringing to the unit.

We found this spreadsheet helpful to record scores. It was adjusted based on grade level scaled scores.

I work with such amazing staff and it was so uplifting to be part of their conversations that were centered around kids and moving their writers forward.

Have any other coaches been involved in leading Lucy PD?

Monday, October 31, 2016

Coaching and Half-Marathon Training

I have two passions outside of my family...running & coaching teachers. These two passions take an incredible amount of discipline, planning and focus to be done right. 

I am in the first year where I have been given time in my day to be a coach. Previously I have done it all before/during school, on my prep time and on lunch. I am incredibly appreciative of the school board for approving this time and have truly enjoyed the time to work with teacher more intentionally. However, I am beginning to lose steam. I need a down week. 

When I train for half-marathons, I usually find a training plan I like and stick to it, pretty religiously. In these plans there are down weeks; weeks where the runner decreases overall mileage. Pete Rea, coach at ZAP Fitness in Blowing Rock, N.C., believes that "regularly incorporating down weeks allows an athlete to complete successfully a full four-to five-month training cycle, avoid injury and ultimately make fitness leaps and achieve a high level of performance." It allows the athlete to absorb the training they did during each block and prepare for even better training in the next block.

So this got me thinking of down weeks during coaching cycles. I have been really busy coaching since the beginning of school, about 8 weeks now. I also have common planning meetings coming up in which I facilitate literacy PLCs. I have to plan and deliver these to 6 different groups of teachers this week.  I can sense my stress building and I am lacking time to reflect. I feel like, just in my running, I need to absorb the coaching I have done, reflect on the processes and make a plan to be even better when I start up coaching rounds again. 

I intend on starting new coaching cycles refreshed, energized and ready to be even better than I previously have been.