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.