Coaches' Corner

October 24, 2016

The wind is blowing, leaves are changing from shades of green to the vibrant colors of autumn, and classrooms are buzzing in the daily routines.  It’s that time of year for teacher evaluations to begin.  For new teachers (and even veteran teachers) this can be an anxious time.  Teachers want to be able to show administrators that students are actively engaged in the learning process.

As coaches, we can encourage those new teachers providing some guidance to give them confidence for when evaluators come into their rooms. One big favor we can do for new teachers is help them understand the value of anchor charts in the classroom.

The beginning of the school year is a time for classroom community building and for setting and learning routines.  Creating anchor charts alongside students to state expectations in the classroom allow the children to practice and begin to self-monitor their own behavior. It is a reminder to the teacher as well so that when expectations are not being met, the teacher can use the chart to call a class meeting to discuss how the class can work together to better follow routines that help the room function productively. Pictures and actual class photographs of the routine in action can be added to the chart as a way of keeping the document alive and important to the group. Administrators see this and appreciate the work being done to help students become more independent workers.

Anchor charts can also be a wonderful tool to help students learn new skills. Again, it’s a way of showing the learning that is taking place in the classroom, and also is a living breathing document that can continue to be used to move students towards a goal in the learning process. These charts are even more effective when students add their thinking and learning onto the chart, growing the chart as their learning grows.

Kristi Mraz and Marjorie Martinelli in their book Smarter Charts encourage teachers to “tour your classroom with an administrator or evaluator to showcase the pathway your teaching has taken with your students. Because charts capture the most important work you are teaching, it can be made clear in a snapshot…that you have set rigorous goals (as indicated by the headings) and taught students in a variety of ways to reach those goals (as indicated by the words and visuals that comprise the rest of the chart.)”

There are many things for new teachers to learn as the year progresses, but one of the simplest but most effective tools of the classroom is anchor charts.  For more ideas, the professional books Smarter Charts and Smarter Charts for Math, Science and Social Studies are a great resource for teachers. Kristi and Marjorie also have a blog that can provide more ideas!!


September 16, 2016

So as I ponder on the week I immediately reflect on a written conversation with my son several days ago.  We were texting over some options he has as to what he will do next in his career.  I was excited to hear of the latest opportunity that had come his way and commented that he needed to look into it!

It was at that point I received the dreaded, “I know Mom.”

I did not mean to imply he wasn’t capable of making his own decisions, but my written response sounded that way to him. Did you notice I told him he needed to do it? I realized I jumped in placing my value above his. Did I mean to? Heavens no. I love this young man and the person he has become. But one small word changed my intent to encourage to instead sound dictatorial. I know I should have allowed him to tell me more, to expand on his thinking, and then provide feedback that placed the value on his thinking, not mine.

Words matter. What we write and how we write matters.  What we say and how we say it matters. It reminds me about the importance of words when I work with coaches and teachers.  I work with teachers, coaches, and administrators, not because I think I have all the answers, but because working together we can find the answers. How I convey that message matters.

When partnering with cohorts to work on instruction. I need to purposefully listen, ask questions, and be careful to provide feedback that encourages their thinking. It is also wise to meet in person whenever possible. It’s impossible to read facial or body language when texting or emailing and that can lead to unnecessary misinterpretations!

So I will take this flub and hope to do better because it matters!!

September 9, 2016
Dear Coaches,

I just had to share my winding thoughts with you this morning. I am reading a book Intentional Living Choosing a Life that Matters by John Maxwell. It strikes me over and over how important this message is to us as instructional coaches.  The work we do with teachers has the potential to make a difference not just in that teacher’s life as an educator, but also the many lives of students in the classroom. 

Maxwell’s big message is this: we must add value to other people’s lives daily if we want to make a difference in the world.  “When we live our lives intentionally for others, we begin to see the world through eyes other than our own, and that inspires us to do more than belong, we participate. We do more than care; we help. We go beyond being fair; we are kind. We go beyond dreaming; we work. “

When John Maxwell was a young pastor in a very small church, he succeeded in growing the church from less than 10 people to over 300 people. Due to this success, he was invited to pastor in a much larger church, so he left that first church.  He learned soon after he left, the church quickly lost over 200 of those new members. After much soul searching, he realized he was reason the church failed after he left.  He spent all his energy basically doing everything for the church and his people. He said, “Never once did I invest in people. I loved the people, but I had never added value to people. “I needed to change my focus. Instead of making a difference for people, I would make a difference with people. Instead of doing things to emphasize my value, I would focus on making others more valuable.”

When we work in classrooms partnering with teachers, how are we adding value to them each day and their students? What are we doing daily that helps our teachers see their potential and their worth, so they are able to create value in their classroom on their own strengths, not ours.  I can think of an instance in my work where I failed because I worried more about my message than I worried about the person I was delivering the message to. I can’t serve others well if I don’t put them first. SO John Maxwell’s intentional living is helping me stay focused on intentionally thinking about priorities!

Maxwell gave a list of things that add value to people daily that I now keep beside me at work.

1, Value people daily- Do I want to spend my life connecting with people or correcting people?

2. Think of ways to add value to people daily. Start the day asking this question: how can I add value to my coworkers, friends, family, and people I meet today?

3. Look for ways to add value to people as I am with them.

4. Reflect at the end of the day to be sure I added value to others that day.

5. Encourage others to add value to people each day.

Jessica Carlson, an instructional coach from Garrett, shared a great PD book they are using to intentionally find value in others. Smart Strengths by John Yeager, Sherri Fisher and Dave Shearon is a guide to help teachers, coaches, parents, and students to find their strengths and build on those to create positive, inquisitive learning environments. By knowing the strengths of each of Jessica’s teachers that she works with, she can create value in those people in an intentional way. Thanks Jessica for sharing this gem!

I know each of you are making a difference in the lives of our teachers and students. You all are an amazing group of people with an awesome responsibility of leadership. Thank you, everyone one of you for your passion and commitment to your teachers and students and the value you add to them daily.

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