1st 5 Days: Instructional Coaching

Alan November challenges us to take advantage of opportunities the first 5 days of school to  set the tone for powerful, engaging and self-directed learning.  Two educators I know well (Mrs. Deinhammer and Mr. VanderSchee) employ intentional strategies during their first 5 days with learners for this very reason.  The connection is clear to me that if children should have input in the design of their class, then certainly educators should have input in the design of their own professional learning.  Most importantly, as I lead a team of Instructional Coaches, I must model this practice as an investment in their role as teacher leaders.

Day 1: Getting to Know You

Instructional Coaches rotated throughout 6 stations, each with the intent to gather input toward the design of our professional learning this year.  Note: My team consists primarily of returning Coaches.  I have not, however, truly allowed them design their professional learning in this way.  Here’s to taking a risk and modeling for our educators!

Station 1: What do you want to learn as a Coach this year?

Instructional Coaches responded to this question (What do you want to learn as a Coach this year?) on sticky notes.  Then, they worked together to create an affinity map, grouping the ideas into meaningful themes.  The contributions at this station will drive the content of the professional learning designed for the Coaches, as Coaches.  Some of the ideas included:

  • planning a coaching cycle
  • the personality side of coaching
  • understanding the role of a coach

Station 2: Norms for a healthy team

Instructional Coaches responded to this question: What are the components of a healthy team environment that are important to you? This stemmed from Cassandra Erkens and Eric Twadell’s work in Leading by Design where they described healthy, productive teams. Using the website tricider.com, the Instructional Coaches brainstormed ideas and voted for their favorites.  The outcome of the top norms could not make me more proud.

  • Building relationships on the team…getting to know their story
  • Having a growth mindset
  • Open minds, willingness to try something new
  • Safe sharing environment, collaboration and respect

Station 3: Where, how, and when do we learn?

Instructional Coaches responded to this question (Where, how, and when do we learn?) on corners of chart paper, in an ink think fashion.  Then, they worked in small groups to record commonalities in the center.  Below are two examples of the outcome of this station.  Gone are the days when PD consisted solely of one week in August, one day in October and one day in February.

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Station 4: What makes you #CISDproud?

We are proud of our district.  So proud, we use the hashtag #CISDproud on Twitter!  At this station, Instructional Coaches tweeted out their thoughts.

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Station 5: School will be SO much better if…

At this station, Instructional Coaches completed the statement: School will be SO much better if…  Then, they sorted their thoughts into two categories: those within our scope and those outside of our scope.  The dreams of these educators are so great (and so possible!): planning opportunities where all educators from the same grade collaborate (yes – that would be awesome!), if professional development could be differentiated (hooray!), and if homework were meaningful and purposeful (I couldn’t agree more!).

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Station 6: Who am I?  What is your story?

I shared my story as a student in the 1980’s and how, at age 9, I knew the impact of success and failure on my classmates.  I may have teared up because that memory really impacts my perspective on children now that I am an educator.

The Instructional Coaches described the day they made the biggest impact as a comment on a post.  It is important to share our story and to hear other’s as well.  This station included a google form, too.  I need to know more about my Coaches on a personal level, you know, like if they drink coffee and what are their favorite snacks (just in case!).

Book Study

We kicked off a book study today as well.  Since we will not meet together again in person for another month, it was time to get the ball rolling on some reading, reflecting, and sharing!  We are reading Instructional Coaching by Jim Knight.  Here are the reflection prompts/questions for month one:

  1. Describe a risk you took to implement something new. How did you first learn about the idea and what inspired you to follow through with it?
  2. Scenario: CISD is in the planning stages of rolling out a new initiative. How would you prefer to learn about the intricacies of this initiative in order to best implement the plan?
  3. What are the many ways educators learn about their content and instructional practices?  To determine this information, speak to about 5 educators about how they currently learn in order to grow in their practice.  Go a step further and inquire about their ideal professional learning and what differs between reality and this dream.  Summarize your conversations and share your insights.
  4. Use this discussion to share thoughts regarding content related to Chapter 1, outside of the specific questions provided in the other discussions.  This is a great place to share ideas that are too good to keep to yourself!

All of this was Day One!  I am excited about the future of our Instructional Coaching model and the great impact we will have on the future of teaching and learning within and beyond our district!

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