Instructional Coaching: Why, Wins, Challenges, and Best Strategies for Implementation

In this edition of the Roundtable, Tim Cavey hosts a rich discussion of instructional coaching in the classroom: why, wins, challenges, and strategies for implementation. Guests included Victoria Thompson, Darryl Deboer, Dr. Dan Kreiness, Kathy Perret, and Dr. Rachel Johnson.

Questions That Guided Our Conversation

  • 1:00​ – Who are you, and what does your current coaching context look like?
  • 13:23​ – Why should schools and districts invest in instructional coaching?
  • 20:35​ – What are some of the biggest wins you’ve seen for teachers and learners that have come as a result of coaching work? Have you got a story to share?
  • 30:12​ – In your mind, what are the most difficult challenges in this space? What can coaches do proactively to solve them?
  • 42:04​ – What advice would you offer to a school or district looking to build a coaching program?
  • 54:16​ – Who are the authors or voices that you’ve learned from in the coaching space?
  • 59:03​ – How can we connect and keep learning with you?

Connect with These Instructional Coaches, Leaders, and Mentors on Twitter

Instructional Coaching Resources Recommended by the Panelists

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As of this post, I’m still appearing weekly on YouTubeFacebookTwitterLinkedIn, and Twitch at 8:00 a.m. Pacific Time/11:00 a.m. Eastern Time. I’d love to see you join us and would be happy to feature your questions and comments on the show!

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Episode 140 – Elena Aguilar: Coaching, Equity, and Resilience

Meet Elena Aguilar

ELENA AGUILAR is an accomplished educational presenter, speaker, and author. She strives to help leaders learn, be their best selves, and serve students well. In 2018, Elena published Onward: Cultivating Emotional Resilience in Educators, and in 2020 she released Coaching for Equity: Conversations That Change Practice.

Questions That Guided Our Conversation

1:15 – Why don’t you start by telling us a little more about your current context in education?

2:27 – First things first: how are you doing right now? How are you handling the home quarantine and social distancing?

4:37 – It’s story time! Please share with us about a low moment or an experience of adversity that you’ve faced in your teaching or education career, and describe how you overcame it.

08:48 – In 2018, you published Onward: Cultivating Emotional Resilience in Educators. This seems like an especially timely focus today, with educators everywhere having to reinvent their practice and respond to challenges on a variety of levels. What are some pieces of wisdom and insight that you could share from your book that might provide educators with some hope and encouragement during a very challenging time in our schools?

15:00 – Let’s talk about your most recent work, a book called Coaching for Equity: Conversations That Change Practice. What was the mission and vision of this book? Who is it aimed at, and what would you like educators to take away from it?

18:46 – If you could offer one practical strategy or bit of advice to educators around the challenges of building equity, what would that be?

21:24 – How are you looking to grow professionally and improve your practice right now? Can you share about a specific professional goal or project that you’re currently working on?

22:41 – Outside of education, what’s another area of learning for you? What is it that ignites your passions outside of the classroom and brings you alive as a human being? Tell us why this area interests you and why you enjoy it.

23:39 – When it comes to writing, are you the sort of structured or disciplined writers that follows the same writing time each day?

Voices That Spark Elena’s Thinking

Connect with Elena

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Song Track Credits

  • Sunrise Drive by South London Hifi*
  • Anthem by The Grand Affair*
  • Species by Diamond Ortiz
  • *tracks courtesy of the YouTube Audio Library

Listen to Teachers on Fire on YouTube and Subscribe

Episode 138 – Evo Hannan: Agency, Innovation, and Inspiration

Meet Evo Hannan

EVO HANNAN is an educator, education leader, freelance designer, and speaker in Dubai who is passionate about promoting confidence in students through innovation and agency. You’ll find him active on Twitter at the hashtags #Agents4Agency and #CrazyPLN.

Cancelled by COVID: Forced to Pivot

This interview was recorded on March 8, 2020, and Evo had just recently had to cancel his plans for his #Agents4Agency tour of the United States due to the appearance of COVID-19. He had been planning in-person professional development sessions for New York City, Houston, and San Francisco, and four and a half months of work had gone into their preparation.

It was absolutely heartbreaking to cancel these events, but as the pandemic started to make its appearance in North America, people’s health and safety took first priority. Rather than completely give up, however, he began the difficult task of pivoting these events into virtual settings.

“I’ve built up a little bit of resilience over the past decade or so with some of the crazy ideas I’ve come up with,” Evo admits. When it comes to go big or go home, he generally never goes home.

Advocating for Growth: the Work of The Agency

At the core of Evo’s #Agents4Agency movement is the idea that teachers reflect on their own practice and pedagogy first before they start to implement and promote student agency. Agency doesn’t only come from students, Evo points out. As educators, we are the facilitators that can help to elevate their voices. Find out more about The Agency and join the movement at Evo’s website.

The Four Pillars of Innovation

Evo is passionate about innovation in education, and that passion has only grown in his years as a design teacher. His understanding of innovation is quite functional, and he sees it made up of four pillars: knowledge, creativity, characteristics, and culture.

Innovation is his heartbeat for education, he says, and the idea of student agency flows naturally from there. Voices that influence Evo’s thoughts on innovation include Tony Wagner, Craig Kemp, Adam Hill, Kieran Kelly, Steve Bambury, and others. 

Building Movements That Inspire Change and Transformation in Education

Vehicles like InnovationX and Agents for Agency allow me to directly connect with people on an interactive level,” Evo shares.

Even with the appearance of COVID-19, Evo is committed to growing these movements and continuing to learn and gain inspiration from the like-minded educators who join forces in the process. His goal is to inspire as many educators as possible and provide them with the tools to help them inspire students to become the innovators of tomorrow.

An Expression of Personal Passion: Project Decade

“I’ve always been quite a positive person,” Evo says. It’s been in the last year or so that some of Evo’s friends have encouraged him to channel those passions into efforts that motivate positive change and transformation in the lives of others, and that’s what motivates him today.

Project Decade is one expression of those efforts. On his Instagram account, he shares daily inspiration and thoughts around inspiration, passion, places, and people. If we can stay in touch with those four on a daily level, Eve suggests, we’ll continue to find ourselves and live positive lives.

Finding Productivity in Ways That Work for You

Evo is quick to admit that his daily routine is not the healthiest: he knows he needs to get to bed earlier and eat more intentionally. Some of the traditionally rigid advice about productivity and time management hasn’t worked for him, he says, but one thing he has found reliable is to work as and when he wants to.

If that means sitting with his wife with both of their laptops open and Netflix on the TV, then so be it. No, it may not be the highest level of productivity on the planet, but it strikes a comfortable balance between having a life, being human, and chipping away at projects to the extent that he’s inclined to do so. 

Voices That Spark Evo’s Thinking and Ignite His Professional Practice

On Twitter, Evo shouts out the Lead Agents that have been so instrumental in supporting The Agency’s work in North America, including @KBahri5, @TheWrightLeader, @Support_A_Teach, @ChrisQuinn64, @BBray27, and many more. “These guys inspire me on a daily basis by the things they do and the suggestions they make both on and off Twitter,” Evo says.

The power to really move things forward in the classroom comes from collaboration, Evo says, and in that regard, nothing beats the edtech tools found in the G Suite (now Google Workspace), including the workflow and applications associated with Google Classroom.

When asked to recommend a book that was influential in his journey, Evo points to Screw It, Let’s Do It: 14 Lessons on Making It to the Top While Having Fun & Staying Green by Richard Branson.

When it comes to YouTube, Evo’s more of a searcher and surfer than a subscriber. But on Netflix, one of his recent favorites has been Drive to Survive, a series about Formula One racing. It’s a great place to learn about how people deal with success and failure at a very high level, Evo says. It gives some great perspective for the space you’re in, and it builds your growth mindset in the process.

We sign off on this international learning experience, and Evo gives us the best ways to connect with him and follow his work. See below for details!

Follow Evo

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Song Track Credits

  • Sunrise Drive by South London Hifi*
  • Anthem by The Grand Affair*
  • Coupe by The Grand Affair
  • Species by Diamond Ortiz
  • *tracks courtesy of the YouTube Audio Library

Listen to Teachers on Fire on YouTube and Subscribe

Roundtable: Seesaw + Google Classroom Integration

On Saturday, October 31, 2020, I joined Alicia and Matt Rhoads, Alfonso Mendoza, and Taylor Armstrong to discuss best practices, tips, and strategies for effective Seesaw and Google Classroom integration. Here is our conversation.

Questions That Guided Our Discussion

  • 1:24 – Who are you and what is your context in education right now?
  • 4:19 – What is there to like about Google Classroom as a learning management system?
  • 8:45 – How can students split their Chromebook screen to see Classroom and Seesaw side by side?
  • 11:46 – What is there to like about Seesaw as a learning management system?
  • 19:06 – How can we use Seesaw in 4th and 5th grade classrooms? (Alicia shares her screen.)
  • 28:07 – Matt and Alicia, how did you each convince your partners of the value of the other platform? (Matt shares how he came to use Seesaw at the secondary level while Alicia share how she came to use Google Classroom at the 4th and 5th grade levels.)
  • 30:53 – What other strategies or hacks would you share with teachers looking to integrate these two platforms strategically? (Alfonso says “Get clicky with it.”)
  • 38:15 – Why and how can Seesaw be used effectively at the secondary level?
  • 41:11 – How can intermediate and middle school teachers make the best use of Seesaw?
  • 44:33 – How can we use Seesaw analytics to make sure every student is socially and emotionally supported?
  • 46:55 – How many Seesaw activities should be pushed out to the Seesaw blog?
  • 48:29 – How can viewers connect with you and continue to partner with you in their learning?

With Thanks to the Guests Featured in This Roundtable

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As of this post, I’m still appearing weekly on YouTubeFacebook, and Twitter at 8:00 a.m. Pacific Time/11:00 a.m. Eastern Time. I’d love to see you join us and would be happy to feature your questions and comments on the show!

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How Can We Improve Assessment Practices?

Highlights from my learning at the 2019 CAFLN Conference

Something that my friend and incredible educator Rose Pillay has reminded me of more than once is that professional learning has a better chance of penetrating our consciousness and altering our practice if we actually take the time to intentionally reflect and write about that learning.

That was the motivation for this piece. My aim? To preserve some of the highlights of my learning from the 2019 Canadian Assessment for Learning Network (CAFLN) Conference. Welcome to my journal.

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Rose is pictured second from right. She’s incredible!

CAFLN exists to share and mobilize knowledge about Assessment for Learning (AfL). On May 2–3 of 2019, CAFLN held their sixth annual national conference and symposium in Delta, BC. The event was hosted by Delta School District’s Principal of Innovation and Inquiry, Brooke Moore, and the Director of Learning Services, Neil Stephenson.

I was thrilled to attend this event with a few of my middle school colleagues and administrators. What follows is a curation of Twitter highlights, photos, and short reflections from this event.

Day 1: School Tour

The conference started off with a tour of local elementary schools that have completely embraced standards-based assessment. Notice the learning targets for educators on the right side of our itineraries.

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Gray Elementary had a lot of signage that consistently articulated principles of formative assessment and learning targets. Student agency and ownership of learning is clearly a priority here.

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Over at Holly Elementary, we noticed a bulletin board display of educator learning. Each staff member answered these three questions:

  • What are you learning?
  • How’s it going?
  • Where to next?
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This is such a brilliant way to model a culture of learning and growth mindset in your school community. I was very impressed, and I hope our school does something similar in the fall.

Here are a few zoomed-in examples:

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I also liked the way another teacher added kid-friendly descriptors to each of the proficiency levels (emerging, developing, accomplishing, and extending). Notice how the students have placed post-it notes to assess their own progress.

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The Big Three Questions (below) came up often in our tour as well. These questions really capture it all, don’t they? This isn’t just a powerful metacognitive practice for students — it could also be used by us as educators as we think about further growth in our own professional practice.

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Delta Farm Roots

At the end of Day 1, we visited Delta Farm Roots. This is a highly innovative high school facility that is building most of our provincially mandated curriculum around project-based learning. These high school students are applying all the skills and content they are required to master as they run a small farm. It’s a brilliant concept and an impressive undertaking.

Here, Jacob Martens explains a little bit of what goes on in this multipurpose learning area.

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We also explored the gardens that students must hoe, cultivate, plant, and maintain. Lots of STEM skills and activities required!

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The conference hosts then invited visiting educators for a dinner behind the main building. Not pictured here is the ocean — just a short walk away.

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Delta Farm Roots is an exciting example of what is possible in pure project-based learning. Follow them on Twitter to see more of what they’re all about.

Day 2: Conference Sessions & Workshops

Linda Kaser and Judy Halbert opened the conference on day 2 with a powerful reminder of our collective WHY — what is education all about. According to these leaders from the Networks of Inquiry and Indigenous Education, these should be our three goals for every learner in K-12.

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Kaser and Halbert also reminded us of the Spiral of Inquiry, a powerful cycle that can drive continuous growth and improvement for any learning community.

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Damian Cooper and Karen Fadum

Then there were these gems from Damian Cooper and Karen Fadum, who tag-teamed on the philosophy and applications of formative assessment in the classroom.

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Although I didn’t seem to be able to tweet out much from Karen Fadum, she shared some gems as well. Here were a few things I got down in my notes in Google Docs.

First, Karen talked about the business of assessment in education as a collaborative experience. Traditional models of assessment relied exclusively on the teacher, but think of all the ways we can include students today:

  • Uncover the curriculum together
  • Learning intentions — set with students
  • Co-constructed criteria
  • Self-assessment
  • Peer assessment
  • Student-captured evidence of learning

Next, Karen unpacked these points a little further. Instead of “covering the curriculum,” why don’t we flip the paradigm and UNcover curriculum with students? We’re talking about …

  • Provocations
  • Wonder walls
  • Exploration time
  • Connections with student passions and interests
  • Digital portfolio organization

Karen shared a number of practical applications of co-constructed criteria, self-assessment, peer assessment, single-point rubrics, and student documentation of evidence of learning. She shared videos from her practice, too, and these were super helpful.

She ended with this challenge: How do you currently involve students in the process of assessment?

Christine Younghusband

After Damian Cooper and Karen Fadum, I visited a session led by Christine Younghusband — an educator I had long admired on Twitter but never met in person. She was amazing.

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YES. Building more checks for understanding and formative assessment into my Math classes is an important goal for me.

Then, this challenge from an assessment legend.

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And how about this mic drop?

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Jon Orr and Kyle Pearce

In the afternoon, I had the pleasure of meeting two exciting educators who are doing amazing work in Mathematics. I don’t have a selfie or Tweet to share here, but this session summary gives you a feel for their message.

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Jon Orr and Kyle Pearce are two dynamic but down-to-earth practitioners who understand the challenges around engagement and the wide range of proficiencies in the modern Math classroom. They’re worth following!

I was also thrilled to learn that they have a podcast, Make Math Moments that Matterand I got a promise from them that they would come on my own Teachers on Fire podcast. I look forward to more learning with these two in the future.

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Conclusion

This was my first CAFLN conference, but I hope it won’t be my last. To put it simply, I’ve never been part of an assessment event so focused, so progressive, so high value as this one.

If you’re ready to rethink your assessment practices and learn more about your assessment FOR learning, connecting with CAFLN on Twitter would be a good place to start.