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
As of this post, I’m still appearing weekly on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, 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!
Connect with the Teachers on Fire Podcast on Social Media
One hundred and seventy-one episodes of the Teachers on Fire podcast.
It feels great, because creative projects of this sort don’t typically enjoy a long lifespan. I’ve read that the average amateur podcaster lasts less than seven episodes before the novelty wears off, the shine is gone, and the grind of the work required to sustain it begins to wear.
Ditto for bloggers, vloggers, authors, artists, and an army of other dreamers and would-be content creators whose enthusiasm for publishing falls victim to the steady onslaught of life.
Consistent creation is never easy, but it’s complicated even further in education — a field that demands hours of professional work before and after the start and finish of each day during the school year.
To be an educator and also a consistent content creator can be a daunting challenge. Fortunately, my professional learning network is filled with edu-creatives who inspire me by managing this feat. Pernille Ripp and Annick Rauch are just two examples of full-time teachers who blog with astounding consistency. And oh yes — they’re both mothers of four.
So consistent content creation is possible for basically everyone, but make no mistake: it requires discipline and sacrifice. It has to be more than a passing interest — it demands concerted commitment and passion.
To make it work, to sustain it over time, you have to think of content creation as a job. A job that you absolutely love, sure, but a job.
There’s no other way.
Reviewing My Mission and Vision
So why do I do it? What propels me to invest the hours of scheduling, recording, publishing, and promotion each week?
As Justin Belt once wrote, “Our why is both the battery within and the force around us. It keeps us going while also pushing us forward.”
I’ve written a little bit on my website about why I podcast, but this question could use a little more exploration. A little more digging.
1. Podcasts share best practices for teaching and learning.
“How do we make great learning go viral?” asks George Couros. Podcasts are one answer to that question.
With simultaneous syndication, instant delivery, and universal access, podcasts are consumed by large audiences. Though 73% of Teachers on Fire listeners hail from the United States, educators from over 100 countries tune in. That’s learning gone global.
There are other ways to share inspiring ideas, of course. But the podcasting medium does so in a uniquely compelling and intimate way that other mediums can’t match. Since the consumption of audio content doesn’t require stopping other activities, listeners will often listen to episodes in their entirety while driving, exercising, walking the dog, or doing household chores.
Though they’re each powerful in their own right, blogs and YouTube videos struggle to match the kind of sustained attention that people will gladly give podcasts.
2. Podcasts amplify the voices of inspiring educators.
There are so many amazing educators out there whose practices should be shared and whose views should be heard, but they aren’t being heard because no (metaphorical) microphone is available. They don’t have a platform to speak from.
You know the type I’m talking about: what is happening in their classroom is jaw-dropping, and they’re excited to share their ideas, but they’re just not sure where to start or how to go about it. Maybe they’ve never engaged on social media, and few outside their own building know who they are.
Podcasts bring their voices and ideas to the world.
3. Podcasting continues my own professional growth and learning.
Every interview I conduct for the Teachers on Fire podcast puts my mind back in a place of professional learning. Every conversation forces me to engage with important ideas, grapple with challenging problems, and interact with fresh perspectives from other agents of transformation in education.
The podcast continuously encourages me to consume more professional content in my discretionary time and pushes me to constantly re-evaluate my own professional practice.
The effect is like scheduling a coffee session with incredible coaches, mentors, and leaders in education once a week. It leaves little room for stagnancy in my thinking.
4. Podcasts connect me with other leading practitioners.
Thanks to Teachers on Fire, I enjoy daily interactions with incredible education leaders across North America and the world. Through Voxer, Twitter, and other platforms, I’m inspired, encouraged, supported, and cheered on in my work.
I’m finding my tribe, my people: educators who share my passions, my goals, my dreams for my learners and visions for future directions in education.
Some of these connections have led to real life meetings, and I know more will materialize in the months and years to come. The podcast functions as my press pass, enabling me to build relationships with people I would never meet or have the opportunity to engage with otherwise. And for that I am grateful.
5. Podcasts allow me to build a platform and find my voice.
I’m no star in the education world — I’m just an 8th grade homeroom teacher and rookie assistant principal who is trying and failing and growing and learning to improve my practice one humble step at a time.
Back in early 2018, my teacher account on Twitter was inactive and invisible. I had yet to grasp the incredible power of professional connectivity.
But thanks to Teachers on Fire, I’m learning to share my voice with increasing confidence and I’m building new professional relationships every single day.
Building more professional connections and adding more listeners isn’t about padding my ego. It’s about developing the opportunities to increase my learning, hear from more voices, and build life-giving relationships.
People will listen to those that they know, like, and trust. The podcast gives people a way to get to know me, like me, and trust me. It means that when I get around to other fun content creation projects like speaking at conferences or publishing a book, some people may actually listen.
6. Podcasts are highly valued by listeners.
In May of 2019 I surveyed listeners of the Teachers on Fire podcast regarding the impact my content — and the podcast medium in general — was having on their professional thinking and practice. I was blown away by the enthusiasm and passion of the responses. Here are two samples:
“Right now podcasts are my most significant and consistent source of professional growth, because I listen to podcasts while I drive to and from work (approx. two hours per day). If it weren’t for podcasts I wouldn’t be able to expose my thinking to new ideas or find kindred spirits and critical friends while I am also driving. It is a way for me to ‘stack’ my life and helps me feel more positive about being able to accelerate my pedagogy more quickly than would otherwise be possible.
I think it’s really good for my health because I feel less stressed while driving, plus I feel engaged in life in general because I am learning and feeling optimistic about my growth. I feel excited about ideas and touched by the stories of struggle. If I had to wait to read a book months might go by, but podcasts allow me to actively engage in learning every single day with next to zero extra effort. I can spend the time I might be reading exercising instead. It’s a win-win!”
You can podcast, too.
This piece reaffirms my why: my mission, purpose, and vision for Teachers on Fire. I love the podcast, the process, and the results, and I’m going to continue this journey for as long as I can.
But what about you?
“Everyone should have a podcast,” claimed Adam Welcome in episode 77. And I think he’s right. You have a voice, you have ideas, you have the means, and the barrier to entry is lower than ever.
So share your voice, and make great learning go viral.
ARI FLEWELLING is a staff development specialist at Riverside Unified School District in Riverside, California. A former high school English teacher, Ari holds a Master’s degree in Education Technology and is a Google Certified Trainer and Innovator. She can often be found sharing her knowledge at EdTechTeam events.
Ari’s Twitter profile says “Cool on the internet. Even cooler IRL,” which should tell you that Ari is a person who enjoys engagement and is just a fun person to be around!
In our conversation, Ari describes the time in her career when she found herself in a work environment that was “less than collaborative.” It was during this time that she really started to build her professional learning network on Twitter and elsewhere, using these platforms to reconnect with former colleagues and building relationships with new ones. To educators looking to integrate more technology in their classrooms, Ari offers this sage word of caution: always consider context and content. How does this piece of technology help move my students toward the learning objective? Ari also shares her professional goal for this year, explains what ignites her passion about education today, lets us in on some of her passions outside of education, and offers some great picks on Twitter, YouTube, and more.
Find the highlights from our conversation at the timestamps below:
1:10 – Ari’s work as a technology integration specialist allows her to focus on empowering student creation and creativity. Coding, writing, video production, collaboration, and sharing: these are the rich kinds of learning experiences that technology can provide students. She currently supports 42 school sites ranging from preschool through Adult Education. She enjoys the challenge of finding the perfect solution for the right need or the right learner.
2:01 – Early in her career, Ari found herself in a difficult work environment with colleagues who were “less than collaborative.” It was during this time that she really started to build her professional learning network on Twitter and other platforms, reconnecting with former colleagues and building relationships with new ones. Where she missed professional connections and collaboration physically, she was able to fill in those gaps digitally.
3:35 – To educators looking to integrate more technology in their classrooms, Ari offers this sage word of caution: always consider context and content. How does this piece of technology help move my students toward the learning objective?
5:06 – Students excite Ari so much! Seeing students create apps, websites, YouTube series, creative memes, and contributing to their communities in real and authentic ways is amazing and fuels Ari’s passion for education.
6:37 – In terms of a professional goal for this school year, Air wants to take stock of all the things she’s doing, figuring out where she’s getting the most value, where she’s being the most successful, and deciding where she’s not going to invest as much anymore. As educators and creatives, we often take on more than is really sustainable. Sometimes we need to simplify our focus in order to make sure the work we’re invested in offers the most value, and we’re taking care of ourselves well.
9:02 – Ari enjoys playing games of any kind, particularly board and video games that involve strategic decision making and well-crafted narratives. She’s looking forward to designing a character in Red Dead Redemption 2, a game with stunning graphics that is both a prequel and a sequel.
12:05 – For Ari, working out is an unplugged activity, so she has no access to the internet. Exercise is a great opportunity to take time away from her work and listen to her body’s needs.
12:53 – On Twitter, Ari recommends following @AnnKozma723. She credits Ann for helping her through a difficult time and describes her as a constant source of inspiration.
13:48 – When it comes to her favorite edtech tools, Ari comes back to the basic power of GSuite – Google’s suite of cloud-based apps. Follow@GSuite on Twitter!
In our conversation, Mandy recalls an experience of discouragement and burnout early in her career, and describes the formula that helped her recover and recapture her passion: avoiding negativity, reading uplifting and accessible education books, engaging on Twitter, and starting a blog. She explains the heart and message of The Fire Within: the journey to view past trauma not as a source of shame or stigma but as a potential source of strength in order to serve students better. She talks about the joys of raising teenagers, the benefits of working outdoors, and her top picks on Twitter, books, edtech tools, and more.
Find the highlights from our conversation at the timestamps below:
1:07 – Mandy describes her work as a Director of Innovation & Technology in Ripon, WI. She’s a former elementary teacher, middle school teacher, and technology integrator.
1:58 – Mandy describes one of the lowest experiences of her education career, when at the end of five years, she felt completely disengaged and burned out. Workplace bullying and other issues made her want to leave teaching – something she never thought could happen after entering the profession with so much passion and optimism. Her path to healing and recovery included intentionally avoiding negativity, reading uplifting and accessible education books, engaging on Twitter, and starting a blog.
5:46 – Mandy talks about the heart and main message of The Fire Within: Lessons from Defeat That Have Inspired a Passion for Learning. Her vision for the book started with a conversation she had with Tara Martin (author of Be Real) after ISTE in 2017. It was such a relief to chat with Tara and compare notes on personal histories, childhood experiences, and journeys with trauma. Mandy had always struggled to be fully transparent about her past for fear of what parents, colleagues, and others in the educational community might view her. The Fire Within speaks to the realities of trauma, adversity, and the ways that people overcome negative experiences not by relying on shallow cliches but by fully embracing who they really are. It’s when we can be truly authentic and learn from our experiences that we build the emotional tools to serve students who are experiencing similar challenges.
13:00 – Mandy also talks about her upcoming book, Divergent EDU, which talks about educators who are willing to challenge their own assumptions, be highly reflective, and think differently than the masses. She bases the book in part on a hierarchy of needs and divergent thinking. The book will look at the supports needed to support educators who seek to think and teach in divergent ways.
17:41 – She discusses a source of passion and personal learning outside of education: parenting teenagers! For her, the experience has been far better and richer than advertised. One of many lessons she’s learned along the way is the power of the apology. It’s an essential skill in parenting and in leadership. We need to take ownership of our mistakes and let our children see us doing it.
20:51 – One tried-and-true habit that helps Mandy personally is the practice of studying, writing, and working outdoors whenever possible. There’s something about the sunshine and fresh air that does wonders for the spirit.
22:25 – On Twitter, Mandy recommends following @EvanAbramson and @JCasaTodd. Both are great sources of innovation and divergent thinking in education.
24:27 – A productivity tool that Mandy leans on heavily is Trello. Find out more about what they offer by following them on Twitter @Trello.
CRAIG KEMP is a head of Digital Learning and Innovation, teacher of teachers, blogger, workshop facilitator, and speaker. Although he hails from New Zealand and now calls Singapore home, Craig is truly a global force for innovation in education.
In our conversation, recalls the challenge of rebuilding a school community after the tragic loss of a student. He describes how his current role constantly requires him to look, investigate, and use technology in new ways that improve learning. He tells us why team sports represent the perfect mix of fitness, play, and collaboration … and why he always plays to win! Craig also shares great recommendations in books, Twitter, YouTube, and more.
Find the highlights from our conversation at the timestamps below:
1:09 – Craig describes his current context in education. Originally from New Zealand, he’s taught in Singapore for six years at The Stamford American International School. As the head of Digital Learning and Innovation, Craig heads a team of Digital Lead Learners. Calling his role a dream job, he enjoys helping educators in his local context and around the globe.
2:32 – Craig recalls the time his education community suffered the tragic loss of a student. During that time it became critically important for the community to rally around positive memories and keep moving forward, striving to be better as a way of honoring that student’s memory.
4:12 – When it comes to why he’s passionate about education today, Craig points to the constant change. His role requires him to look, investigate, and use technology in ways that help kids learn. Lately he’s been looking at how AR (augmented reality) and AI (artificial intelligence) can impact the how and why of learning.
6:29 – Outside of the classroom, Craig is passionate about team sports like cricket, volleyball, and sometimes basketball. He points out that team sports offer the perfect mix of fitness, play, and collaboration with other people.
7:34 – Craig’s got a lot on the go, and one way he manages it all is by utilizing his calendar effectively. If it’s not in the calendar, it doesn’t happen! He also has very high standards: he expects everything to be done well and perhaps better than it’s ever been done before. He makes stuff happen partly by investing in himself and others on his team – with the ultimate goal of making a positive impact on student learning.
8:55 – Craig’s top Twitter recommendation is @GCouros. George is a non-stop source of amazing inspiration who helps educators to rethink what is possible in education.
9:44 – Edtech is Craig’s wheelhouse, so you know these two picks are solid. The first is FlipGrid (follow @FlipGrid on Twitter), and the second is Empatico (follow @EmpaticoOrg). FlipGrid is a secure platform that allows students to represent their learning using video, and it’s now completely free. Empatico is a new start-up that seeks to connect learners and classrooms around the globe. It promises to remain entirely free as well, so make sure to check out both of these tools.