This week I was BEYOND excited to lead a live session on Facebook to share about an app that I utilize on a daily basis as an #instructional #leader, #coach, and #consultant.
If you have any desire to foster a greater sense of #collaboration and #collective #efficacy, this is a tool you MUST know about! I'm going to share a few ways it can be utilized so you can capitalize on the thing that sits in your pocket day in and day out- your phone!
What is Marco Polo, anyway??
"Marco Polo allows you to send private video messages at your convenience, and for friends, family members, or colleagues to respond at theirs. More meaningful than text and more convenient than Facetime, Marco Polo is the social app that brings authenticity and everyday joy to your closest relationships." -Marco Polo Team
Why should instructional leaders use it?
Marco Polo can serve as a way to foster a culture of collaboration and promote collective efficacy. It also can significantly help in building teacher capacity. Instructional leaders will find that effective use of Marco Polo can...
How can instructional leaders use it?
Marco Polo can be used in three ways, but all three platforms can be used in tandem.
Connect with individuals to share ideas, questions, or information related to the classroom, school building, district, or community!
Connect with teams of people to collaborate around instructional strategies, curriculum development, program development, and so much more!
Create an individually owned sharecast to provide professional development content, implement flipped faculty meetings, share school news, celebrate faculty and staff!
Catch the #replay here!
Check out the Follow Up Sessions!
Coaching Through Overwhelm Using the Enneagram
If you didn't catch the last podcast episode, I'm encouraging you RIGHT NOW to pause here and go check it out! We know that the world of education is positively overwhelming right now. As instructional leaders, we have a deep urge to support our colleagues and help them get past this sense of being overwhelmed. Therefore, you'll notice the last podcast episode is prudently titled: "How to Coach People Through Overwhelm with Empathy and Practically". We want to give you practical ways to do this and that's what we're focused on in this post again today.
In this podcast, I'm joined by Allison Petersen, Michelle Bulin, and Lindsey Babczak to dig deeper into the work of coaching educators through overwhelm. Allison Petersen is an Instructional Coach and Consultant and the founder of the #NewtoCoaching Facebook Group and The Breakthrough Circle, an exclusive coaching group. Michelle Bulin is Social Emotional Learning Coach and founder of SEL in the Middle. Our last guest in this podcast is the curator of the great tools and resources that are included below. Lindsey Babczak is a K-4 Instructional Coaching in Reading. She is a first year instructional coach and changing the world one conversation at a time!
These amazing coaches each bring something unique to the world of coaching, but they all center their work around understanding and using the Enneagram. This blogpost was written and podcast recorded so that YOU have strategies to equip yourself as you're working through your own overwhelm which will equip you to coach others through overwhelm.
The problem is that, whether you are a teacher leader or you are an instructional leader or administrator, obstacles get in the way of making change happen. Sometimes the obstacles come in the form of individuals remaining stagnant in a state of overwhelm that causes resistance, resentment, or restlessness.
What causes overwhelm??
One of the things that really could sum it up is this meme that we recently found of Louisa from Encanto.
This character is trying to keep her perfect face up front, but under the surface, she is literally feeling all the pressures. It's funny... but it really is a great visual to define what we have found is going on with teachers right now: they're feeling extremely overwhelmed, they're feeling like they have to keep it all together, and they feel like they've got all these things they are managing.
Maybe it would even help to put a meme next to it with Ross from Friends screaming "pivot!!" What we need to be able to do, instead of sitting in the overwhelm and allowing it to crush us is pivot. I think we can agree that we want our fellow educators to be able to be their best and we don't want them to feel stuck and overwhelmed. So how do we help them with that?
It boils down to self-awareness...
Part of self awareness is really understanding who you are, where you come from, knowing your strengths and your weaknesses, and being able to make adjustments (pivoting if you will) and addressing those those things that make you who you are. It takes a bit of quite time, of really choosing, to be self reflective. Something that we have found extremely paramount in becoming self-aware and self-reflective in order to overcome overwhelm is the Enneagram.
The Enneagram is an ancient personality typing system that has come back and become a modern piece. Ian Morgan Cron's book, The Road Back to You gives a great deal of information about this personality typing system and is highly recommended. Basically, there are nine numbers on a circle that each represent a different personality type. What's important to note is that each type has an underlying motivator.
These numbers will start to give clarity to your personality, your why, and why you're why you're overwhelmed with things. Because the REAL FACT IS THIS: you have to be able to be self aware and self reflective before you can coach anyone else through their overwhelm. If you have not dealt with or do not know how to address your own overwhelm there's no way for you to effectively coach another.
When you do the Enneagram, it starts with the nine core numbers. These different numbers each have that core motivation and when you start coaching people at the level of core motivation, you get to real change. Simply getting to understanding your own Enneagram type can give you a sense of relief from overwhelm.
The whole idea of the Enneagram is that you would be able to change your behaviors so that you can really transform internally and become more whole. It's all about self awareness.
"I know my Enneagram... now what?"
Let's say that you have done this work: you know your Enneagram type, you reflect regularly, especially in seasons of overwhelm. How then do you know when you're ready to coach someone else through overwhelm?
We believe that you can coach anyone, anywhere, and through anything- even if you're not an expert on them! You can come in to a coaching partnership as an equal player and pour into them. When you have just a slight advantage on them because you have done some of the work first- you have started by understanding your number, you have read a little bit more about it, you've come to a little bit of self awareness- you're just three steps ahead of them and to us that's what coaching is! It's turning around and recognizing that what you've come through can be used to help another come through it, too!
Making use of the Enneagram to become self-aware and to self-reflect is just one little key that might unlock a huge door for you in your ability to coach teachers through overwhelm!
What do we mean when we say educators are overwhelmed?
Here's what Merriam-Webster states about overwhelm...
1: overcome by force or numbers
2: completely overcome or overpowered by thought or feeling
Overwhelm is exactly the problem we're addressing in today's episode! Educators are frequently encountering obstacles to making change happen due to individuals remaining stagnant in a state of overwhelm, and that overwhelm causes resistance, resentment, and even restlessness!
I'm joined with fellow educators and coaches, Lindsey Babczak, Michelle Bulin, and Allison Petersen to discuss this problem. After today’s episode we're hoping you’ll leave feeling more confident and prepared to coach teachers and colleagues through overwhelming seasons empathetically and practically!
Want to know more about the things we referenced in the episode? Check out these links below!
Check out the episode below!
I recently wrote a guest blogpost for Samantha Shields, Instructional Coach and creator of Your Coaches Corner, an online organizational platform built specifically with instructional coaches in mind. When she asked what I could possibly write about, I gave her a few options, but she was quick to choose this topic: How to Identify the Native Genius in Teachers. This topic should be one of great importance to leaders, but we're not quite there yet because it's such an abstract type of work. But in this blogpost, I give you ways to begin doing this work!
You can read this guest blogpost on Samantha's site or listen to the podcast episode, both included below. Happy Learning and Leading!
Talk about perfect timing...
Are you an instructional leader looking to lead well alongside your colleagues? If so, this book study is exactly for you! .... Okay, so maybe that sounds a little too much like an infomercial selling a too-good-to-be-true product. The difference in this book study and whatever an infomercial might sell you is that this book, studied with like-minded leaders from all over the country, can actually get you to a place with your organization that seems almost too-good-to-be-true!
Here's the reality:
You are most likely beginning to prepare for the coming year. Maybe you are a current instructional leader or maybe you are anticipating this role next year. Regardless, your team will certainly have new members be it the leadership team, your broader leadership staff, or your faculty of teachers and staff. When we begin to prepare for the "new" of "next year", we often decide to start with the all familiar get-to-know-you events and initiatives. These are quickly followed by training and professional development on the products, programs, and procedures that are required for the start of the year. While these may be necessary and may seem important, the impact on school culture and student achievement may likely go unseen, unheard, and not felt. Your fluffy meet-and-greets or product and program trainings are brief and the results you desire from them are often short-lived.
Inevitably your year will begin as per usual, maybe even with a bang-up start. But as the year goes on, you experience many of the same issues, both in student learning and school climate, that have been present in years past.
WHY?? What gets in the way??
You can change the reality above. It is only a reality until someone decides to do something different. That different thing is to begin building a culture of collaboration. What gets in the way of sustainable and impactful development as a whole organization (and it's important to note that by "development" I'm referring to a MULTITUDE of positive elements that propel an organization forward) is the lack of a collaborative culture... a lack of collective efficacy... and when we lack these things, people are much less likely to access and utilize creative and critical thinking skills as well as communication skills... and when people are not provided those opportunities, we see joy seep away and darkness creep in ever so slightly throughout our community.
Now it starts with you!
You can become the leader that bridges the gap between a short-lived culture of collaboration to a sustained culture of collaboration where collective efficacy is realized and student achievement soars! You can start by joining our book study! We're reading Peter DeWitt's Collaborative Leadership: 6 Influences That Matter Most.
The great thing about this book study is that it is completely virtual AND implemented in a "come-and-go" environment through the Marco Polo app. You can also access content and engage with fellow book study members via the Facebook Group!
Have more questions! Shout them out in the comments below!
Hey Fellow Educators!! You don't want to miss this episode all about four major collaboration killers and three mindsets you can take on to combat them! In this episode, I talk with Aimee Gilbert and Valerie Ayers, two instructional coaches from across the nation about what kills collaboration. They share their experiences with collaboration and we dive deep into the work of what makes the most impact when trying to build a culture of collaboration!
Catch the episode HERE!
You can read Valerie's blogpost about these on her website, On Deck Teaching.
Are you a teacher leader, instructional coach, or an administrator that is tired of sitting through lame PLCs, planning meetings, or faculty meetings that feel unproductive, boring, or monotonous??? Are you itching to be in an environment where collaboration with colleagues leaves you energized and inspired? If you want to add value to your professional learning community, this episode is for YOU!
YOU are the runner who's ready to implement things that will have greatest impact on student achievement and educator morale. And that is what this episode is really all about.
In this episode, I share about the problems we face with lackluster PLCs, four ways to combat these problems (based on my recent blogpost with TeachBoost), and about what I'm offering next month on Marco Polo to help you, as the runner, step up and do the fulfilling work of fostering a culture of collaboration in your community!
You've made it to my site, now why not gain a deeper understanding of why I do what I do and how I can help YOU do what YOU do! This episode shares exactly that- my why, my what, and my how (full disclosure- I have a hiccup in the very beginning of the episode... let's see if you can catch it!).
As an instructional impact consultant, I focus on partnering with schools to collaborate around high impact strategies that solve the problems that programs and products aren't solving. Yes, that's right, I said it- programs and products are NOT solving the problems that come up again and again in our schools- lack of student engagement, motivation, and ownership; low morale due to overwhelm; an overabundance of resources; minimal gains in student achievement or increasing gaps; and lack of knowledge transfer and application.
But as an attempt at a quick fix, we bandaid the problems we encounter with curriculum programs and technology products. Imagine the time, effort, and money spent on these things that have only minimal lasting and positive impact, or worse, NO positive impact! The solution to these problems does NOT lie in the THINGS we purchase. The solutions lie within the walls of our buildings- in our leaders, our educators, and our students.
But what we know is that taking a step back to analyze the effectiveness of our people can be daunting work. Each individual in an organization comes with their own perspective of problems and solutions, alike. This can make it challenging as a collaborative group to get to the heart of the real challenges at hand, much less the real solution to the challenges. And THIS is where I come in!
I'm able to take a seat in the balcony of your school to analyze the challenges your school faces from all perspectives. I ask the instructional leaders the right questions to get to the real challenge. I have the right conversations with teachers to gauge the school culture and mindset. And I observe students and classrooms with just the right lenses to analyze the current reality. Finally, I strategically and intentionally partner with teams to facilitate collaborative learning around the strategies that will have the highest impact on student achievement and teacher empowerment.
A great deal of what I do revolves around not only facilitating collaboration, but more specifically modeling and explicitly teaching about collaboration. Why? Because I believe that the greatest instructional impact lies in our ability to and our success in collaborating with colleagues and students. I believe that collaboration can be hard, complex, and challenging work- but this kind of work is often the most inspiring and empowering. And I believe that products and programs DO NOT empower and inspire.... PEOPLE empower and inspire.
It is through successful collaboration that our continual problems can be solved. And I would love nothing more than to partner with you and your school to solve the problems that products and programs aren't solving!
Do you ever have those moments where you feel like TIME simply does not allow for additional professional development opportunities with your teachers? It's something we, as instructional leaders, wish we could implement regularly. After all, as educators we know it is best practice to continuously learn and hone our craft so that, in the end, students are the primary benefiters. But you probably hear it from teachers and colleagues as much as I do: "I don't have time." And to an extent, there is a lot of truth to this statement. Conference times are sucked up by mandatory meetings, lesson planning, gathering materials, completing stacks of paper work, and simply sitting back to take a breath of air! Finding subs for half or full day PD is near impossible in this day and age. Even if we did have subs, teachers find it difficult to lose any instructional time with their students- understandably so. And asking a teacher to stay after school can feel like asking them for their left kidney! Even if we did have teachers willingly stay after school for a brief PD, exhaustion from the day significantly limits the functions of our brains making it rather challenging to pull off a successful PD session.
So what are we to do? How do we ensure continuous learning for our staff with all the aforementioned barriers?
Enter: PD IN A...
Stephanie Affinito originally wrote about this idea of "PD in a (fill-in-the-blank)" a good while back. It's a strategy I latched onto when I started thinking about how to launch collaborative studies. The idea is that you provide "on-the-go" PD for educators that can come in multiple different and fun formats.
There are three major things I love about this kind of PD:
Here's how I implement PD in a (blank):
All the Ideas!!
How Creative Can We Get?? Here's a list to help spark your creativity:
While the preferred method of delivering PD is face-to-face with multiple staff members, this is another method that can prove beneficial. When implemented strategically, you can get that face-to-face time and promote collaboration between and among colleagues.
What would you like to try? What other create ideas can you share that get your teachers on the path of continued learning and improvement?!
It's the last episode in this series! I take you behind the scenes of a collaborative study and show you how to LOCK IN learning so participants experience the effects for the foreseeable future! Guess what... yep, it all has to do with the QUESTIONS you ask! Asking questions sounds like a pretty simple task, right? But there is a craft to asking questions and I share with you FOUR broad questions (along with some implementation strategies) that will yield maximum results! Have a watch or listen and use the note-taking guide to jot your thoughts!!
Here we are again catching up on what goes on Behind the Scenes of "Collaborative Studies" (to learn more about collaborative studies as a whole, visit this link to find out more)! Last week I shared about the practical steps it takes to actually plan one!
In today's episode we'll learn about the face to face sessions that can take place during a collaborative study! This is, by far, one of my favorite blog posts to date! It is applicable and relevant to ANY instructional leader- superintendents, principals, instructional coaches, teacher leaders, and support staff! Today, I'll be sharing about 4 key strategies to mastering face to face sessions that result in an increased culture of collaboration.
In this episode, you'll hear me reference the work of:
Marilyn Friend and Lynne Cook (Interactions: Collaboration Skills for School Professionals)
Liz Wisement, Lois Allen, and Elise Foster (The Multiplier Effect Tapping the Genius Inside Our Schools)
Simon Sinek (Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action)
Have a watch or listen ?? and comment below!
Time for planning to begin... but how?!
So you've heard about "Collaborative Studies" (or maybe you haven't and you need to visit this link to find out more)! Now you're wondering about the practical steps it takes to actually plan one! Let me take you behind the scenes of how I plan my first collaborative study! In this episode you'll learn about why you need to build a culture of collaboration, what is a collaborative study, and how to begin planning collaborative studies with a calendar!
Need to register for the Simply Coaching Summit? There is still time! Follow the link to register and you'll have access to the content until October!
I also reference a blogpost from Stephanie Affinito of The Coaching Sketchnote Book! She has some great information on hosting "Pd in a Blank" and I plan on using it at the beginning of each collaborative study this year!
Have a watch or listen ?? and comment below!
More of a podcast Person? Check out the podcast here!
I don't often dwell in regret. It's not a great feeling to hold onto and can easily transform and grow into something else entirely. This is not to say I don't make mistakes every single day- things that I would have done differently in hindsight. And these mistakes are usually easily addressed and simply make for a better future ahead. In those instances, the regret is short lived. I leave the situation feeling grateful to have learned from it. But there is one thing this year that has stayed with me... something that I think about often... something I wish I could go back and have a "do-over". Let me paint a picture for you.
It is imperative to note that the teacher in this scenario is of the utmost quality. This is a teacher that you hear students share about years down the road as one who cared about them and made an impact on them as a learner.
It's the end of the third nine weeks. Students have recently finished their nine-week benchmarks. As an instructional leader, I have decided to meet with teachers to take a brief look at the data and see what their thoughts are instructionally for the nine weeks ahead as I work to support them. I walk into the classroom to visit with the next teacher on my schedule and notice there are a few students in the classroom. These students are working to finish some assignments before heading off to the next part of their schedule. I offer to come back another time, but the teacher (that I adore), so graciously invites me to stay and visit with her at the back of the room while the students work.
Small Regret #1: Instead of insisting on coming back another time, I accept her invitation to stay. Not a big deal, easily fixable in the future.
We move to the back of the room to a table in the corner. As per usual, I ask, "So what's on your mind in regard to the nine-weeks assessment?" We visit about what went well for students, what skills may need to be retaught, and what commonalities we notice in the data based on standards. (Seems harmless, right? No foreseeable regrets, right?) Looking at the data is not a problem. But we all know that behind each set of data is the face of a child- a child that the teacher so adamantly wants to support as a learner. And so naturally, the teacher begins sharing about specific individuals.
Not So Small Regret #2: Instead of pausing the conversation until there were no students in the room, I allow the conversation to continue.
The teacher shares about some students that surprised her, both positively and negatively. The few students completing assignments in the classroom continue on, seemingly uninterrupted by us... seemingly unaware of our conversation that's becoming more personal... seemingly uncaring of the data we're discussing. And then one of those students and his data, specifically, becomes the topic of conversation.
Bigger Regret #3: Yet again, instead of pausing the conversation, I let it go on.
The student seems oblivious to our talk of him. The teacher continues, we wrap up our conversation and consider next steps for her instruction in the weeks to come. I move on to another classroom.
[Fast forward one week...]
I'm heading to the cafeteria to visit with a colleague on lunch duty. Students from this teacher's class are lining up as they have finished lunch. The aforementioned student, the one whose data became part of the conversation while he was in the classroom working, is at the front of the line. I nonchalantly ask him how things are going and we engage in easy small talk. I ask if he was able to finish the assignments he was working on in said teacher's classroom a few days back. He simply says "Yes", and then he pauses for a moment, clearly contemplating what he wants to say next... and this is the replay of that conversation that has stuck with me so closely that I couldn't even begin to pry it off with the jaws of life:
Student: I heard what (teacher) said about me the other day.
Me: What do you mean?
Student: I heard what they said about me having potential to pass this year, but not potential for middle school.... I don't know how to feel about that? (concerned look on face)
Me: Tell me more...
Student: Yeah, I don't know how to feel about what they said.
Me: Well, tell me about what you're thinking. How do you think you feel?
(Student notices teacher walking down the hall to get the class from lunch.)
Student: Uhmm, ya know... uhmm, nevermind. Nevermind...
The biggest regret of all... The one thing I regret most: I didn't address it with the teacher. I didn't go back to further visit with the student. And time went on as though the moment had never existed... But it did, and it still does. It exists in my mind and in my heart. And what's worse, what I regret most, is that this moment exists for that student.
I share this story and paint this scene not to simply confess my regrets to the world. Rather, I hope that my attempt at being so completely vulnerable leads to better practices ahead for myself and for anyone that has happened upon this post.
It's a moment that should not be forgotten and dismissed. This moment tells us as instructional leaders that students are always listening. And yet somehow, we believe that they are incognizant of our conversations, or that they are unable to discern meaning from our coded teacher language, or that they even care about what we are saying. Perhaps the opposite of that is also true. Perhaps some educators believe that our students should be hearing what we are saying, even those negative comments, in an attempt to spur motivation in them to work toward "success" (which we know is not an effective approach).
Regardless, it is our duty as instructional leaders to provide adequate professional learning that addresses these kinds of situations- professional learning that not only focuses on instructional practices, but that which focuses on supporting the whole child. Because the pure fact is the teacher in this situation is completely unaware of the effect she had in that moment on this child. This teacher didn't know any better... and that's completely my fault. What could have been a learning moment for the both of us simply turned into regret and an unchanged situation. I end by saying this: don't let this regret become your reality!! Support teacher understanding of how our nonchalant and perhaps unconscious habits and behaviors must be monitored so that we are instead creatures of intentional and positive habits that support ultimate student growth.
Learn more about how our language affects children's learning with this fantastic book by Peter Johnston (linked in the picture).
The winner of this free book will be announced on May 10th, 2021!
Welcome! I am Casey Watts- Collaborative Leader and Culture Changer!