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!
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.
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?!
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!
And so you've made it to the end- that's all there is to it! If you've gone through the first three parts of this blog series, you know all there is to know about implementing collaborative studies!
This last post on the blog series is SUPER fun! This is where we get to think about all of the possibilities of topics and modes of delivery. The only problem is that the possibilities are actually ENDLESS!!
Have more ideas?! Share away and let us know how it goes! Together, our ideas are limitless. Any of the possibilities listed above can be combined, tweaked, stretched, and arranged in a way that makes the collaborative learning experience one that attendees LOVE and remember!
You're Here to learn more?!
Or perhaps you're here for the first time! If that's the case, hop on over to the first post in this blog series all about Collaborative Studies and how to introduce them to teachers. THEN, read on in this post, PART TWO, to learn about what it looks like to get teachers signed up!
Of the four parts to this blog series, this is quite possibly the easiest and least complex piece. Now, it's important to state here that following the first steps that are listed in this blog series is extremely important. Once you have done so, and have gotten the word out about collaborative studies, it's time to settle down and plan your collaborative study events! This can be done many different ways. You may decide to host collaborative studies monthly, bi-monthly, or quarterly and pre-plan the topics across the year. You also may choose to host collaborative studies sporadically based on patterns noticed across the classroom. To make this decision, think about the culture and climate of your school, the initiatives of administration, and the current teacher workload. No matter the case, be sure your teachers know what to look forward to as the year goes on. *Side note: My first time implementing collaborative studies, I decided to host them monthly. It did have its benefits, but I suggest hosting them bimonthly or quarterly so that you might illicit better teacher turn out.*
How to Get Teachers Signed Up for the First Event
You now have a broad plan for the year, you know your first topic of study (more on this in a future blog post!), and now you're ready to get teachers signed up! This will require you to take a step on the bridge of vulnerability. You're essentially giving teachers power to say "yes" or "no" to what you are proposing. And, let's face it, a "NO" kind of hurts, even if you've vowed to yourself not to take it personally! This is how a carefully written sign up form can be super helpful to both you and the teachers completing the form. So let's visit the secrets to building the form and then we'll jump into the logistics of getting it out to teachers and, more importantly, completed and submitted!
Secrets to Building the Form
The easiest way to get teachers signed up is by sending out a Google Form. You can also use Sign Up Genius, but I find that Google Forms are much more user friendly and can easily be customized. And, of course, I have a great form template ready for you to download. Simply scroll down to get your copy!
You'll notice in the template that there is space for all the details of your collaborative study and topic of choice. These details are much like a session description you might find on any conference pamphlet. Make it as enticing and intriguing as possible and cater to the unique personality of your campus. This should be what teachers see first on the form. Whether they are interested or not, I request that all teachers complete the form. Therefore, they will include their name, email address, and grade level (if needed).
The next part is where you can allow them to "let you down easy" and also can give you a ton of great information about where the teachers are in relation to the content being studied. Include only positively stated options for involvement. Not only does this ease the pain of the "no's" for you as the host, but it also encourages a positive attitude toward collaborative studies, even if the teacher chooses not to participate.
Here are possible participation options to include:
Logistics of Getting Forms Completed and Submitted
Got the form done?! Ready to hit "send"?? HOLD ON!!! First and foremost, have a dear friend or colleagues proof read it. And then let your administrator know that you're going to send it out. If you're not completely comfortable with sending it out, or you believe it will have more weight coming from an administrator, you could ask them to send it on your behalf. Ideally, you'd want it to come directly from you. The best option, if you're using Google, is to email it using the option through Google Forms. This will allow you to see who has responded and who has yet to respond.
You won't simply email the form and await responses. The primary way to gain the most responses is by visiting teachers or striking conversation about it in passing: "Hey, have you seen the email about the upcoming collaborative study? Be sure to respond soon. I can't wait to find a way for us to partner and learn together!" Another way to gain responses is by including information about the collaborative study and the form you're expecting them to complete in multiple formats and outlets. If you send a weekly newsletter, include the Google Form link or QR code on the newsletter. Post a few flyers at various locations throughout the school (perhaps the bathroom- as was the case for this flyer!).
These collaborative studies are meant to be more casual than formal and are optional. Make it enticing, relevant, and professional, but never underestimate the power of FUN! As you are marketing this idea of collaborative studies, show your enthusiasm and interest in the things that are on the teachers' minds and seek out their expertise.
After all, to collaborate is to partner with others in the quest to better ourselves collectively for the sole purpose of supporting the broader audience: our students.
Until next time, when we dig into WHAT to do when teachers attend the collaborative studies, grab this free Google Form template and get your teachers signed up!
Before digging into "the one where invitations are sent", let me include a little anecdote to share how collaborative studies came about. When I began working as an instructional coach at a new district, I asked about PLCs and how they were implemented on each campus. The answer: PLCs were non-existent. My first thought in hearing this was, "Sweet! I can bring PLCs to life and implement them in the way they were originally intended." Of course, I wasn't considering that, in a year interrupted by COVID mitigations, nothing would be implemented as intended. In fact, grade levels of teachers didn't even share conference times, and even if they did, conference times were somewhat abbreviated and overridden with teachers' never-ending to-do lists. Pretty quickly I realized that PLCs would not be a happening thing for the time being. But I wasn't content with the idea of letting professional learning go by the wayside, even in a year where obstacles would be highly present. ENTER: Collaborative Studies!
Quite simply put, collaborative studies are a time for colleagues to meet, collaborate, and study a topic of particular interest. You can catch my interview with Allison Peterson in her New to Coaching group on Facebook here! These studies vary just a bit from traditional PLCs (as you'll see below). First, collaborative studies are completely optional. Yes, teachers are encouraged to attend, but are definitely not required. This is especially important if you are new to the district or new to the instructional coaching role and plan to implement collaborative studies. Second, collaborative studies are generally short in session length, but span over the course of three to four weeks. Finally, collaborative studies may or may not follow a specific framework, depending on the content being studied and the goal of the participants. Now, let's get to the nitty gritty of it all- the fun part- where invitations are created and sent!!
Get the word out!!
Setting the stage and building interest in collaborative studies is a MUST!! There is a series of steps that is crucial to follow in order to get the results you desire.
Come back soon for Part 2 of this series!!
Now that the word is out and your teachers know about and (hopefully, somewhat, kind of) understand the gist of collaborative studies, it will be time to send your first google form, as promised on the invitations!! Come back soon to see the next blogpost on getting teachers signed up for collaborative studies! Don't forget to get your free google templates before you wrap up this read and share your thoughts and comments below!!
If you're asking yourself (or the screen), "What are Wonder Walks??", then you definitely need to find out more by seeing my last blog post. It is there that I explain all of the logistics to Wonder Walks. So... click here... go read the post....
And now you might be asking, "And what does the debrief look like?"
Great question! Remember that the debriefing portion of the Wonder Walks is likely the most important part of the whole process, not only because it holds teachers accountable for their attention to instruction during the observation time, but also because it can encourage deep, thoughtful discussion about quality teaching. And HOPEFULLY great practices will be replicated across the campus. This is the best kind of professional development you could ask for: in-house, student-based, and actionable! So let's get to it:
3+3: Debriefing Wonder Walks
Three ways to gather teachers
Three Parts of a Debrief
Part 1: Setting Norms
When you begin your meeting, it will be important to set some norms with colleagues. This should be simple and brief so that you can move on to the "meat" of the meeting. Begin with the goal of the Wonder Walks. It might sound like this, "Remember that our goal from wonder walks was to peruse classrooms to glean wonderful instructional strategies and determine ways to replicate or modify these strategies across classrooms." After the goal has been restated, ask teachers what three or four things the group can agree to as you begin a deep dive into the data collected. Be sure teachers are stating only positive norms. For example, "We will share only positive statements", or "We will remain kind and respectful toward colleagues," or, "We will have an open mind..." Setting norms in this way can help build collective efficacy among staff.
Part 2: Deep Dive
And now it's time for the MEAT of the meeting!! There are so many ways that a team can go about diving into the data collected from Wonder Walks. Any of the instructional strategies from Jim Knight's The Instructional Playbook, or other strategy lists, can be used during this time. (If that's the case, your deep dive benefits teachers two-fold: a discussion on practices observed AND experience with modeled instructional strategies that can be used with students!) No matter the structure or format you choose, this time is spent allowing colleagues to converse and collaborate with partners or teams in an interactive and engaging way. The best way to get teachers to truly dig deep is to ask the right questions that keep them focused on INSTRUCTION. Those might sound something like this:
Part 3: Call to Action
While the Deep Dive is the heartiest piece of the meeting, the Call to Action is the most important piece. For it is here that teachers decide what it is they will add to (or take away from) their teaching practices. Just as you asked questions during the deep dive, you'll ask questions as you probe teachers to bring action to their thoughts and ideas. The questions suggested below stem from the work of Michael Bungay Stanier and promote growth both professionally and personally.
What does 3+3 equal??
Pure bliss??? Why, YES! That is, of course, IF YOU take the next steps to coach teachers to keep doing the great work. In order for the coaching to naturally take place, you'll want to know what teachers' are taking from the Call to Action. How could they jot their take-away ideas down in a way that is visible, not only to themselves, but also to you as an instructional leader? Perhaps you include a form that allows them to request support from an instructional leader before they even leave the meeting. In this case, get to the teachers that DO request support as soon as possible and begin some coaching conversations with them. For others that do not immediately request support, give a good portion of time for them to put some of their new ideas in place. Then make a point to check in with teachers, casually and individually, to see how their new practice has been going.
I can't wait to hear about how 3+3 equals pure bliss in your schools and classrooms! Reach out to share how you've found this to be effective!
Oh, the wonderful WONDER WALKS strategy! Chances are you've heard about something similar to this strategy. Several schools implement a tool called "Pineapple Charts" as informal PD between and among teachers. You can find out more about this method HERE! This method allows teachers to observe colleagues and gain ideas about specific teaching tools and strategies. "Wonder Walks" are similar in that teachers spend time observing and learning from other teachers. The difference is that they can go into any classroom, observe any content area, and are expected to walk away with something wonderful they noticed and something they are wondering about for their own instruction.
Here are the logistics to get "Wonder Walks" started:
And when the wonder walks are over?
Great question! You'll want to be sure that teachers hold on to the notes they take! This is likely the most important part of the whole process. After the open period of observations, you'll want to have teachers debrief as a whole. This is so important, not only because it holds teachers accountable for their attention to instruction during the observation time, but also because it can encourage deep, thoughtful discussion about quality teaching. And HOPEFULLY great practices will be replicated across the campus. This is the best kind of professional development you could ask for- in-house, student-based, and actionable! Wondering what the debrief looks like?? Be sure to check out next week's blog post to learn about 3+3 Debriefing AFTER Wonder Walks!
Did someone say "SMORES"?! Why, yes! But it's not what you might be thinking. When I first heard of this site, I was kind of confused about its purpose. Was it supposed to be a virtual campfire? A virtual kumbaya of sorts? A place to learn about outdoor activities? But Smore actually has nothing to do with any of the aforementioned categories. So what IS it and how can it be effectively used by educators or educational leaders?
To quote the website, "Smore makes it easy to design beautiful and effective online newsletters." What I love about that statement is that it is, first of all, true and second, it makes use of the word "effective". The words in the statement the website creators use to tell about their site were certainly carefully chosen. So, let's see how:
What to include...
Of course, absolutely anything can be included in your digital newsletter. Obviously, it depends on your audience and purpose. As an instructional coach, I send out a newsletter every two weeks to share about current school events, professional resources, and more. Here's what I usually include:
Check out the example beloW!
Share your digital newsletter designs! Let us know if you use Smore and what makes it easy, beautiful, and effective for you!
How to have a bang-up PD session- even on a whim!
Honestly, if you were to put into every professional development session what you would your best session with teachers, you’d be spending ALL of your time doing nothing but prepping for PD. As amazing as that would be, instructional coaches simply don’t have the time (or resources) to create bang up, incredible PD sessions every time BECAUSE sometimes, a PD session or event happens with very short notice or no notice at all. And then there are other times when you simply forgot about professional development you were leading (or it was unclear that you were, in fact, the one leading it). Yes, it’s a stressful situation to find yourself in. But thankfully, there is a way to be ready for professional development in a S*N*A*P!
"S" is for Structures
Have a handful of no-prep structures in mind. We all know that the BEST PD sessions are those that encourage active responses and conversations among participants. Thinking about how to make this happen to its maximum potential can take a lot of thought and planning. But having a variety of no-prep structures in mind can make this possible in any PD session. The most common (and simple) structure presenters use is a "Turn and Talk". While this is an easy go-to, there are several others that can provoke the depth of conversation and participation you so desire. Even better? These require NO PREP and can all be found on my TPT store
"N" is for Niche
Consider your niche. Think about how can you fit the PD topic on the agenda into your niche. Are you great at delivering mini lessons? Structure it as a mini lesson with a connection, teach point, active engagement, and link. Are you particularly talented in leading conversations? Make it a conversational session and provide talking points on the topic. Perhaps you love ice breakers and team-building activities. Incorporate these into your PD. Chair Tag, Count to Ten, or Edu-Charades are a few that come to mind. Is technology your jam?? Have some go-to tech tools with which you're familiar and enjoy using. After all, your participants most likely will all have devices on hand. Some easy and quick-to-use favorites are Mentimeter, Jamboard, and Padlet. Regardless of the topic for the PD session you're leading, find your niche and use it to your advantage.
"A" is for Analyzing Your Audience
Get in the mainframe of your audience and find ways to capture their attention with a matching narrative. We are all naturally drawn to stories and their metaphorical and analogical nature. When a presenter uses a story to match, in one way or another, our situations, we are more likely to engage in the presentation, be more receptive to the message, and hold on to the information for a longer period of time. But before you throw any old story out there, you first have to analyze your audience and the PD topic. My suggestion is to have a running list of personal stories (that may be yours or borrowed) on your handy-dandy phone. Sift through them and think about what story might make for a great analogy to the topic at hand.
Here's an example:
"P" is for Participants as Presenters
Make the teachers (or your audience) the presenters. I can't lie... this is something I turn to quite often, but what a great thing to turn to! Chances are that, a lot of the time, your audience can come up with so many great thoughts and ideas that you hadn't even considered in relation to your topic. Allow for opportunities for your audience to collaborate and then present their findings. In order for this to work well, you WILL need a broad agenda mapped out in your mind. This could be mapped out in the form of questions the audience will consider, talking points you want them to discuss, or action steps to take collaboratively. Using "structures", as mentioned above, can support this method of delivery as well. What's great about this method is that your audience will feel empowered as they take ownership of the material!
Next time you’re in a pinch for PD, try these suggestions so you’re ready for PD in a snap!
Side-stepping the Assumptions
I learned early on from Chrissy Beltran, at www.buzzingwithmsb.blogspot.com, that formal introductions as a coach are CRUCIAL! It goes deeper than simply giving a hello with a handshake and a, "Yes, I'm the new instructional coach, it's nice to meet you." Otherwise, you go into the year with assumptions laid upon you. And even when you do implement formal introductions, people may still confuse the aspects of your job. In fact, after the first month or two of the introduction process (that I'm detailing in this post) and time building rapport with staff, some people still said, "Oh, so you help teachers with SeeSaw...," or, "Yeah, you're So-and-So's assistant...," or, "Now what do you do, again?" While this introduction process doesn't solve all of the problems that come with assumptions, it DOES provide a streamlined way of getting out all of the important information about your position to the people that matter most: teachers and students.
Introducing yourself to Teachers
It provides more specific information about my role and invites teachers to a sort of "get-to-know-you" event. You can grab your free editable version here! Simply add text boxes and QR codes as you see fit. Then print on tag and cut apart! Voila! You could easily place these in teachers' boxes or directly in their hand as you walk about the school.
The FUn Part: Introducing yourself to Students
1. Send a Sign-Up: After a couple of weeks with students in classrooms, I sent out a link for teachers to sign up for a 20-25 minute "teaching break" that would allow them a much needed breather and me a chance to introduce myself to their students. I provided a plethora of dates and times from which teachers could choose. The schedule filled up quickly!
- I introduced myself: name, a few pictures of my family and animals, and an out of school hobby
- I shared my job title, "instructional coach", and asked students to turn and talk about what they know about "coaches" and the things coaches do. I heard things like PE, soccer, sports, football, etc. I also heard students say that coaches help people get better and cheer players on. This allowed me to share with students exactly what I do as an instructional coach. We even made the connection of a football coach in action to an instructional coach in action and "on the field".
- After clarifying my role, I told students that sometimes the teacher and I might take a "teacher time out" as we work together. (More about this technique can be seen here.) As I taught a pretend lesson, we practiced what this teacher time out would look like and sound like. Because I was giving the teachers a little break, I invited a student to be the pretend co-teacher with me, which they thought was hilarious.
- I finished up my time with the students with a brief, fun activity. For older students, we did Chair Tag (5th and 6th grade) or, the favorite, Woosha Warrior (2nd and up). For younger students (PK-1st), we did a Mirrors Up challenge, where students mirrored my silly shenanigans. (See Responsive Classroom for these and many more energizers!)
3. Leave them with high expectations. Before it was time to go, I invited students to consider their job when they see me come into their classroom. Each class set similar expectations: Stay on task. Keep working and learning. Listen to the teacher. Etcetera. I also told students that they were welcome to say hello or greet me at appropriate times.
Culture Of Collaboration
Welcome! I am Casey Watts- Collaborative Leader and Culture Changer!