Monday, September 4, 2017

#Summer Patio PD Book #5: Differentiated Coaching

Differentiated Coaching was a heavy read for my final Patio PD book of summer, 2017. However, as an instructional coach for staff in grades 6-12, it was a very important read.

I first met the author, Jane Kise @JaneKise last December at a winter summit for local instructional coaches. She's an educational consultant who has authored over 20 books and trains educators around the world on coaching, collaboration and differentiated instruction.

At the time, my fellow coaches and I had all just discovered our four-letter personality types, using TypeCoach. Since this web-based, interactive tool was designed in such a way that we CHOSE the letters that fit our approach to gathering information and making decisions, we found them eerily accurate. TypeCoach is similar to the Myers Briggs Type Indicator, although Jane cautions about that one being a self-reporting, not diagnostic tool. At the winter summit I mentioned earlier, Jane shared lots of information about the idea of differentiated coaching and the usefulness of knowing our own personality types.

I hadn't read her book until now, and I'm excited by the opportunity discuss it later this week with other members of my instructional coach book club.

Before reading this book, as suggested, I took the TypeCoach inventory. Not surprisingly, I am an ENTP.
The E means I lean more towards extroversion than introversion. I gain energy through action and interaction.
The N signifies that my preference for gathering information uses intuition rather than sensing. I'd rather consider what could be (imagination), than focusing on what is (facts).
Then there's the T (Thinking), indicating that I make decisions more through objective principles and logic, rather than considering the feelings of all involved (sensing).
Finally, the P demonstrates my Perceiving approach to life. I prefer staying open to the moment, and I do my best, most creative work with a looming deadline. Those with a judging personality prefer to work their plan and have closure.

There's no "best" personality type. However, when I read up on my letters, I was excited that ENTPs are natural entrepreneurs and excel at big, fast-paced projects that call for imagination and creative problem solving. Even better, ENTPs enjoy taking risks and thinking as far outside the box as they can.Finally, they thrive in a "never give up" environment and are driven to see what's possible, often engaging in playful debate: challenging others to think deeply.

Yes. Totally me.

As important and interesting as it was to learn about my personality and how it influences my coaching style, equally important was learning how to best coach other educators according to their preferred coaching style. Not only do I have fellow staff members who share many of my letters, I have many who may share one or two, or may even be the complete opposite of me. That last part is not surprising, since ENTPs comprise only about 1% of all teachers and school principals.

Since 99% of educators don't share my exact personality type, and likely gather information and make decisions differently than I do, understanding how to coach them is critical to helping them grow professionally.

Here's where Jane's book is an excellent resource.

It's divided into two parts.

Part One is broken into five chapters, focused on coaching that's both student AND teacher-centered. Topics include: understanding why teachers believe what they do, meeting teachers' needs during times of system change, identifying and helping with the problems teachers want to solve, collecting ideas for gathering evidence that inform the coaching cycle, and identifying and supporting conditions for Level III Collaboration.

Part Two is where Jane offers ideas for developing a language for teacher and system change. This is broken into four chapters. The first one highlights the creation of a common framework and culture where change is possible (and includes charts and a breakdown of the 8 personality preferences-16 types), and is followed by a chapter about how to utilize these cognitive processes to more effectively coach others. There are numerous charts and other visuals to help readers understand the four coaching styles. These are: coach as a useful resource, coach as an encouraging sage, coach as a collegial mentor and coach as an expert. Jane asserts that coaching to match a teacher's needs can accelerate the changes a teacher hopes to make in their classroom. In addition, she offers tips for coaching your opposite (and those with different personality preferences). These later chapters also present case studies, and a practical tool for organizing coaching strategies that will ideally lead to more effective coaching partnerships.

I'll be honest. At first, it was quite overwhelming to grasp the wide scope of using teachers' personality types to influence my coaching style. I began to wonder if I'll be able to understand each of my staff members' letters and preferences well enough to be the coach they need (and deserve). I'm passionate about helping others tap into their strengths and become better versions of themselves so they are able to best meet the needs of their students.

How was I going to internalize these 16 personality types, apply them to the many staff assigned to my caseload, and coach all of them in their preferred style?

Well, Jane has a few suggestions to avoid panicking. The first is understanding my own style and which adjustments I can make for the others. Second is taking time to ask relationship-building questions to understand teachers' strengths and beliefs. Third is considering teachers' preferred coaching roles and which forms of evidence are easiest to use.

I understand the important role an instructional coach plays. It's not an easy position, if it's done well.

Thankfully, Differentiated Coaching is an excellent resource for understanding coaching styles and utilizing the personality types from TypeCoach to grow as a coaching professional.

I highly recommend this book if you coach in any capacity.

And I recommend checking out TypeCoach if you want to learn more about your own personality in order to apply the concepts to your work and other aspects of your life.

We are all so very different, and that's exciting.

Friday, August 25, 2017

#Summer Patio PD Book #4: Instant Relevance

      When I first heard of this book, I thought, "Hey...that's what pirate teachers do everyday."  Then, I realized that not every teacher is a pirate teacher, who looks for inspiration and capitalizes when it strikes. The Ask & Analyze part of the PIRATE acronym encourages educators to seek and use hooks to get their students more engaged. To create experiences.
      Why am I starting this post by talking about Dave Burgess's book, Teach Like a Pirate?  Because Denis Sheeran's book, Instant Relevance: Using Today's Experiences to Teach Tomorrow's Lessons, takes this idea of looking for creativity and being inspired by what's around us to another level.

I'm thankful to Denis for sending me a copy. As an instructional coach for 6-12 grade educators in all subject areas, I found instant relevance in its pages. (See what I did there, Denis?) When you read the book, which I hope you do, you'll understand my attempt at humor here. This book is filled with humorous anecdotes that add to the intended message and make for a very enjoyable read.

In order for our students to WANT to learn, we need to connect them to more than just what we teach. 

It's why handing them the textbook that was written for "everyone", printing off worksheets or lecturing about the content won't engage students in real learning. 

It's why expecting students to read and study the words on the page won't inspire inquisitive minds or extend beyond the summative assessment. 

It's why there's often little to no application of knowledge, let alone any enthusiasm or desire to further their learning outside the school day.

Like many fabulous DBC (Dave Burgess Consulting) books that have come before, this one's ideas are structured as an acronym. The acronym is INSTANT, which makes sense, due to the title. Denis sprinkles in a fair amount of personal stories that provide details about his A-HA moments. Those moments when, with eyes wide open, he noticed ways to connect the real world to engaging experiences for his students. Although Denis teaches math, these examples allow any educator to recognize the importance of taking advantage of opportunities to better connect students to their content. 

Here are the sections in this book, divided into an acronym like I mentioned, that highlight ideas for any educator to capitalize on instant relevance. Denis includes a couple of thinking questions at the end of each smaller segment. These are probably my favorite part, since they challenge me to examine my own practice in order to be better.

I: Infusing who you are in what you do
     *Use your hobbies and interests to connect students to the content. Share with colleagues.
       **My takeaway: Thinking question:"When you hear your colleagues talking about lessons and a connection comes to mind, do you share it?"
N: Natural Flow. Follow the question.
     *Don't be so focused on your lesson plan or covering curriculum that you lose momentum or miss out on opportunities to learn unexpectedly. These are often some of the best experiences.
     **My takeaway: "We must prepare ourselves to follow a question down an unexpected road at any point."
S: Sudden changes to your surroundings
     *Embrace changes as opportunities to create relevance, and not as barriers to covering content.
     **My takeaway: Thinking question: "When change is necessary, do you think about what is being lost by the change, or do you consider what is being gained?" Powerful words!
T: Television and pop culture
     *They can help connect with your students and spark curiosity in ways you can't imagine.
     **My takeaway: Always be prepared to abandon the lesson plan and "replace it with an experience you feel your students need."
A: Awareness of your surroundings
     *Become more aware of how surroundings can be inspiration for experiences that will connect to your students. Tuck them away or use the next day.
     **My takeaway: Don't miss opportunities to take moments from your life or your students' lives and connect them with learning your content. 
N: National Events and Crazes
     *Rather than brush current or national events aside for after class, use their attention to connect.
     **My takeaway: Thinking question: "In what ways can you create cross-curricular connections from lessons" based on current events/trends?
T: Two or more content areas 
     *Don't miss the opportunity to create connections with fellow teachers by planning cross-curricular experiences. Talk to colleagues and share ideas. It often multiplies the learning.
     **My takeaway: "connecting with our students in a relevant way often means going beyond our content area to effectively engage students in learning our content area"

Denis talks about meeting kids at their best: using their interests and questions to power our class. If we make this search for relevance part of our routine, we can move from "When will I ever use this?" to "Which part of your life did you get this from?"

One of my favorite messages is to "take time to view your teaching from your students' perspectives, through the lens of their learning." 

I'll close with Denis' connection between our ability to incorporate new ideas into our teaching and using Google Maps. He says we can take the easy route, the fastest route, or the scenic route. There's no one way. However, if we don't make learning more relevant to our students, then Denis says, "they will learn without us."

True words.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Summer Patio PD Book #3: Ditch That Homework

What an incredible book to dig into right before the start of another school year. Yep. It's Ditch That Homework, another resource from the publishing duo of Dave and Shelley Burgess.

So excited to share the wisdom and ideas from authors Matt Miller and Alice Keeler. You can read Matt's amazing overview on his blog by clicking here. You can also read Alice's overview on her blog by clicking here.

I'm an instructional coach (TOSA-Teacher on Special Assignment), but an English teacher at heart. I read this one as I reflected on my own homework practices as a classroom teacher. But I also read it, considering the current practices in my district and the staff I work with.

Before saying anything about what's in this incredible book, I want to reiterate what Matt and Alice advised about embarking on a ditching homework journey: take it a step at a time, keep everyone in the loop, and be open minded. They also said that change is a lot like pushing a huge boulder. It's not going to move right away and get rolling without lots of work, and without many people coming together for the benefit of our students.

I've known Matt Miller for 2 years now, first meeting at a conference in Milwaukee, WI called Summer Spark. He had just written the book, Ditch That Textbook: an acronym inspiring moving away from traditional lessons to experiences that are Different, Innovative, Tech-laden, Creative & Hands-on. A few educators and I started a Twitter book study that led to a weekly #Ditchbook chat which continues each Thursday at 9:00 CST. Stay tuned for an October book study of Ditch That Homework, in that same time slot.

Many have written about this amazing and timely book (including both authors in the links above), so I'll just add my takeaways.

I love the way this book is laid out, with chapters on ditching not only textbooks, but lectures, referrals, resistance, habits, remediation, compliance and the red pen. I appreciate the many visuals that highlight particular strategies, which simplify key talking points for use in discussions. I dog-eared the numerous practical ideas for how to actually move from assigning and correcting daily homework (or whatever your grade level/building/system does) to what educators can do instead.

Matt and Alice start out by defining what homework is (and isn't), why it is/has been traditionally given in schools, and who holds certain beliefs about homework. Then, they advocate for ditching homework by sharing ways to make every minute count in the classroom, where the teacher is there to offer immediate and helpful feedback and clarify questions.

They offer alternatives to uninspiring worksheets, and provide links to ways you can connect students to others (including experts) outside the walls of the classroom. The authors advocate for students owning their learning and for educators to support them and their often untapped skills and talents. In addition, they make a strong case for a more successful and timely feedback cycle that traditional paper homework can't provide, including the in-class flip (also known as blended learning).

Important partners in your students' learning are their parents. Improving relationships with parents, including sharing rationale and your purpose/vision can pave the way to better understanding and more supportive advocates for student choice and deeper, longer-lasting learning. Also, using parent communication tools like Remind, social media channels like Twitter and Instagram, and email newsletters or parent surveys using Google forms can further open those communication channels. Parents truly want to know and be involved in what's going on in their child's class/school. Homework should not be the default, or the only way they get a glimpse into their child's learning experiences.

I especially enjoyed the chapter on ditching habits. The way students learn and retain information best is not memorization, one and done lessons, or doing homework outside of class in isolation (with no immediate feedback). An understanding that spaced retrieval, physical activity/movement, working through the struggle, practicing elaboration and synthesizing, adding more discussion and increasing critical thinking (moving to Depth of Knowledge DOK 3 and 4 vs levels 1 and 2) all lead to student learning that lasts long after the assessment.

In the chapter on ditching compliance, Matt and Alice offer ways to encourage students to own their learning through increasing choice (knowing that they will end up making some bad choices along the way), transitioning responsibility from teacher to students, and teaching for mastery in the way that fits them best. Empowering students instead of belittling them.

Finally, in the chapter about ditching the red pen, the authors encourage useful and timely feedback to help avoid overwhelming students, which has often led to discouragement and possibly shutting down. They offer suggestions like using digital tools to automate grading whenever possible, going deeper with assignments instead of broader (less can be more), making the learning last (through repping, or spaced repetition, explained on pages 146-147), and sitting with students to provide feedback as much as possible.

If you aren't already sold that reading this book can improve classroom/building culture, help build stronger relationships, and lead to deeper, long-lasting learning, then telling you that Matt and Alice have placed links to examples and strategy explanations throughout its pages certainly will.

There are just so many resources to get your started and help guide you along the way.

I'm excited to share the messages and ideas about ditching homework with the educators I work with, and prepare for ways I'll ditch homework when I eventually return to my English classroom.

If you want, add your name to the Ditch That Homework crowdsourced spreadsheet on Alice Keeler's blog, and join the community.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

My Reading #TeacherTattoo

Yes. I got a tattoo! My first one.

And yes, I'm a teacher. An English teacher, who is enjoying a 3 year position as an instructional coach.

So naturally, I wanted my first tattoo to represent me and my passion...which is reading.

A tattoo is a chance to promote something publicly (depending on where it is) and permanently, because's a tattoo after all. :)

And what better message to promote to all who might see this tattoo than Carpe Librum, which means "Seize the book" or as I like to say...:Seize every opportunity to read."

And I don't care what you read. Fiction. Non-fiction. Young Adult. Picture books. Romance novels. Celebrity Memoirs.  Print books. E-books. Graphic Novels. Comics. Classics. Video Game Directions. Instruction Manuals. Magazines. Newspapers. Blogs. Advice Columns. Recipes. Anything.

Take every opportunity to read, for whatever your reason.

Read to get lost in a story.
Read to experience something through another's eyes.
Read to understand new perspectives.
Read to learn something.
Read to become smarter.
Read to expand your vocabulary.
Read to laugh.
Read to cry.
Read to bring others joy.
Read to connect and share in the larger community.
Read something- anything- not because you have to, but because you want to.

Find joy in that choice. Find joy in the simple act of reading.

So, I will proudly share my reading tattoo with everyone I meet. Spreading the message of seeking out reading opportunities. It's that important to me.

I've had this design in mind ever since I decided to get my first tattoo. One of my favorite movies is Dead Poets Society, and the words Carpe Diem have been prominently featured in my classroom for years. Of course, that means "Seize the Day," but I love this literary version better.

I'm already planning my next tattoo. Of course, it will have something to do with my passion as an educator. And it will be somewhere I can show others, because for me...that's the point.

If you're an educator and have gotten a tattoo to reflect your teaching passion, I'd love for you to add a comment and/or image of your tattoo on Twitter, using the hashtag #TeacherTattoo

If you don't yet have a tattoo (or don't plan to), then share your passion in other ways and help make the world a better place.


Friday, August 11, 2017

Why You Should Use Flipgrid to Amplify Student Voice

I just spent an amazing day at Flipgrid Headquarters here in Minneapolis, MN. It started with a Flipgrid "Summer Camp" for Ambassadors, where we toured the facility (including the rooftop), played around with the app to try out some ideas to use with students, and even got a sneak peek at new features before last night's launch.

Flipgrid is a video response tool for amplifying student voice. Teachers create an account (either a Flipgrid One free account, or the paid subscription which allows for a much more interactive experience...highly recommended), and then set up grids (classes) and topics (questions). It's so easy, and allows teachers (as administrators) to turn different features off and on, and make videos visible as necessary. According to the many thousands of educators who use it, and the 5,000,000 students who've amplified their voices so far, it's taking the world by storm.

Did I mention that it was created by innovators here at the University of Minnesota? :)

Flipgrid has been part of my classroom and my instruction for the past 3-4 years. First, with my 5th graders, and later with my 6th grade English students. They recorded themselves visually demonstrating WordMasters vocabulary. They used it to act out Lego representations of scenes from their stories. They recorded themselves sharing the growth of plants in their terrariums. They recorded interviews between them and characters from their choice books. They recorded stories they made up for creative writing. They recorded reflections of their work in collaborative Social Studies groups. They recorded persuasive speeches.

Many recorded at school, while others chose to record at home. Either was fine. The most important part was that they practiced their speaking skills. Because I taught them HOW to speak effectively FIRST. Even though we assign speaking opportunities and hand them a camera or other recording device, we fail our students if we don't first teach them how to communicate. How to use their voice to convey their meaning and ideas. I've used Erik Palmer's book Well Spoken (and his other books and resources) to do just that. Check out his website here. You'll thank me later. :)

Don't forget to teach them how to speak effectively. Teach them about PVLEGS (Poise, Voice, Life, Eye Contact, Gestures and Speed) BEFORE getting them in front of the camera. One of the best things you can do for your students.

Along with recording, we watched each others' Flipgrid videos. We enjoyed hearing different perspectives and celebrating which of the PVLEGS each of them could do well. Not every video was viewed. Not every video needs to be viewed by peers. As the administrator of the grids and topics, I can decide which ones to make visible. Sometimes I highlighted a specific speaking skill, sometimes I highlighted videos for their creativity, while other times (with student permission), I highlighted videos from those who were nervous to speak in front of the class-giving this alternative.

My goal was always to teach and model effective speaking skills, give students this tool and time to practice (meaning record and re-record until they were proud of their video), and then to share their voice.

Now, I'm done talking about me and my own experiences with Flipgrid as it has evolved into what it is today. This last section is about what's new and why you should run, not walk, to join the Flipgrid community.

  • We now have custom feedback rubrics, which include speaking skills.
  • We now have the ability to add topic attachments as links.
  • We can add an icon (spark) to a response to create a new topic, making the student the teacher.
  • Along with uploading YouTube and Vimeo, we can access the camera roll for photos as topics.
  • There is now a place for us to add our grid's purpose.
  • The new position of Head of Educator Innovation @savvy_educator is rolling out new ideas for connecting with the larger Twitter community: #FlipgridSpark, #FlipgridAppsmash, #FlipgridRockstar, #TopicThursday, #FlipgridFridays, and #FlipgridTips
  • We now have unique Flipgrid emojis to highlight videos for great ideas (lightbulb emoji), videos that go deep (thinking emoji), videos that blow us away (rocket emoji) and one that needs no explanation: the mic drop emoji.
  • We now have an enhanced QR code reader built right in for ease of accessing grids.
  • We have hashtags to link students, topics, content, ideas, skills, or whatever we choose.
  • We have fun "props" to add to student selfies to help tell their story or enhance their image. *As an aside, I love that they won't add Snapchat filters because authenticity of student's spoken voice is too important to alter. Thanks for that one. I agree.
  • We have "stickies", which are like post-it notes, that the students can add to their screen before recording to help guide them and offer added support.
  • We have, where students (along with celebrities) can share their voices for global goals.
  • We have Flipgrid Explorers, continuing each month. The next one is Jason Osborne, a paleontologist, launching on September 18th. What an amazing opportunity to connect in this way with experts out in the real world. 
  • And......we have the ability to send private video links to parents and family members, which can then be saved or linked to others, at the family members' discretion.


All this, because Flipgrid is the kind of company that listens to each and every member of its community. From what I gathered from Co-founder Charlie Miller last night, the process goes something like this:

Flipgrid Educator: "Here's what we need for our students. Can you do this?"
Flipgrid Team: "That's a great idea. can we do this? Let's find a way."
Next day (or week) Flipgrid Team: "Thanks for asking. Here's what we created so you can do this. Can't wait to hear about it."
Flipgrid Educator: "Wow, that was fast...and amazing! Take a look at how this helped amplify student voice. Thanks!"
All Flipgrid Users: "Thanks, Flipgrid!!!" 

I can't wait to see all of the amazing ways educators and students continue to use this amazing resource in the coming year. And, according to Charlie, I imagine there will be even more powerful ways that students will connect, share and grow in the next launch in 2018.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Summer Patio PD Book #2: Lead Like a Pirate

Lead Like a Pirate (#LeadLAP). What an incredible book to read on my patio this summer. I've known authors Shelley Burgess and Beth Houf for a few years now, but had the opportunity to meet them both in person in 2016. Shelley at the incredible Summer Spark last June in Milwaukee, WI, both of them at AMLE in Atlanta, GA last October, and Shelley again later in October at SMSU here in MN. Any time I can meet up with one or more members of the #tlap (Teach Like a Pirate) crew, I seize the opportunity. Every one of them, from captain Dave Burgess, to each educator who strives to create engaging experiences for their students, is doing the important work needed to inspire educational change.
In my opinion, this book: the fifth in the "Like a PIRATE" series*, has great potential to fire up and inspire anyone in a leadership role to make school more amazing for all staff. When we focus on lifting up and supporting staff, showing appreciation for what's going right, instead of the deficit model of reaching in to fix what's wrong, there's no limit to how far we and our students can go.

Right away, I was hooked by the introduction.

Now, I'll take a minute to explain my pirating background. I proudly #tlap every chance I get. Whether with my 5th graders in elementary, or my middle school English students, I openly lived the PIRATE way (passion, immersion, rapport, ask & analyze, transformation and enthusiasm). However, something felt different when I stepped out of the classroom to take a three year position as an instructional coach. A teacher on special assignment (TOSA). A leadership role.

Back to that #LeadLAP introduction. The one that hooked me because it spoke to my feelings of being treated differently. Of no longer feeling relevant. Of becoming "one of them."

Interestingly, the more I read of this book, I was reminded that the same attributes I brought to my classroom with students, I bring to my buildings with staff. Right there in that introduction, Shelley and Beth asserted that PIRATE leaders are courageous. That they inspire and influence others to follow them. And the treasure we seek? Amazing schools for students, staff, parents and the community- schools where they WANT to be.

These dynamic authors share a wealth of ideas for creating these types of schools, no matter your unique PIRATE style. They truly emulate what it means to focus on what's really important: "raising human potential in our students, in our staff, in our parents, and in ourselves."

I love that #LeadLAP starts out by offering insights on each character trait of PIRATE, like it's predecessor, Teach Like a Pirate. There are also Leadership Challenges for each one, as well as a Compass to guide you and Cannonballs to avoid. Yes, the PIRATE theme is in full swing. But, what would I expect from a book published by Dave and Shelley?

Here are a few connections I made from the original #tlap and my time in the classroom, to this book and my new role out of the classroom-as an instructional coach.

Passion: Where I once channeled my passion into creating engaging experiences for my students, I now focus on learning the passions of the staff so I can help channel them into engagement with their students.

Immersion: Before, I would immerse myself in my students' learning, always looking for ways to be the guide on the side/guide on the ride. Now, my goals include becoming more immersed in the school culture so I can have an even greater impact.

Rapport: This one's pretty obvious. My "class" is no longer students, but the adults who work with students. Building and sustaining relationships need to be part of everything I do.

Ask & Analyze: Before, I was always looking for ways to not just teach lessons, but create experiences. I'd look ahead at content and make it relevant and engaging for the students in front of me. As a coach/leader, I need to ask questions of staff members that might lead to engaging conversations- empowering them to take risks.

Transformation: Before, it was about transforming lessons and activities into meaningful experiences, or transforming my classroom into a space that enhances learning. In this leadership role, I shift to thinking about ways to transform meetings, conferences, and trainings into something more engaging and effective.

Enthusiasm: In my classroom, enthusiasm and positivity created a place where my students wanted to be every day. As a coach, I want the staff to be excited about their learning journey, which directly impacts their students- making our school a place that everyone wants to be.

Following the PIRATE character traits section, Shelley and Beth roll out strategies to help build leadership capacity in any organization. From determining your focus, avoiding blame and harnessing the power of highlighting the magic of people (not programs), assembling a tribe that strives for greatness, and making time to support the important work. They round out that section with ideas/rationale for using social media to tell your school's story, as well as ways to PIRATE up professional development.

My favorite section (which might seem obvious) is Coach Like a Pirate. These inspiring leaders lay out a plan for ANCHOR Conversations. (Yes, another acronym.) Leaders need to be invited into the real conversations about teaching and learning, and must move away from the judgmental "fix it" mentality toward one that seeks to build on strengths. That's the only way to move each individual, and the organization/system forward. There are three goals for these conversations: for staff to see that we value them for the work they do, that they believe leaders add value/we are a resource, and the for the conversation to push their practice forward.

Here's the gist of each letter of the ANCHOR Conversation acronym.
A- Give daily messages of Appreciation
N- Notice the Impact
C- Have Collaborative Conversations (not evaluative, unless it needs to be Captain-Directed)
H- Honor Voice and Choice
O- Offer Support
R- Reflect

Finally, Part Four includes tips and strategies to help you build a better captain and become a PIRATE leader.

Not surprisingly, Shelley and Beth don't just leave you high and dry. They are here to support you on your PIRATE leader journey. Both are available via tweet (Twitter), using @burgess_shelley and @BethHouf and the hashtag #LeadLAP, You can find them in conversation each Saturday morning on the #LeadLAP Twitter chat at 9:30 am CST (the chat formerly known as #satchatwc). In addition, you can find contact information and other #LeadLAP resources on their website

I'm more excited than ever to take on this challenge to Lead Like a Pirate! I hope that, whatever leadership role you're in, you'll find this book as amazingly inspiring as I do.

*The other books in the "Like a PIRATE" series are: Teach Like a Pirate, Learn Like a Pirate, Explore Like a Pirate, and Play Like a Pirate. I have read and used all of them in my teaching. All are highly recommended, no matter what subject or age group you work with.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

#SummerPatioPD Book #1: Renegade Leadership

This is a PD book I've been wanting to read ever since it arrived at my door a while back. I'm so glad I finally cracked it open on my patio this summer.

I've known Brad Gustafson for a few years. He's an amazing principal leader here in Minnesota, and I'm proud to be part of his PLN. Check out his blog here to learn about how he is the epitome of a connected leader. I've participated in many of Brad's social media challenges, including the Squiggle (using #StuConnect) and ConnectED Bingo. I started a monthly Twitter chat called #stu2stuchat a few years ago to connect students, discussing a range of topics. Read about it's beginning in this post from early 2015. Brad also tapped into #StuConnect to do the same, and his chat exploded due to the wide reach of his social media platforms. I've watched and voted in his #30SecondTake Touchcast videos, and I even have an Augmented Reality MN Voxer shirt, where Brad used the app Aurasma to play videos of MN Voxer members when the image was scanned. Recently, I made the Final Four for my contribution to his #30SecondBookTalk challenge that he runs with Library Girl (@jenniferlegarde).

I'm no stranger to the wonders of being a connected educator. I started my Twitter journey four years ago, and have never looked back. Here's my post about lunch breaks for connected educators. Here's another one, touting the benefits of having a connected PLN. And another post about putting yourself out there and saying yes. I'm a proud member of the Teach Like a Pirate and Ditch That Textbook communities, and as you can see, my blog is titled "Going Against the Grain."

I'm no stranger to pushing the envelope and trying new and innovative ideas. However, after reading this book, I'm again reminded of the magic of connecting and living the Renegade Code. Brad calls the Renegade Code a "relevant and connected pedagogy that clearly establishes how relationships fuel four tenets in innovative schools." These tenets are Collaboration, Ownership, Digital connectivity and Experiential learning.

I am an English teacher, but on a 3 year special assignment as an Instructional Coach, so I read Brad's book from a coaching lens. Always on the lookout for ways to encourage colleagues and inspire movement towards innovative practices, here are a few of my takeaways.

  • Brad reminds readers that Renegade Leaders are intentional about celebrating people. I started a school hashtag #OrioleShoutOut to tweet the engaging learning experiences I witnessed when I visited classrooms. Brad offers many different ideas, but emphasizes the need to be authentic. My mind is spinning with other ways to celebrate and share the great work in my school and district. Maybe a back channel during staff meetings, or sharing blog posts with colleagues that relate to their professional learning goals.
  • I hope to encourage more collaboration in and out of my school. Both via teachers connecting and developing experiences with other teachers, and students connecting with other students in different parts of the country. There are so many opportunities that exist already, like the Global Read Aloud (GRA), student Twitter chats like #StuConnect and #stu2stuchat, Global Cardboard Challenge, Global School Play Day and World Read Aloud Day. Plus, there's a student pen pal group that organizes via Facebook, and many students who connect via Kidblogs or other platforms.
  • Adding more choice to my mentoring meetings with new staff will help to personalize PD. Teaming with coaches from other buildings to differentiate our offerings, trying a few breakout sessions, and possibly adding an edcamp component will better meet the needs of more staff members. Also, encouraging peers to share with each other will likely create a more collaborative environment. As Brad writes, "Isolation is one of the biggest impediments to innovation." I plan to be more intentional about offering ideas for connected PD whenever possible.
  • Like Brad mentions in the last section on activating your renegade leadership, I want to make my own learning more visible. Last year, I shared some opportunities and relevant blog posts with staff. However, I can do more to make my learning transparent by modeling, sharing, and leading with curiosity. My choice of professional development is usually not what's provided by the district, but I gravitate towards movers and shakers in the education world who have so much to offer. I need to be engaged in the "heavy lifting of new learning" as I pave the way for others.

Throughout the book, Brad includes both Real-Life Renegade Profiles (famous renegades throughout history) and Renegade Profiles of connected members of his PLN. I was honored to contribute my profile on pages 106-7. These profiles are such an important addition, and offer concrete models of people and educators exemplifying one or more components of the Renegade Code.

As I wrap up this book review, I can't leave out some of the best advice related to leadership. Brad recalled the time he was a chili cook-off judge. He said that he made the mistake of sampling every type of chili (and some more than once), because he lacked focus. When we become so enamored by by all the tools, initiatives or educational buzzwords, we run the risk of never doing anything well.

Brad's call to action asks us to explore what's even better for kids, instead of justifying why current practice is best for kids. A subtle shift in thinking, but a very impactful one.

I look forward to this upcoming school year. A year where I'll encourage more collaboration, share ideas for student ownership, provide opportunities for increased digital connectivity, and inspire experiential learning,

What are you waiting for? Start by reading this book. To connect with other renegades, follow them and share your Renegade Leadership journey, using the hashtag #RenLead. Here are a few to get you started.

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Rebel Coach: Teach Like a Pirate Edition

Well, it's been almost seven months since I started this new job as a secondary instructional coach (or TOSA-Teacher on Special Assignment). Back in January, I made a commitment through my #Oneword post to maintain RELEVANCE, despite no longer having a classroom to call my own. Then, a few weeks ago I checked my progress after the first few months of the year and identified how I was living out that commitment in my most recent post.

Now it's a month later, and we've just started the final trimester of the school year. Seems like the perfect time to begin something I've wanted to do for many months. 

How about a blog post series where each installment focuses on one book from the Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc. suite of game-changing educational resources? My goal is to show ways that coaches can encourage and support teachers to use the ideas in order to pirate up their instruction. 

It only makes sense for this first installment to focus on the book that started it all for me, and for so many others: Teach Like a Pirate.

Each installment will have the same general structure: 

  • a short synopsis of the book
  • a few words about the author
  • an idea or two that I've tried in my classroom (or ways that I've incorporated the ideas)
  • first steps that coaches can take to introduce the book/ideas to their teachers
  • strategies for bringing the ideas to a larger audience
  • Jumping in with both feet once you have buy-in
Book Synopsis: Teach Like a Pirate (#tlap)
This book offers "inspiration, practical techniques, and innovative ideas" to help teachers design a more engaging classroom for them and their students. Dave leads with the idea of drawing on your passion (P), moves into the importance of immersion (I): fully being present with your students, and then highlights ways to build rapport (R). He shares why creativity takes some hard work through asking and analyzing (A), what it takes to transform (T) your teaching and become a purple cow, and he wraps up the PIRATE message with the importance of lighting your fires of enthusiasm (E) every day. But the real treasure follows a short section on crafting engaging lessons, where Dave offers what he calls a "crash course in presentational hooks." There are 170 questions in 32 categories within 7 larger topics. They are designed to be used as teachers plan ahead for their work with students, or whenever they are looking for ways to better engage their students. 

A few words about Teach Like a Pirate author Dave Burgess:
(taken from the "About Dave" section of his website, found on this link.)
Dave Burgess is the New York Times Best Selling author of Teach Like a Pirate and co-author of P is for Pirate. He is a highly sought after keynote speaker well known for his outrageously energetic performance style and inspirational, yet practical, message.
Dave is also the president of Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc., a disruptive publishing company specializing in innovative, creative books and professional development programs designed to transform education and uplift educators to reach their full potential.

How I have used the ideas with my students:
  • When my Advisory students had Reader's Theater, they were able to rehearse and perform in different locations around our middle school wing...even the stairwell. (Safari Hook)
  • Upon entering our classroom after PE to the calming sounds of classical music, my 5th graders took off their shoes and turned on their flashlights before laying on the floor to paint on the paper taped under their desks like Michelangelo. (Mozart Hook and Picasso Hook)

  • To culminate our Circulation/Respiration Science unit, my students practiced and performed (with props) the Pump Your Blood song. (Dance and Drama Hook)
  • Since we no longer had Halloween parties, I told the students to wear pjs, bring blankets and stuffed animals and a flashlight the next day. (Teaser Hook). When they arrived, they saw that our room had been covered floor to ceiling with black plastic tablecloths, there was a roaring fire on the screen, and a simulated campfire in the middle of the room with all the desks pushed to the sides. We had Campfire reading day, complete with reading spooky stories by flashlight and writing our own scary stories. (Interior Design Hook) 
  • Another day, when students arrived, they were welcomed into the Islands of Reading, where they would add palm leaves to our trees as they finished each book they were reading. (Interior Design Hook)

First steps coaches can take to introduce this book/ideas to their teachers:
One idea is to start wearing a pirate eyepatch (ha ha) and hanging the letters of the acronym in your office or meeting area. When you're meeting with teachers, ask if they've heard of Teach Like a Pirate. If not, bring it up during your meetings with teachers. I usually have the book on hand or displayed in my office, along with my pirate flag of course.
As conversations turn toward engagement and motivating students (or a teacher complains about a lack of motivation), share a few hook ideas. I try to think of a few hooks they could incorporate in their lessons/content and work them into the conversation. Start with easier ones like Board Message Hooks, Prop Hooks or Mozart Hooks. Offer to support in their planning or even come in to help carry out their ideas. Once a week or month, email a couple of hook ideas that are specific to your teachers' content. In addition, share Dave's blog posts with your staff as he posts them (including earlier posts). I suggest sharing the PIRATE acronym at an early-in-the-year staff meeting, and then ask to talk about one or two categories of hooks at subsequent meetings throughout the year. Make yourself seen as a resource and a partner. Celebrate any and every foray into embracing their inner pirates.

Strategies for bringing the ideas to a larger audience:
Once you have a few pirates on board, find a way to share their hook ideas and experiences. Maybe it's asking to take a picture of the resulting student engagement, and posting it in the lounge. It might be joining team or department meetings to lead some brainstorming of hook ideas. Or emailing/tweeting out these hooks via a school hashtag. Ours is #OrioleShoutOut. Eventually, you may get teachers observing each other and possibly joining one of the many Twitter chats around #tlap (#tlap on Mondays at 8:00 CST, #scitlap on Wednesdays at 8:00 CST, or #sstlap on Thursdays at 8:00 CST).

How to jump in with both feet (once you've tested the waters):
One suggestion is to provide/lead a book club. Whether you have building funds or you ask teachers to purchase books on their own, set a schedule and break down the book into manageable sections (Part 1: one letter of the acronym each week, then invite participants to try an idea from each of the presentational hook categories-Part 2- in between each meeting and report back, followed by a wrap up/next steps in Part 3) Dave will often Skype or GHO with book clubs, and he will definitely show your teachers how to preheat the grill so their steaks (lessons) really sizzle. Also, look for opportunities to see Dave Burgess in action at local and other conferences. Maybe you'll even consider bringing Dave and the #tlap message to your school or district. It's definitely a life-changing experience.

Like Dave talks about in this book, teachers need to be willing to have fun with the process and not take things too seriously. This also goes for you as a coach. Start slow...don't come on too strong. Celebrate any baby steps your teachers take in their ask & analyze process towards more creativity and student engagement. Watch their reactions and try to read when they are ready for more. Just as important is asking permission to share ideas and to join their team/planning meetings. Let them know you have more resources if they need them, and always promote pirate hooks as an opportunity and not an expectation. I can almost guarantee that once they start teaching like pirates, they won't ever want to stop.

I hope you've learned a little about Teach Like a Pirate and how to coach your teachers towards using hooks to engage their students. 

Stay tuned for the next installment of The Rebel Coach, when the focus will be on gamification and Michael Matera's book, Explore Like a Pirate.

Until then...ARRRRR!

Monday, February 27, 2017

Update on my #OneWord for 2017: Relevance

At the beginning of 2017, I chose RELEVANCE as my #OneWord. Having taken a new (3 year) position as an instructional coach, and with a few months under my belt, I wanted to be sure I stayed connected. I wanted to continue to offer ideas and to learn from my PLN. I wanted to keep growing professionally, as well as share what I learned.

Now that two months have gone by, I feel the need to reflect on my progress.
Here’s what I’ve been up to (in no particular order)…

  • I coordinated a school-wide World Read Aloud Day on February 16th, with 24 author Skypes in 5 locations, connecting over 700 middle school students. I started planning and organizing early last October, and wrote a grant (thanks, District 279 Foundation) to purchase multiple copies of all the authors’ books for the students to read ahead of time.
  • I served as a MN Book Awards preliminary judge.  It felt like a dream come true to have been selected to read 16 novels in the Young Adult Literature category from October through January. On January 28th, we (my fellow judges and I) chose our top four in that category.  See all of the finalists here.  I’m looking forward to celebrating the winners with my good friend Laura at the ceremony on April 8th.
  • I shared my love of books by participating in the #30secondbooktalk competition and advancing from the sweet 16 to the final four. It was my honor to celebrate Jeff Zentner’s upcoming Goodbye Days and MN author Abby Cooper’s Sticks & Stones. Although I didn’t take home the win (and $500 for my school’s library), I enjoyed creating these videos (which included my own kids, as well as a few of my friends’ kids). Happy memories.
  • I presented two sessions at our district staff development day on January 30th One  was a choice session about teaching argument and evidence, using resources from my good friend, author Erik Palmer’s latest book, Good Thinking. The other was a session for 6th and 7th grade Social Studies teachers on the ideas (questions and signposts) from Kylene Beers and Bob Probst’s book Reading Nonfiction: Notice & Note Stances, Signposts & Strategies . During this session, I also shared sketch noting (channeling my good friend and author Matt Miller) and #booksnaps (a genius way to use the app Snapchat, from the mind of Tara Martin).
  • I planned and facilitated the opening activities for our district Middle School Experience Committee. January’s activity was Anchors of Appreciation from Lead Like a Pirate (courtesy of leaders/authors Shelley Burgess and Beth Houf). In February, we all engaged in a “What If?” activity from The Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros.
  • Speaking of The Innovator’s Mindset, I joined the 2nd round of George’s #IMMOOC  (Massive Open Online Course), which begins today. If you haven’t already signed up…go ahead and join. You’ll be glad you did.
  • I’m also in a smaller book study w/two fellow coaches as part of our professional growth plans. We’ll share our love for the ideas in this book with all of the other coaches next month. And hopefully, we can eventually share with the staff at our four other secondary buildings.
  • I presented #tlap (Teach Like a Pirate by teacher/author Dave Burgess) engagement strategies (specifically Ask & Analyze) to probationary teachers at three secondary buildings. There was even interest in starting a #tlap book study this spring. A fellow coach and I are in the planning stages. Excited!
  • Thanks to the friendship and collaboration with teacher/author Vicki Meigs-Kahlenberg , we submitted a proposal for #NCTE2017. Our hope is to share rebel resources for ELA teachers to help bring back the joy for teachers and students. Fingers crossed that our proposal will be accepted come May, and we can rock the room this November in St. Louis. It would be my 3rd consecutive NCTE presentation.
  • I’ve been fortunate to be involved in our district’s secondary Blended Learning Collaborative, led by one of our technology leaders. Last week, we learned more about Flipgrid, a site/app I’ve been using for a few years to amplify student voice. I was very impressed with the increased capabilities, and already helped get one teacher’s account up and running.
  • And just last week, I hosted #Ditchbook (a weekly Twitter chat) that encouraged participants to use results of this Bartle Test to determine students’ gamer personalities and better differentiate for increased engagement. I incorporated gamification (from author Michael Matera’s book, Explore Like a Pirate) last spring in my ELA classes, and was amazed at how it transformed my teaching.

     In addition to the above, and my instructional coach responsibilities, I have continued (and will continue) to share varied book titles with students at the schools I work at. I always find time to read books and enjoy tweeting book cover pictures and titles.
      Overall, I am pleased with my ability to remain relevant to the different PLNs and communities I’ve connected with in recent years. Revisiting this #OneWord will keep me motivated throughout the upcoming months of 2017.

I hope you click on the many hyperlinks in this post, since it’s always my pleasure to share the work and brilliance of others.

Until next time…