Friday, April 29, 2016

What Can Coaching Do For You?

Even though educational coaching has been around for over a decade, many school districts across the country have been slow to adopt this very powerful tool for teacher development. Momentum is starting to build as research has shown that coaching is an effective educational reform strategy.  Student achievement is directly correlated with the efficacy of their instructor; the instructor’s ability is correlated with their level of confidence with the content and learning tools (READ: 1:1 Learning Environments!), willingness to take risks, and amount of the teacher reflection.  All of these things can be improved through coaching.
But you don’t need dig into elaborate research to know what a coach can do . . .Just ask a teacher who has worked with one!  Below is feedback from teachers who have worked with a coach in the past two years.
How has transitioning to a 1:1 learning environment been facilitated by working with a coach?
  • “Knowing that there is someone there at all times to help you when you run into a technical problem helps build my confidence as a 1:1 teacher. Additionally, I have come around to the idea that 1:1 is good because the instructional coaches at my school have shown me various useful and productive ways to use technology in class without just using it for the sake of using it.“ - Kelly, Science, teaching 1-4 years
Describe how working with a coach helped your classroom to improve your use of questions or discussion in the classroom or using assessments to monitor student learning.
  • “The coach helped me create a lesson that assisted students in discussing topics talked about in class and helped create student led assessments.” - Anonymous, teaching 1-4 years
  • “Working with my coach allowed me to think of things from a different point of view. My coach has taught in so many various classroom environments and is exposed to so many new up and coming methods of instruction that it was nice to have someone with such a strong knowledge base.” - Natalie, World Languages, teaching 5-10 years
Did working with a coach allow you to break out of your comfort zone? If so, describe what happened.
  • “Yes. I completely ditched my old exam, creating a much more authentic and student driven exam.” - JoAnna, Fine Arts,,  teaching 15+ years
  • “This opportunity has allowed me to try and/or change the way I present information. I have [students] take more of an active role for their learning.”  Anonymous, World Languages, teaching 15+ years
  • “Yes. I was able to implement some reading strategies that I otherwise would not have tried as a Math teacher.” Lorena, Math, teaching 11-15 years
  • “data and assessment make me nervous, having support was really helpful” Anonymous, Fine Arts, teaching 11-15 years
A coach's role is designed to be non-evaluative. Does this increase your interest in collaborating with a coach? Why or why not?
  • “It increases my interest in collaborating. The coach is neutral, non-judgmental, but yet able to provide constructive feedback that is helpful.” Anonymous, teaching 5-10 years
  • “Yes because I don't feel as if I am being judged on what I am discussing or doing since they are here to help and not criticize.”  Anonymous, teaching 1-4 years
  • “Yes, because when I collaborate with the coach, I feel I am not being judged or evaluated on what I am or am not doing in the classroom. I am more open to feedback, as my weaknesses are not being held against me.” Anonymous, Special Education, teaching 5-10 years

What are your teachers/coaches doing for your students/staff?  

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Getting to the Core with Ted Talks

It is not a secret that I love Ted Talks.  I think my first one was Angela Duckworth's talk about grit and I was immediately hooked.    What I didn't realize is that my students were binging on them as much as I was.  With this new tool, students who were interested in a specific topic could hear from experts in the field.  Some of my AP Psychology students described how they Googled a psychology term in the book and found Talks on them.  It was a huge relief to me to no longer have to be the sole "expert in the room" (and I was no expert!).  However, this was before we were a 1:1 GAFE school so kids who didn't have the Internet at home were limited in their ability to watch the Talks.

I was working with an English Teacher this year and she described how she is going to use a few talks during her rhetoric unit.  I created this Google Document that allows students to choose their own videos, find augmentative language, and to support their ideas.  The Learning Targets listed in the beginning of the document are linked to CCSS Reading Standards 2 and 8.  I also found another Google Document created by Kenny Silva on SmartBlogs on Education.

I started to think of other applications for this Video Reflection outside of English Class.


TED has compiled some great playlists on their website and on YouTube. Some of the lists are curated by the TED team and others are done by guests, like David Blaine and Bono.  Teachers could link the playlists to their class content easily and allow students to explore on their own or direct them to a collection with a defined theme, like Alexis Ohanian's Intenet collection.

The playlists on YouTube are more general but could be used in a similar way.  I am not as a fan of this because it's not organized as neatly but YouTube is so easy to use on mobile devices it is hard to discount it all together.

For those who are looking for the curated collections that were once on Netflix, Quora did the work for you since Netflix took off all the TED content in March 2016.


Quora also had an interesting thread about why people dislike TED.  One of the primary reasons outlined in the discussion is TED can make a person feel like an expert on the topic.  The writers argue that TED talks should be a place to start not a place to end when starting to learn about information.  This reminded me of the well-planned unit on Research created by Odell Education.  Students use the playlists to Explore a Topic and find one specific detail to research more deeply.


TED presenters often present a radical idea within a branch of a larger topic.  This allows students to also compare two different viewpoints on the same topic.  Angela Duckworth's talk on Grit was featured on the Ted Radio Hour's show about Success.  The same episode also featured talks from Tony Robbins, Ron Gutman,  Mike Rowe, Alain de Botton. Each speaker presents a different claim about the definition of success and how to achieve it.  This would be a great way to explore how different authors explore a similar topic (Potential Learning Target - I can analyze how authors interpret and emphasize different evidence when presenting sources on the same topic - CCRA.R.9). Students could make a copy of the Google Form for each video source then combine a final synthesis argument.