6 Questions You Have to Answer Before Scheduling PD

6 Questions You Have to Answer Before Scheduling PD

You know how you learn something that is so important that you wish that you could go back to the past so that you can do them right?

Well, I feel that way about planning professional development.  My approach has always been that ‘more is more’ and that in order for a teacher to learn to do whatever it is that I am trying to teach them, they have to know EVERYTHING and EVERY NUANCE of that thing.

What I’ve come to realize (and it’s taken me, ummm…oh, just 20 years to realize it!) is that I need to give teachers the least amount of information that I can get away with so that they can quickly carry things back to the classroom and get started.

I know it sounds weird and I’m not going to say “less is more” because I don’t mean that.  It’s not just about doing less, it’s about working on the RIGHT STUFF.  We are plagued not by inaction these days in our schools, but by too much action.  And we have to think about this as we coach.

Here are the six questions I now ask myself when I am teaching anything to any educator.  These questions help me trim the fat and give them just what they’ll need and not much more:

  1. What will trip people up? (Spend extra time on this)
  2. What are the [five] parts of the thing I’m teaching that they absolutely have to learn? (And dump the other content)
  3. What is the order that the things in #2 above should logically be taught and learned in? (So that it flows and can be easily remembered)
  4. What is the best way to learn each of the steps? Should we read about it? Model it? Practice in the training room? Watch a video? (Not every piece of content is the best fit for a stand-and-deliver training)
  5. What is the least amount of training that we can provide or get away with? (Again…cut, cut, cut!)
  6. What skills have teachers already developed that we can hook this new thing to so it doesn’t feel brand new? (Helps folks feel like it’s always something new…but an advancement in something they’re already doing)

What do you think?  How might this info help your instructional coaching team?

Quick Heads Up!

(And I get that this is quite ironic that I’m inviting you to more training after the above writing,

but you can confidently file this under “the right thing” training…see you in September!

How to Effortlessly Coach Teachers without Being Eaten Alive

How to Effortlessly Coach Teachers without Being Eaten Alive

So, let’s help our instructional leaders and coaches get over their fear of how to talk to teachers about their instruction.

I mean, our teachers are pretty reasonable and mostly on-board with the coaching work, but sometimes principals and instructional coaches tip-toe around the first conversation that jumpstarts the coaching relationship.

Here are four really simple lead-ins your team can use right now to approach any teacher.

  • “You know, as I was reviewing our school data I noticed that your department was struggling with helping the kids master the vocabulary portion of the weekly assessment.  Talk to me about that.  Did you notice that?  Why do you think that is, where can we start to work on that?”
  • “Tell me, what are the things you said you picked up from our math training on Thursday?  How can I support you in getting started on that?”
  • “I was working with the seventh grade English teachers on getting students to respond in writing to an open-ended prompt – would that be something we could work on in your English class?”
  • “Hey, I wanted to follow up with you on our last team meeting.  How is your pre-teaching of the vocabulary to the English Language Learners going?  Are you seeing improvement in their comprehension of the text?”

Notice, we aren’t being weird or springing a weird convo on a teacher like a stranger jumping out of a bush (ha!)…we’re tying it to something we’re already doing, which keeps things feeling really natural…a key to getting teachers into the idea of coaching.

What do you think?  How might this info help your instructional coaching team?

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The Most Expensive Instructional Coaching Mistake

The Most Expensive Instructional Coaching Mistake

Do you remember that Ron Popeil infomercial from a long time ago?  He demonstrated how you could put a chicken in this contraption that sat on your countertop and just “Set it and forget it?”

Well…ol’ Ron Popeil and his chicken contraption were wrong.

The reality in our curriculum and instruction world?  I see us throwing away valuable training, time and relationship away because we haven’t done a very simple button-up.  And we pay the ultimate price for it: wasting time.

So here’s my simple answer when I’m asked: What do I do when a teacher has been coached in a skill and yet when I get back into the classroom, they’ve stopped using the skill?

I think that sometimes coaches take this personally – after all, everyone has put a lot of time in effort in coaching and learning a new/updated skill!  But, I find that when I ask myself these three questions, I can usually get to the root of why that’s happened…and, more importantly, I can fix it with the teacher:

  1. Did I break the steps of the skill down to the –nth degree or was the skills we were working on really like five skills rolled up into one?
  2. Did the teacher understand what I wanted him to do? (And a nod of the head isn’t a confirmation…the teacher should be able to fully explain what you want him to do in his own words – make sure to weave this into your debriefing each time!)
  3. Did the teacher simply forget to keep doing it and do we need to add some sort of note on his desk or in his lesson plan book so that it doesn’t get lost in the shuffle any longer? (Teachers have lots to remember and can simply forget. It happens to all of us!)

These three questions are the antidote to forgetting a coached skill or falling back into old practice.  And they really help to get the coaching and teaching back on track.

The most important thing is to avoid going straight to the line of the thinking that the teacher is stopping the practice on purpose.  By digging just a bit deeper through the questions, you’ll find an even more efficient way to work with a teacher…and it doesn’t have to affect your relationship one bit!

What do you think?  How might this info help your instructional coaching team?

If you liked this blog post, then I bet you’d like this!

Advice to Instructional Coaches And Principals Who Can’t Seem To Get Started

Advice to Instructional Coaches And Principals Who Can’t Seem To Get Started

One of things that gets in the way of instructional coaches and principals getting into the classrooms and getting into the nitty gritty of teaching is that they are struggling with getting everyone excited about coaching.  Let’s just say that a lot of strong opinions emerge when we start talking about getting into classrooms and reflecting on the teaching. Right?

  • Some people think they don’t need coaching…
  • Some teachers think they are beyond it…
  • Some teachers are afraid of looking inadequate…
  • Some teachers are rarin’ to go…
  • Some are just waiting for retirement and hope you’ll mosey on by their classroom door…

BUT I have discovered the only way that we work quickly through this apprehension and dragging of the feet: setting the expectation that everyone gets coached.  It really clears the stage of all of the hemming and hawing we see…

Watch this 1-minute clip on my best advice:

What do you think?  How might this info help your instructional coaching team?

 

If you like this blog post, then I bet you’d like this!

{American Ninja Warrior}  Long Story Short…

{American Ninja Warrior} Long Story Short…

My team & I had a great week, check it out…

  • We are SUPER excited to sign up two new sites for the coaches & principals training September 5 & 6:
    • Rapides Parish School District, the 8th largest school district in Louisiana!
    • Calhoun ISD, a great district in Michigan looking to develop 25 coaches & principals!
  • I continue to tweak the How to Coach Teachers to Teach (Almost) Anything content to bring you a dynamic telecast event.  (No easy task!)
  • We streamlined some of our marketing stuff this week, in order to simplify the decision making for our Curriculum Directors, Principals & Assistant Superintendents!
  • American Ninja Warrior Update (you can thank me later)…How about that Sandy Zimmerman!?!?!  42 year old mom of 3, Physical Education Teacher…hit the buzzer!  Go Ninja Teachers….
How Do I Get My Teachers to See Me As Coach, Not Just Administrator?

How Do I Get My Teachers to See Me As Coach, Not Just Administrator?

I was speaking to a group of administrators last week in Chicago and I got to do one of my most favorite things during the “off” times: just sit and chit chat with people!  I think I end up learning so much by just listening to what principals are asking and what they are struggling with.  One of the question that came up was, “How do I get my teachers to see me as a coach hem in times when I am not their evaluator?”

My answer to the guys I was talking to was this: you can’t.

I am not even sure that that’s even what we want to do, really.  I mean they always need to see you as the administrator and evaluator, so you don’t want to confuse people by changing your role.  But what I think we are really asking in this case is how do I approach my teachers in a way that allows them to be open about improving their teaching?

Here are a few of the things that I shared with the administrators at my table.  Note: They’re small moves, but make a big impact on teachers and help them to feel more comfortable with us as we give feedback:

  1. Tell teachers that you will always be their administrator, but there are times you will be working in collaboration with them about the quality of their teaching and that this will look a lot like coaching
  2. Determine a structure for your coaching that is not the same as the evaluation form or process
  3. Tell the teacher that you will provide feedback to them and suggest things they need to change, but that you are not officially documenting this in their file
  4. Just be trustworthy and keep your word…if you say you’re not going to officially document, then don’t!  If you say that you’re going to show up at 2:40 for an observation, then do! (Trust is so simply built, really!)

If you liked this blog post, then I bet you’ll love this, too!