Superhero Sidekicks Require Assists to be Successful in Techie Classrooms

As educators, we are going to get sick. We are going to experience unexpected life events. We are going to have substitutes. It’s a fact! No amount of oils, disinfectant wipes, or germ repellent will keep anyone completely safe from the fickle fate of the flu, colds, and life events. So be prepared, because your day out is coming. Hopefully it will be a fun-filled personal day and not a green, germ-filled pajama recuperating day, but regardless a day will come when the Superhero in you will hit it’s kryptonite and require a day out of school.

In the event of a day out, please remember to consider what level of technology a new to the building, or limited technology trained person should be able to navigate in your absence. Learning management systems, such as Canvas, are great, but remember your substitute will not have access and will be better prepared with access to the course via screenshots whenever possible so they don’t feel like they are driving blind. Yes, they could have a student log in and look over the kiddo’s shoulder, but we all know that would empower the student more than the substitute and that balance of power is precarious most days and doesn’t need any additional weight to create a lopsided experience.

Also when using tech with a substitute please consider leaving a plan B, if all else fails, or technical difficulties arise you, as the regular classroom teacher, know what to do and where to turn. As a brand new substitute, or an oldie but goodie, your awareness and resource availability is limited to what you are given by the classroom teacher you are replacing for the day. Remember to leave some standby plans in case things go sideways. Your substitute will be greatly appreciative as will you upon your return when you hear how smoothly things have gone in your absence.

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Technology in Transition

A new school year, a new technology director, a new technology help system, and an upgraded operating system make for transitions that can sometimes be a bit bumpy. Here’s what we know, technology and change go hand in hand. Technology NEVER stays the same by nature. While frustration and disappointment may happen when the normal lay of the land is altered, we need to model grace and failing forward for our students. If we get stressed out, forget that teaching is still teaching and can happen with or without the tech, and give in, we are modeling those reactive behaviors for our learners.

But I’ve always done this and it’s always worked before now!?! 

I get it, and the frustration. The reality is that no one can ever anticipate all of many factors that go into an update and when a district’s power users, the teachers and students, come back after a change we are bound to discover the snafus that our hardworking technicians couldn’t have predicted.

This is when the ticket system is as important as Plan B. As educators we know that the unexpected will happen. We need to plan for a child to get sick and our location to become flexible, we need to plan on inclement weather demolishing schedules, and we also need to plan for an alternate plan when the technology goes sideways.

Good teaching remains good teaching with or without the technology.  We must plan for a plan B and model flexibility, after all we can’t predict when Mother Nature will rob us of power, and we can’t predict when a projector bulb will blow, but we can do what we do best and be prepared to teach tiny humans our subject and a little about how to find success when life hands you lemons.

So, adjust your lesson, fail forward, and put in those tickets to ensure that help is on the way and patterns can be analyzed and preventative measures can be put into place to allow us to find success the next round.

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Back to School Bravos

The 2019-2020 school year is underway! It’s hard to believe two weeks have already flown by, but they have and there are many moments to celebrate in those first two. I hope everyone has been able to feel the sun upon their face over the Labor Day holiday, but more importantly I hope you took the time to take stock of all you’ve accomplished during your first two weeks back to routine and the students who adore you.

I made sure to take time to reflect on the good, great, and memorable. In fact those moments were so important to me that I felt I would be remiss if I failed to share them with each of you.

  1. We began a new year at West York. I began day 1 of year 20 of my career. I have been blessed to be in education for 20 year and some change. I still love it. Whatever year this is for you, it began and it was a blessing!
  2. We got to know one another. Some of us are brand new, others are tried and true, some shifted spots, and others just landed on the ship, but we have learned a little about one another and a lot about how our year is supposed to go. We even played some games and danced a bit.
  3. We held a transition day and allowed our new students at the middle school to sail into the year with only 6th grade and new Bulldog friends. We allowed this small subset of students to get acquainted with all faculty hands on deck. This made their first day and our first full day with all much easier and less stressful for our new kiddos.
  4. We taught students in grades 6-8 how to master their locks and lockers. There are way less locker issues this year than last and students who have it down feel empowered to help those who are still on the struggle bus. It is awesome to see them helping one another.
  5. We held a first day pep rally for us. How cool was it to celebrate 3 colleagues who had made it to 30 years in education!? I’ll most definitely shake my Bulldog blue and white pompoms to that achievement.
  6. We conquered a crowded back to school night with style and grace. We met a lot of parents, invited them to support our organizations and shared a funfilled BTSN video with our parents and students.
  7. We taught many lessons acquainting students with the BARK matrix and helping them develop building norms and expectations.
  8. We developed a first marking period Bulldog Block schedule and that will allow students in grades 6-8 to get remediation, enrichment, and club opportunities.
  9. We learned a little about our new LMS, Canvas, and began creating and exploring modules.
  10. We built relationships and made connections. We got to know students. They got to know us. We worked as a team to give them the best we have to give and we will continue to do so. We got to know our teammates and developed our working relationships.

Thank you for two wonderful weeks of growing, learning, and sharing with one another. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the year has to bring for us and our students.

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Energetic Synergy

Today I had the privilege of working with the new team of instructional coaches who will be available to support students and teachers in our building. Coaching is a tough job, especially when you go it alone. I am lucky in that I have 2 K-12 instructional tech coaching partners and now a handful of coaching partners in the building I support. It makes me do a happy dance!

As a team we are tackling our coaching philosophy, ideas, and norms we’d like to establish in our building. We are working very well as a newly established unit consisting of those who have coached, those new to coaching, and those who envision themselves as a go-to, or resource, rather than a coach.

Today we exercised flexibility and perseverance as a team. The building wasn’t available, should we have scrapped the meeting and soaked up and extra day in the sun? Perhaps, but we soldiered on and met at a local java joint and discussed our coaching book selection for the summer, created discussion questions for leadership to clarify, and decided a common landing page was a wise idea. Amazingly enough, it WASN’T the technology coach who dove into the creation of the landing page. (Proud moment for this coach!)

Even this evening, several members of this merry band of coaches are tackling their subpages and adding content to the Google Site we are launching. Our hopes are this site will be a common landing page for all things coaching and instructional resources. While simultaneously, my phone is blowing up with text messages that have made me smile all night long. I love the energy, enthusiasm, camaraderie, and synergy this team is displaying before the year has even begun.

I can’t wait to see what the year will bring and see how we can grow opportunities for our students, building, and district as we work collaboratively to support and assist instructional endeavors in classrooms across the building.

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All Hash Tagged Out

Have you ever experienced a professional development opportunity that literally shorts your circuits? I have and I’ll do anything possible to do it again. Intrigued? You should be. This experience results in contagious energy, renewed educator passions, and combustible clapping and dancing sessions. Don’t believe me… stay tuned!

#kti2019 was an amazing week for a select group of educators across PA… especially me. I love my purple peeps and the energy, synergy, and ripple effect that rolls out of this week of PD. This year didn’t fail to impress me! It is easy to be a #PAproudeducator when all around you colleagues and fellow educators engage in learning, growing, failing forward, embracing their innovative selves, and exploring what’s new and best for our students across the state of Pennsylvania. Even more amazing is this group of educators gives up an entire week of summer vacation to work so hard their brains and bodies are drained by week’s end.It was the privilege of a lifetime to be part of this crew. I have admired so many of them for years and to join the 2019 Lead Learners was nothing short of amazing.

kti family 2019 final

Ben Smith, kicked off the week’s keynotes with an amazing keynote sharing his story and path. He was candid and engaging and really intrigued our Stars and Lead Learners. I think we all learned something new about him and ourselves during our keynote.

New this summer was an opportunity to network and learn with a promising new author, John Meehan. With the launch of his book #EDrenaline Rush, Meehan agreed to attend #kti2019 to share a 2-hour gamified keynote with the Summit attendees. I have to admit that at first I was overwhelmed by the idea of a 2-hour keynote, but Meehan engaged attendees from the very start and the #EDrenaline high never wore off. Lead Learners, such as myself, were transformed into alpha-refs managing their quadrant of teams and watching attendees break-in to their own learning ENTHUSIASTICALLY! (LOL, some very enthusiastically as I received many apologies later for being aggressive with the refs.)

John lit a passion for learning amongst our attendees and blew their minds with his shared resources. The summit has been over for a week and he’s still engaging on Twitter with our #ktifamily involved in a gamified PD session on Voxer developed by a #kti2019 team. I, myself, have not put the book down. I have been highlighting, scribbling notes, and re-imagining the way I run professional development. Can anyone say badges please!?

Thursday PDE’s Matt Stem landed on our #kti2019 stage. He shared the dynamic importance of STEM and computer science education for all students across PA. He also had an awesome introduction to Robon the dancing and talking robot. He labeled our #ktifamily as influencers and we were proud to don that title!

Speaking of being hashtagged out, this year a couple of new hashtags developed in and around #kti2019 and we loved them all! #notatKTI was born. A direct result of FOMO from former Stars, #notatkti allowed former Stars and current stars to connect on pre-KTI Twitter Challenges released the month prior to Summit. An unprecedented bonding of present and incoming #ktifamily happened over a multitude of Tweets twitterpating the Lead Learners and creating a magical momentum before the Summit even began.

All this to say I am honored to have been amongst the #kti2019 Lead Learners and loved, loved, loved connecting and learning alongside all of our #kti2019 Stars and new #ktifamily members. Bucket filled, heart happy, and mind and energy revitalized! #PAproudeducator #teacherlearner

To wrap it up I leave you with this…Enjoy!

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Menu of Opportunities

The routine of an educator is very detailed and scheduled to the minutia of even syncing their bladders to the 2.2 mins they have over planning to use the restroom after dropping off students, calling a parent, copying a worksheet, and checking his/her mailbox in the office as they are gently chided by the attendance clerk for forgetting to enter the attendance for Block A once again.

A coach, on the other hand, has to adapt to a frighteningly open schedule. It is a blank canvas, that the coach will fill with the needs of his/her colleagues one appointment at a time. For a new coach this is extremely daunting. We all know, and remember well, how crazy the back to school schedules are for classroom teachers, but this is a time when teachers are building relationships, establishing norms, and getting adjusted to new expectations so coaching is usually pretty low on their list of priorities early in the year.

So what is a new coach to do during this time? Establish what you want your coaching program to look like when the educators in your building are ready for your help, develop yourself and seek out professional development on a new topic or relevant strategy for the commencing school year, and develop relationships of your own.

Establish Coaching Culture and Expectations

Meet with your administrators. Find out what their goals are for your area of expertise this year, what initiatives you can expect to be a part of, what committees they would like you to be involved in, and when you will be given opportunities to provide professional development this year and what topics are recommended.

Then set up your planner, online calendar, or appointment sheets. If you want teachers to work with you, you’ll want to have a clear system established, because if they have to chase you down to work with you it’s going to discourage them from using your services. Be sure to consult the district and building calendars to avoid conflicts and booking appointments you won’t be able to honor later.

Then create a menu of services. This menu should clearly outline the variety of things educators can do and leverage their coach to achieve during this school year. Amber Owen shared a great menu on a coaching Twitter feed today. I thought I would share it with you for a reference.

Screenshot 2019-07-16 at 9.33.24 PM

Most importantly the coach needs to establish connections with the educators, students, and administration in the building. If you want teachers to seek you out for guidance, support, and ideas you need to establish yourself as a part of the building you will be coaching in. This is especially important if you are hired to coach in a building or district you’ve never worked in prior to coaching. If you want teachers to view you as a necessary part of their instructional practice, they need to see you in their instructional setting. Try popping into rooms just to say hi and offer to assist. Check out what’s happening on different teams, and ask if any assistance from an instructional coach might be needed. Offer to relieve a teacher whose bladder is still on summer time schedule to run to the restroom and get a breath of fresh air while you interact with the students in his/her classroom.

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Coaching Advice from Coaches

This year my district is adding more instructional coaches. I am excited about the prospect, but wanted to reflect on what advice to give a coach just beginning this journey. I wrote down my own thoughts and ideas, and then I did what every good coach would do and went to my connections to gather ideas.

Taking it to Twitter

I decided to hit up Twitter with the following post:

At first the answers trickled in, then I retweeted the post and used a few hashtags that I know coaches frequent and the responses flowed with coaches eventually retweeting and adding other hashtags and tagging coaches they knew.  The resulting thread was a powerful guide for not only new coaches, but also for existing coaches to see what resources for coaching are available, what philosophies and ideas other coaches had to share, and creation of a coaching poster.

Thread Themes

Several themes became clear in this thread, with the number one being the importance of establishing and maintaining relationships as a coach. Tweeting coaches mentioned that relationships with teachers, students, administrators, staff and all other stakeholders are equally important. In fact, Tweeter Ann Baum shared the following:

The next theme that emerged quickly was the need to gather, create, and make resources that are organized and readily available to share with the educators you work with in a coaching capacity. Having resources available for teachers will help them to help themselves and build capacity in your building(s). As a single coach, it isn’t possible to be in every classroom you are needed at the same time, but resources that are conveniently located and available 24-7 will increase your impact and support even when you aren’t present.

Coach Mary Agnew shared this tweet on resource management:

The third theme that emerged clearly from this online conversation was the importance of a reciprocal relationship between educators and their coaches. A good coach has to balance their ideas with the needs of the teacher they are partnering with and listen as much, if not even more than they talk. This idea was summarized best by Coach Virginia Martin who shared:

There were many more valuable nuggets within this thread that I wish I could share… and I still might summarize them in another blog, on another day. However today I will share these top three and leave you with this poster outlining the takeaway from 18 hours of a Twitter feed, some passionate coaches, and candid conversation.

Coaching Considerations Poster

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