Sketchnote by Me

So many things stood out to me this week that it’s been hard to sit down and try to organize my thoughts enough to write a coherent blog post, but I’ll do my best. Let’s start with what I’d say is at the core of anything significant in this life- relationships.

Partners in Learning

It’s been said so much that it almost feels cliche to repeat it, but relationships really are the key to successful teaching and learning experiences. And while educators may disagree on many issues, this sentiment is one that most can agree on. In this week’s readings and videos, Fullan spoke to this when he explained how meaningful student-teacher relationships are one of the few critical elements to shifting the culture of learning in schools and districts. This made me think about how I foster meaningful relationships with students and how this has changed now that I’m an instructional coach instead of a teacher. One of the ways I try to make meaningful connections with students is by making myself visible in classrooms, at recess, and during school events. Soon I will be doing my first after school activity, which I hope will help me make more meaningful connections with the students in my new school community. And while it hasn’t happened as much as I would like yet this year, I’ve had a few great opportunities to make a guest appearance in classrooms and have received a few heartfelt tokens of appreciation from students, and that’s helped to remind me to be more present. Below is a photo of a KG student who made me a necklace during his exploration time and then asked his teacher to come with him to deliver it- my heart melts for these moments.

As mentioned earlier, much of the work I do is with teachers and administrators so these are the relationships I’ve been putting the most effort into lately. Often, this means joining in grade-level planning meetings or brainstorming ideas for upcoming projects and assessments, but sometimes it’s about taking the time to listen to a colleague and understand what challenges I might be able to help them overcome. Although this may seem like a small step, it can lead to some pretty big breakthroughs in a collaborative partnership. Once people feel heard and validated, the work you can do together is more meaningful. Today I sent an email to each grade level team thanking them for their patience with me over the last couple of months of planning for EdTechGZ and letting them know how important it is that I get to have meaningful time with them and their students. Within 3 hours of sending it, I received 9 individual emails expressing interest in scheduling a co-planning or co-teaching session. This work will help me share things that I’m learning in COETAIL and ISTE with teachers and students within my reach and then share out those experiences via the school’s intranet and social media.

Shifting the Culture

The last part of this week’s post will focus on the collective efforts of our school community to deepen learning and shift the school culture, from my own lens and perspective. Keeping in mind that I don’t have the institutional knowledge of the school’s history; I only know the last 3-4 months. There are a few shifts I see happening that I think fit nicely with Fullan’s ideas in New Pedagogies for Deep Learning about ‘helping teachers and leaders to cultivate professional capital’ at AISG. Here are some of the things I’m noticing:

  • Revamping curriculum to align with new AERO social studies and NGSS standards
  • Pineapple Chart initiative in elementary to begin sharing practice, peer observations and feed-forward loops 
  • Varied professional development opportunities for teachers to build their capacity and skillsets
  • PLC work that is helping teams develop ‘data literacy’ and plan next steps  for instruction
  • Varied community and charity events that bring educators and/or parents together to strengthen the collective capacity and lead to deeper learning opportunities