Tag Archives: coaching


In the past month I came across the #observeme trend. Just take a look at the movement on this hashtag on Twitter in the past couple months. Combined with my reading and thoughts on the necessary evolution of teacher evaluation, I became very interested in this movement.

After reading Robert Kaplinsky’s post about the topic, I decided that I would try it out. I only officially teach one class right now, so my opportunity to explore this idea is limited, but I wanted to give it a go.

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I believe that a teacher we need to model continuous learning and this is one way that we can learn and grow as educators. As a coach, if I’d like to encourage others to do this, I feel like I should probably walk the walk, and not just ask others to take on this challenge.

For a little background knowledge, this course is a required, semester long course for 6th graders. It is an opportunity for them to develop in their understanding of how to use their laptop to enhance and extend their learning. I have 23 students this semester and this is their first year being in a 1 to 1 environment, as this program starts in Grade 6 in our school.

When deciding on these goals, I thought a lot about the state of my class currently. I was concerned that a few students were requiring more one on one attention and preventing me from being able to circulate evenly among the full class. I would like to move away from whole class instruction and develop ways to move towards a more student-centered approach. Lastly, I’d like to push my students thinking beyond the superficial level of just using the computer and see what other deeper thoughts and ideas can surface.

With all that said, I created my first #observeme sign.


As I don’t believe feedback given to teachers should just tell us ‘good job’ or pat us on the back, I developed a form for observers to complete while in the room. I want to be able to analyze and reflect on the feedback myself instead of someone else determining the quality of the job I am doing.

Here’s the feedback form I initially developed for my goals.



Since this was new to my school, I emailed a few teachers and administrators that I knew might be able to make the time to come observe. I posted my goal sign on the door of the classroom and used a gift bag to hold the observation forms and hung it on the door handle.

I posted the sign for the two periods I taught during one week and was able to get six different people to join me in my class.

Here are my takeaways:

  • I need someone to help guide my reflection of the data I’ve collected. I mentioned Cognitive Coaching in previous posts, and this would be applicable here. I’m sort of staring at my data and struggling with my next step.
  • I paid a lot more attention to the things that were my goals when someone was in the room. I wonder if this changes over time if observers become a regular part of your teaching.
  • I was actually spending less time in one section of the room.
  • I do a lot of individual instruction compared to whole group instruction. I’d like to move this more towards student self-directed learning.
  • I’m still not sure if the feedback form I developed is how I want it. I suppose more thought and discussion is needed on this.

Moving forward, I think I’d like to narrow the focus to one or two goals for a few weeks at a time, but I need to find someone who could talk me through my thoughts post observations. Perhaps this could just be a colleague at my school who wants to work together on this…

Have you participated in the #observeme trend or have read about it? What do you think?

New Year, New Start

I always love the beginning of the school year.

flickr photo by big t 2000 (Tony Heussner) https://flickr.com/photos/big_t_2000/8330140003 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license


It’s awesome to work in a job that has the sense of new beginnings each year.

Because this allows each of us to recalibrate our ideas and adjust for the new year.

This provides such hope and passion in trying again.

With that being said, I’m getting my 6th year underway at the American School of Milan.

How it is, in fact, actually my 6th year is beyond me.


This year I’m taking a more relaxed approach with my coaching of teachers. I used to set goals with everyone, write them down and write out a set of actions to accomplish those goals.

Instead, this year, I simply put an open invitation out to everyone to invite me into their classrooms, even when there is no technology involved.

flickr photo by alnicol2000 https://flickr.com/photos/27870539@N07/8539454604 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC) license

I’m thinking that just being there will allow me to generate ideas that might naturally fit within the classroom and hopefully allow a more natural transformation to take place.

So, we shall see. I’m satisfied with what’s happening early on and hope that it continues moving forward. Most teachers responded to my email and I’ve been in and out of classrooms over the past week. Others need just a little more nudging and I’ll continue to encourage them foward.

The Student Tech Team is also something I’m taking on as part of my role. Last year we had the skeleton of a team, but used them primarily as presenters for our Learning2 conference. The results of that, however, were not great and basically we had a lot of chaos with a big ol’ group of teenagers, which is never pretty.

One of our Student Tech Team members during the Little Bits workshop

One of our Student Tech Team members during the Little Bits workshop

This year, there is an official application process, a quick interview and a selection of team members. We’re trying to keep our team small in an effort to help organize them and our plan for the year. I’m hoping to set the standard that being part of the tech team is kinda like having a job, with responsibilities, work that needs done and expectations to be met.

I did a fair amount of research on this topic and discovered that many schools have the tech team as an official course in their curriculum. I was really surprised by this as it requires having a teacher available to supervise each set of students in the different periods. Our school, quite simply, doesn’t have the staff for that at the moment. So we’re making the best of our situation and moving forward with a small and manageable plan for the year.

Students will be asked to submit a website/app review, podcast or tech tutorial of some kind each month. I’m planning on once monthly group meeting/training sessions, quick individual check-ins to review the work they’re doing, and optional monthly sessions of fun stuff, like learning more about the workings of computers or discovering more about 3D printing, gaming and coding. They will also work a shift or two in the Help Desk, so that they can learn the ins and outs of computer repair and customer service.

I hope this sets us up to start the year out right and find success with an awesome group of excited kids!

Do you run a successful student tech team? What are your best tips? Other suggestions we might consider?



saving our schools

I wrote this post months ago and am just now digging it out of the drafts folder…

Being a teacher today is a challenge. The diversity within each class of students is broad, the ideas of what are ‘best practices’ are seemingly limitless, and the demands of high stakes testing adds a level of pressure few are prepared to face.

Teachers are frustrated and there’s no chance they can do their best work when they feel like they’ve lost ownership of what happens each day when they step into a classroom.

But, I think I’ve been given the opportunity to see the solution.

Last summer, I completed Days 1-4 of Cognitive Coaching with Doreen Miori-Merola of Thinking Collaborative.

This methodology is designed to help teachers construct their own thoughts, reflections and planning through guided conversations with a coach.

The conversations are structured to help build reflective thinking and use that knowledge to become more effective and thoughtful in planning.

conversations. more listening. less talking.

It gives ownership of the classroom back to the teacher. When the teacher feels successful, they can attribute it to the work they have done. When the teacher identifies student growth, it can be their success. The teacher make the decisions, determined the best way to proceed and the results belong to them.

The coach is simply the guide or facilitator along the way.

The coach doesn’t provide the answers.

This concept runs in the same theory as the parable, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

The coach can be flexible in his role and switch between collaborator, consultant and evaluator as it is needed by the teacher.

During the workshop, we practiced these conversations using the maps and tried to develop our skills at both questioning and paraphrasing throughout.

I feel like I have barely dipped my toe in the water here, but I found the four days in Genoa to be eye-opening.

I consider myself to be a pretty reflective person and I am constantly seeking ways to improve my teaching and coaching.

seeking growth and wisdom.

I’ve been trying to find a more tangible way to move our teachers from the small pieces of innovation they are bringing to their classrooms to a much larger scale version of transformation and innovation in their every day approach.

I think Cognitive Coaching is the key.

And, I’m horrified to think that this program has been around for decades and we’re still fighting against standardized tests, constantly changing curriculum, fear of change and bureaucratic BS that always gets in the way.

If every teacher received the mentoring and feedback possible through coaching, I’m convinced our classrooms would be on the path to redefinition.

And that would result in more achievement from our students.

Isn’t that the whole point?

Have you had Cognitive Coaching training? How do you use it in your school and/or job?


Conversation pic from: flickr photo by ftbester https://flickr.com/photos/fbester/57958534 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-ND) license

Flower pic from:  flickr photo by daiyaan.db https://flickr.com/photos/daiyaandb/23279986094 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

Fighting the Comfort Zone

Many teachers face times in their career when they find themselves less than satisfied with the work they are doing.

This is true for me too.

I want to feel that the teachers I work with are making gains with their technology education and that the work I’m doing is leading to those successes.

And I don’t feel this way every day.

But I want to.

And I also know that I shouldn’t be so hard on myself!

We are doing great things!

Many people love finding their comfort zone and nestling down deep in it.

flickr photo by symphony of love https://flickr.com/photos/pictoquotes/16301465420 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

I love my comfort zone, but what I’ve realized is that space does not make me feel happy or fulfilled.

And I don’t know about you, but I’d much prefer to feel happy and fulfilled each day.

So I’m working on some things to continue to grow and develop my practice.

Like reading more professional books on coaching and professional development.

And trying new methods of professional development for our teachers. (We’re giving another new idea a go next week. Reflection to come!)

I’m also attempting to write here on this blog more in an effort to make my reflections on things more concrete.

I’ve been meeting regularly with my principal to discuss ideas for moving our whole elementary forward, and not just with technology.

And I’ve been looking to people I respect and rereading their blogs and following articles that they are sharing. (See some of these curated here.)

I’ve essentially had a tab open on Kim’s Always Learning blog for several weeks on end.

Here’s to fighting the comfort zone.

Who’s with me?

What do you do when you feel the ‘teacher slump’ coming on? What are other suggestions for overcoming the negative emotions that seem to bring so many down?

“The Art of Coaching”

It seems that my motivation to write on this blog regularly is seriously lacking.


But I really should  get on top of it.

So, as I wrap up my 4th year teaching internationally, I continue to try to improve my craft. I’m surveying my teachers about the work we’ve done this year. The first year I really consider myself a coach.


I’m most certainly a work in progress.

So I’m headed to a cognitive coaching workshop next week. I’m reading Elena Aguilar’s “The Art of Coaching.” 

I’ve only read Part I so far, “The Foundations of Coaching.”

But already there are some real simple, but masterful statements to reflect upon.

Here are some that I’m taking into consideration:

“Coaching can be perceived as a mysterious process, but in fact it requires intention, a plan, and a lot of practice…” p. xii

I think I need to have a little more intention and a lot more planning in what I’m doing. I feel like I’m often just rolling with things, and we might find better results if my work was developed more out of a place of intention.

“Coaching, like creating art, requires intuitive capacities, an ability to see something that is not yet- but could be- in existence, and the willingness to surrender to the process and trust that a worthwhile product will emerge.” p. xii

This is what I like about coaching and teaching, for that matter. Believing that all your work in the end will result in some meaningful difference.

Aguilar quotes her masterful coach, Leslie Plettner as saying, “No one can learn from you if you think that they suck.”

This one has really been in my head. I think I’ll print it out next year as a reminder to have a growth mindset about everyone that I work with.

In this first section, Aguilar also encourages you to settle on three core values after choosing from this list. You start with ten, narrow to five and then to three.

I settled on





These are words I hope to think about in my work next year when I start to meet with the teachers I coach and as we move throughout the year. I think this will also help bring more intention to the work we accomplish together.

Instructional Vision and Feedback

The third and fourth weeks of the MOOC, Coaching Teachers: Promoting Changes that Stick, have come and gone. With the end of the school year wrapping up, I’ve had less time to organize my thoughts around the weekly topics, but still feel it’s important to reflect on my learning.

The third week focused on the ‘Clarity of Instructional Vision’. This vision is designed to articulate what the students will be doing when the strategy is implemented and used effectively. One point that this course keeps coming back to is the idea that this process of coaching is effective when it promotes change that meaningfully impacts students. Effective coaching promotes this type of change and it makes connections between the teacher’s behaviors and decisions and the desired student behaviors and thinking.

creative commons licensed (BY-SA) flickr photo by carriezimmer: https://flickr.com/photos/carriezimmer/14358630826

Also noted in the third week’s lectures was the idea of practice and feedback being imperative in promoting teacher change. This led into the focus for week 4, quality of feedback. The Match Teacher Residency program uses a rubric they call the Kraken as the tool for planning and recording observations and coaching sessions. This tool helps coaches keep a narrow focus for the vision, which allows the teacher to focus their change energy on one piece at a time, since teaching in itself is inherently full of demands throughout the day.

The importance of keeping coaching sessions forward thinking was clearly made. We naturally might be inclined to review past observations or lessons, but only 1/3 of the time spent in a coaching session should be for past notes and thoughts. The rest of the time should be focused on the future and moving forward.

Overcoming the Fixed Mindset

It’s the end of Week 2 of the MOOC, “Coaching Teachers: Promoting Changes that Stick” and I’m anxious to share my learning from this week’s video lectures and reading.

This week focused on the “Fixed Mindset Tax” that prevents teachers from accepting critical feedback and using it to improve their practices. In one of the lecture videos, course instructor, Gunletler stipulates, “If the person you’re coaching doesn’t truly believe they are capable of making a change, you’re not going to get anywhere.”

So clearly, identifying, naming and moving past the various types of fixed mindset is important in increasing teacher effectiveness and student achievement. Without overcoming this a teacher is unlikely to improve and student achievement will not increase either.

Four types of fixed mindset were identified and named in this week’s materials. By doing this, both the coach and the teacher have a common language and can then use this information to notice and correct behaviors.

creative commons licensed (BY-NC-SA) flickr photo by deeplifequotes: https://flickr.com/photos/deeplifequotes/8997670909

The Four Horseman

1. You’re Right, I Suck- Feedback is taken personally and the coach spends time trying to validate the teacher instead of moving forward

2. You’re Wrong, I Rule- The teacher disputes the coach’s feedback and the coach must justify their thoughts.

3. Blame it on the Rain- The teacher blames problems they cannot solve on external factors.

4. Optimist without a Cause- The teacher mostly agrees with the feedback, but doesn’t express a sense of urgency about applying this new knowledge to their teaching.

I truly thought about a picture of Milli Vanilli to represent “Blame it on the Rain” but I went with this one instead…

creative commons licensed (BY-NC-SA) flickr photo by @Doug88888: https://flickr.com/photos/doug88888/6412282881

Also part of this week’s course was ‘The Snowman Effect’. The idea here is that while coaching a teacher to develop ‘skill A’ they will process and internalize the feedback, begin to implement discussed changes, but while developing the skill. Overtime the feedback will show improvement and skill A will be developed. This might take several rounds of implementation and feedback. Once skill A is acquired, the teachers have evidence that they can improve. When the teacher is ready to focus on a new skill, ‘skill B’, it will take less time to acquire the skill because it will be built on the foundation set by skill A, which helped to develop a growth mindset in the teacher. The same pattern continues with future skills.


creative commons licensed (BY) flickr photo by wwarby: https://flickr.com/photos/wwarby/3247505591

Reporting In…

Clearly, this year’s focus has not been on continuing to write and post on my CoETaIL blog. Without having the requirement of posting for class throughout the last year, I’ve been working more on my personal travel blog than this professional one. But, I don’t want to let this site go. I know that this reflection is helpful in improving my practices at school, and I want to keep learning.

With that in mind, I have continued to read through my feed in Feedly. While I don’t get through everything, I pick a few favorite authors and try to keep up with their blog posts. One of those authors is Maggie Hos-McGrane and her Tech Transformation blog. She mentioned a few weeks ago a MOOC that she had registered for and I thought it might be a good opportunity to try one of these online courses out.

The course is called Coaching Teachers: Promoting Changes that Stick and is offered through Coursera and Match Education. The course has just begun and the instructors are reporting that over 20,000 people are signed up for the course! That blows my mind. Now I realize, of course, that this number will be dramatically smaller by the end of the course. This article suggests that the percentage can be as low as 4%! Wow! But with 20,000 starting that would still be 800 people who worked their way through the course assignments in an effort to educate themselves of their own volition. I think and hope that’s worth the effort for those who offer MOOCs to the world.

creative commons licensed (BY) flickr photo by Jim Larrison: https://flickr.com/photos/larrison/8136499269

Anyways, I’ve just finished week one’s videos and readings and want to summarize my learning here. The main focus was a discussion of what effective coaching is and how it differs from good coaching. According to our instructor, Orin Gutlerner, effective coaching ‘produces lasting change in teacher behaviors that promote more learning in the classroom.’ We’ve learned that good coaching offers many ideas and lots of advice, but doesn’t have a strong framework or vision set up to work towards end goals.

They’ve developed a formula for teacher change that includes ‘clarity of instructional vision’, ‘quality of feedback’, and the ‘fixed mindset tax’. These components determine the amount of change that a teacher is able to make. Each one will be detailed in upcoming weeks, but they were described in general terms this week. Clarity of instructional vision results from clear, shared objectives between teacher and coach. Feedback should be aligned with the set vision and needs to be limited to a certain scope. The fixed mindset is the teacher’s belief that they cannot improve at a particular skill, but can vary by topic.

This is something that I need to improve upon. I’ve never been trained in coaching, and just kind of fell into this role, so I feel like using these ideas can help me move forward with my coaching techniques and translate into what I’m doing with each of the teachers that I work with. I’d like to set goals with each of them and plan a list of things that we could do to reach those goals. Then set a timeline for checking in on their progress. This would give us a better framework for my work with each teacher and, I hope, start to move my coaching from good to something that’s effective.