For my EDTC DEL 6105 course this quarter I worked on a community engagement project, where I coached a peer to help them integrate technology into their classroom. ISTE Coaching Standard 1 Visionary Leadership states that “Technology Coaches inspire and participate in the development and implementation of a shared vision for the comprehensive integration of technology to promote excellence and support transformational change throughout the instructional environment.” Throughout the project, I had many valuable learning opportunities that helped me grow my visionary leadership and work towards meeting ISTE’s first coaching standard. Through the remainder of this blog post, I will reflect on the project and my learning.
When I first started this project and was looking for a peer to coach I didn’t know where to start. Our district had adopted two new curriculums that were being rolled out at the start of this year and many teachers were feeling the need to prioritize their time and resources towards them. However, what I learned after telling my PLC group about my EDTC 6105 project was that many of them were eager and wanting to learn how to integrate technology into a lesson and in general in their classes. It was eye-opening to me just how eager and interested they were. As our 6105 class began we started talking about the foundations of coaching. Important qualities that came up were relationships, trust, communication, and listening. I think that because I had known my PLC group for a few years and we had established a positive relationship they were more open to being coached by me. While reflecting on the project I feel grateful for the relationships I had built that allowed this collaboration. I know that one obstacle for coaches is creating this culture of collaboration. So my first take away is the importance of positive relationships.
I decided to work with one of my 3rd-grade teammates who wanted to integrate virtual field trips into her class. We set up our first meeting to discuss goals and determine next steps. This is where I learned my next 3 valuable lessons about coaching:
- Listen and ask clarifying and probing questions
- Develop a set of norms
- Develop an agenda before the meeting
At our first meeting, I asked about her goals for the project, and what she wanted to accomplish. I tried to practice listening and asking her clarifying or probing questions. This is where I got the most out of the meeting, by allowing her to talk and focusing on listening and asking questions she was able to process her thoughts and described to me that she wanted to know how to find a virtual field trips and things that would help her be successful with using them in her class. Everything was going pretty great but as were about halfway through our meeting we got interrupted by a colleague. This interruption pretty much derailed our meeting. I have learned through experience in PLC and through our EDTC 6015 class that having a set of norms and an agenda to follow can help facilitate a productive meeting. So for our next meeting, I was planning on bringing this up. I was actually a little nervous to bring up developing norms because we were so close I didn’t want it to come off as insensitive or that I thought she needed them. I was again surprised to find that she was more than willing to have norms and laughed that at our last meeting it would have been helpful. We decided to use our PLC norms since we were both familiar with them and had helped to co-develop them together. After deciding on our norms we set an agenda for the meeting which included setting up a Microsoft for education account and familiarizing ourselves with Microsoft for educations skype and virtual field trips platform. However, we ran into many issues when trying to get set up for an account and when searching for field trips. I felt like a lot of our second meeting time was used by us trying to problem solve. At the end of the meeting, I had wished that I had had time to prepare by testing out the site on my own. This would have made the meeting run more efficiently and productively. We set our next agenda at the end of this meeting and I intended to be prepared for next time.
Looking back on our first and second meeting it also reminds me that as a coach being flexible is important. I wrote a blog post earlier this quarter about encouraging a growth mindset with my peers and both meetings provided a perfect opportunity for me to model that. Being able to be flexible when problems arise, problem solve and reflect for next time is another important job that coaches have. Moving forward, being flexible or practicing a growth mindset seem like they could be important norms to establish. On the idea of being flexible, I also learned that coaches must be flexible with their time and schedules. Being a full-time teacher and trying to coach was a challenging task. However, trying to find time around my partner’s schedule as well proved to also be difficult. My partner worked on Thursdays and Fridays in 3rd grade and then on Mondays in 4th grade. She is our school’s PTA teacher liaison and a mom of 2 young children. She wore many hats and had a packed schedule. Trying to find times to meet in both of our schedules proved challenging. During the middle of this project, we had 3 weeks that went by between our meetings. This made me feel a little disengaged and drawn out. In my EDTC course, we were almost at the stage where we were supposed to coach our peers to enhance a lesson. After discussing this with her she decided that instead of continuing down the road with virtual field trips and planning a lesson around this that she preferred to enhance something that she (and we) was already doing. We decided to change course and enhance a project that was coming up: book talks.
For our final meeting, we set out to look at how we could integrate technology and enhance our book talk process. Book talks are something she and I were both familiar with and had been doing in our classrooms for the past three years. This really helped us in our meeting because we already had some resources created and a shared vision of what the project encompassed. When enhancing the lesson I let her know that my instructors had provided us some resources that could help guide us. We used the lesson improvement template to strengthen the presentation portion of the book talks.
In the past, we had always had students dress up for their presentations for the new enhanced lesson we decided that we would try to provide choice for students and use Wevideo that would allow them to still dress up if desired but also change the background and add effects that make their book talk more engaging. I think that the lesson improvement template really helped us focus on our work. We started with the standards then created an authentic task for students: “You have found an awesome book and want to share it with your fellow 3rd graders. However, they have lots of books to read and choose from. Plus, lots of people tell them about the books they are reading in class so they have a hard time remembering them all. How could you present a book talk to your peers that would get them to try out your book?”
After this was done were able to break down the benchmarks. We revised a previously used rubric into a new one which broke down the learning targets for students and allowed a spot for students to record feedback on each target. At the end, we created the lesson procedure (which ironically was like our agenda). Both my partner and I were pretty familiar with Wevideo although we talked about meeting once more to practice doing it together first then creating a procedure for students to use. At this point, we should be meeting next week to plan the Wevideo position as our students are about at this step in the project.
Lessons I learned from this final meeting was that examples and templates can be extremely helpful when working or coaching a peer. The template helped guide our work and was able to strengthen our teaching and learning. Additionally, by applying this template to a lesson we were both familiar with it allowed us to feel successful and manageable. Both she and I talked about how relieved we were to establish a common goal that was applicable to our classrooms rather than feeling like an add on or something more we had to do. I am excited to do the last portion of this project with her as it carries over into the new year. I am hoping that we can find time for reflection so that her and I can both discuss what went well and how we would change not only the lesson for next year but our process and how the coaching meetings went.