It is nearly impossible to welcome a new calendar year without thinking about what is to come. The pressure to set new goals, make new plans, and start anew is brought on by the constant reminders from our friends, social networks, and media of all types. Essentially, you would have to be living under a rock not to be bombarded with the expectations of setting new year resolutions. Well, this year I asked myself, what if we saw the new year's resolution craze for what it really was, an arbitrary point in time in the dead of winter that is marketed as a reset button. Upon further reflection, I believe that we are easily charmed by this idea of a 'do-over' because we fundamentally lack stick-to-itiveness for many of our challenging goals in life. I say this not as a pessimist, rather, as a realist that aims to focus on the bigger issue to actually achieve real change. After all, isn't that what we all really want in the new year, change? So to do this, I will embark on the following alternative plan of action for 2019 and suggest you do the same.Read More
Throughout an academic year, an instructional coach can find themselves going through cycles when working within professional learning communities (PLCs). When you reflect on the function of your PLC group, it is easy to see how the PLC could loose focus on the main goals. If the facilitator of the PLC doesn't recognize the need for re-calibration early enough even the most dedicated group of educators could become completely derailed and discouraged. As a result of experiencing PLC train wrecks as well as PLC success stories, I developed the following short refocusing exercise for the instructional coach or PLC facilitator to implement with a team of teachers. Every team has different dynamics, but usually, around mid-year, a very observant instructional coach could begin to notice the signs that suggest it is time for a PLC Refocus. This is simple in concept, but it requires skillful execution. If the timing is right and the approach is non-judgmental the PLC could benefit greatly. Give it a try, and share your results.
Revisiting PLC Norms
Present each question to the entire team for collaboration and ask them to share their thoughts one question at a time. Ask clarifying questions like those below to simplify the group’s responses and collect their final answers.
What will you say and do when you disagree?
What will you say and do when you are not comfortable with a concept or teaching strategy?
What will you say and do when a colleague achieves a goal?
What will you say and do when a colleague doesn’t follow the PLC Norms?
In a world of ever-increasing productivity, it is easy to feel the pressure to do more. I know many educators, including myself, have been forced to learn how to do more with less in this down economy and diminishing education budgets. I, in fact, have been reflecting more on my current realities and have been trying out different strategies for increasing my teachers' effectiveness. So far one of the most effective strategies has been helping teachers establish and follow through with a traffic light reflection. If you work in a coaching role with teachers, try these three strategies for helping increase teacher effectiveness.
1. Examine your practice. When I work with educators, I constantly try to help them make connections between their efforts and their desired results. Well, that involves two important steps: understand clearly what you are trying to achieve and recognize the actions you are taking to accomplish your goals. I believe it is essential that a coach have clarity in both before successfully helping an educator reach his goals. Basic questions like, what evidence should you see to inform you that you are reaching your goals, what would success look like for you, or what moves have you made as a result of these on to the next challenge, should become a regular part of a teacher's reflection and should be answered with clear measurable steps or actions for the coach.
2.Red Light, Yellow Light, Green Light. In everything a coach should strive to help a teacher take a structured approach toward reflection. As I mentioned earlier, it is easy to get into the routine of adding on more things to do or taking on more responsibilities. In my work I have found that more attention should be given to identifying the actions that are contributing to the goal as well as those that are not contributing. To do this I recommend using what I call a traffic light approach to reviewing action. If followed one should look at the actions that should be started - the "green light", the actions that should be continued - the "yellow light", as well as the actions that should be stopped - the "red light". I have personally found it easier to find the green and yellow light tasks that should be added or continued, while the red light tasks that need to be discontinued are sometimes less obvious.
3. Take a 30 day challenge. This step is simple. Now that you have clearly articulated the end goal and have applied a traffic light reflection to your actions, make a concerted effort to keep track of your efforts for 30 days. I have found that making this short-term goal allows you to ease into the new reflection habit while giving you enough time to measure a change in your effectiveness. With a new year right around the corner this could be a perfect fit.