It feels like we’ve had a breakthrough as an instructional coaching staff this week. (Here comes the sun!) We spent a great deal of time collaborating to arrive at common tools and language for our coaching work. More importantly, we focused on how we will move forward leading as a team, letting data drive our work. We have laid the groundwork for a better way of measuring our impact.
I’m going to lean heavily on a 10-21-23 email from George Couros to organize my thoughts today. Couros has taken on a format of organizing his weekly emails by 3 big ideas. I appreciate this organization, and not only will borrow it for today’s blogpost, but will also borrow the three ideas he focused on this week. This week, Couros shared three insights from the book, The Seven Decisions: Understanding the Keys to Personal Success” by Andy Andrews.
Big Idea #1/Quote 1 (From George Couros 10-21-23 email):
“Overcoming obstacles, setbacks, and pitfalls is a requirement for navigating your path to greatness. You must be aware of the potential challenges that lie ahead—otherwise, you’ll be sabotaged and blindsided throughout your journey. Your first obstacles are within: fear and doubt. The secondary obstacles are the ones outside of you: other people and their criticism, doubts, weird looks, and rolling eyes.“
I’ve experienced many setbacks this fall, but I continue to work through each obstacle, perceived or real. My very real obstacles are most definitely those “within”: fear and doubt. My perceived, or “secondary” obstacles are outside of my control, so I need to continue to decide how to respond to them. This has been made exponentially easier because of my colleagues.
I pay great heed to the statement, “You must be aware of the potential challenges that lie ahead-otherwise you’ll be sabotaged and blindsided throughout your journey.” So, so true. My version of this statement: “Expect the best and prepare for the worst.” There are many challenges that lie ahead in this school year. Predicting potential challenges will help to be proactive in dealing with them.
We have a tough row to hoe moving forward this school year, as our administrative staff asks educators to rethink how they do business. The instructional coaching staff will support teachers with intentionally planning for instruction, using five high-impact strategies (mentioned in last week’s post). For some, this would mean a major shift; for others, not so much.
It’s been surprising to learn how far some have shifted away from lesson planning. Instead of taking time to strategically plan units and lessons, teachers are relying on pre-prepared slide decks, teacher manuals that are opened the day of the lesson, or prefilled pacing calendars, which give a general overview of lessons to be taught. There are a host of reasons why this shift has occurred, but again, in a solution-oriented mindset, my mind goes to a quote by the amazing Dr. Anita Archer: “How well you teach equals how well they learn.” To which I would add, “How well you plan equals how well you teach.”
My thoughts are organized differently than Andrews’ and Couros’ thoughts, so I’m placing Quote #3 from Couros’ post before Quote #2.
It’s so darn easy to get caught in the trap of talking about all of the problems that come with education. Problems abound in our world. But so do solutions, and the problems lessen when we are careful about where we spend our energy.
Just last week, I sat with a table of teachers who were “collaborating.” What quickly unfolded was a game of one-ups-manship. “You have 4 students who aren’t proficient? Hah! We have 10. And we can’t even keep students from running out of our classrooms.” On and on it went until I finally said, “Hey guys, we’ve got to move forward with solutions. The conversation needs to shift.”
My comments weren’t well received and were met with eye rolls (my perception), but it had to be said. I completely get the need to vent. It’s just hard to wrap my mind around taking the precious few minutes we have for team collaboration and spending them on venting, focusing on things outside of our control. The biggest complaint teachers share is that there is not enough time. Yet when given time for collaboration and planning, it is spent on complaining.
We have a tough row to hoe, but will overcome with our collaborative spirit.
Speaking of a tough row to hoe, my mom’s cancer, diagnosed as Stage 4 melanoma a year ago, has found its way into her brain. She’s had a week of appointments in Iowa City, learning that the cancer that has wreaked havoc on her body has spread. Her team of doctors have reason to think that she has 15 – 30 lesions on her brain. A treatment plan is in place, and her resolve remains in tact. She’s not ready to quit.
It is her positive spirit, strong resolve, and unwavering sense of humor that will make this journey bearable for all. Quite honestly, the fact that Mom is alive and well, a year after her devastating diagnosis, is both surprising and reaffirming.
Which brings me to Quote #2 from Couros’s email:
Big Idea #3/Quote 2:
“Sometimes, in the midst of our challenges, it’s easy to forget to express our gratitude to these people, to say, “Hello,” or “Please,” or “Thank you.” Because we’re so preoccupied, we don’t congratulate each other or ask if anything difficult is happening in their lives. We don’t compliment each other or commit random acts of kindness. It’s amazing how, when you condition yourself to have a grateful spirit, you will find yourself expressing gratitude and multiplying that feeling in your life.”
My mom remains the most authentic and grateful person I know. She always has been. The cancer diagnosis hasn’t changed that one bit. We have a tough row to hoe, but will overcome with a grateful spirit.