This week has proven to be yet another in which I have found myself in pursuit of perseverance. As I’ve been writing recently, our district is shifting its instructional coaching model from an invite-only model to a systems coaching model, which means that we no longer wait to be invited into classrooms to support teachers and student learning. We are now following the data: we will support those teams of teachers who serve groups of students with the greatest need.
When I tell non-educator friends about the shift, the common response is, “Well that just makes sense. Why would you operate on an invite-only basis?” The answer is a combination of factors: The invite-only coaching model allowed for doing the work “with” teachers rather than “to” them; it allowed for relationship-building, (you have to reach the heart before you can reach the mind), and it focused on teacher choice – they had the freedom to choose which area they would like support in.
As we shift to systems coaching, it is critical that we are crystal-clear that the shift is focused on student need, not necessarily lack of teacher efficacy. In other words, initially, the student data is driving the support. We are beginning with screener data to determine where the greatest need lies. Our support will shift and change as additional data comes in from administrative walk-through’s. Administrators will be conducting classroom walk-through’s, where they are looking for evidence of the following five high-leverage instructional practices:
FMCSD Instructional Expectations
#1 – Teachers use total participation techniques to engage a variety of learners.
#2 – Students do the majority of thinking or questioning to clarify or build on each others’ thinking.
#3 – Teachers use frequent checks for understanding to assess student learning.
FMCSD Behavioral Expectations
#1 – Staff provide positive greetings to each student each day.
#2 – Behavior expectations are established, modeled, taught and posted in all classrooms.
This is where instructional coaching comes in: we will focus on helping teachers plan for utilizing these practices in their lessons. Which is also where perseverance comes into this post. For a host of reasons, intentional planning has become a bad word with many teachers. Some bristle at the very mention of intentional planning. When asked how they plan, they point to their head and say, “It’s all here. I’ve been doing this for __ years. I know what I’m doing.”
Perseverance on the part of the instructional coaching staff will be key here. We know that we will meet this mindset with a fair amount of frequency. It would be easy to let this go, and let teachers go on their merry comfortable way, but we must take the tougher path, persevere through the inevitable tough conversations, and support teachers in being hyper-intentional with their lessons plans.
After all, this is not about adult (any adult: teacher, coach, administrator) comfort. This is very much about all students learning at high levels.
The work is tough, and will require perseverance from all. I continue to be thankful for the amazing coaching staff that I get to work with: they make the work doable, and perseverance easier to embrace.
It is perseverance that will soon lead to the establishment of an Iowa Chapter of The Reading League. I have written about this pursuit in April and June, where I’ve expressed the excitement and gratitude that I feel to be one of four founding members of this chapter. We have been meeting since January of this year, and continue to inch ever closer to becoming an official chapter, joining 29 other states in furthering the mission of The Reading League: to advance the awareness, understanding, and use of evidence-aligned reading instruction.
Our team of four met for nearly five hours yesterday, reviewing our Articles of Incorporation and hammering out our Bylaws. This work felt heavy in legalese and certainly involved perseverance. I couldn’t be more thankful for this team who make the work seem easy and perseverance easier to embrace!
Speaking of perseverance… my mom recently endured a three-hour radiation stint, which involved having to lay on a hard surface with a mask, bolted to the table, covering her face while the radiation team zapped 15 lesions on her brain. She was encouraged to break the three hours up over several days, but she insisted that she could power through in one session. And she did. Like the 77-year-old CHAMPION that she is: she did it.
I can’t say it enough: my mom is the most authentic, positive and grateful person I know. This is why others are so drawn to her, and why she continues to be the person that I strive to be, daily.