Being Connected: Shared Moments of Joy

 ozbee

Have you ever seen a new mama cat with her kitties?

Ever since those kitties were born, I’ve been thinking a lot about how I find such joy in the joy of others.  What a gift to feel connected with others and have the opportunity to share in their experiences of joy.

My heart smiles when

… Ozbee purrs contentedly, her paw reaching out to snuggle in a kitty whom I’ve had the chance to admire up close.

… Curtis sends me pictures of our recently-acquired farm equipment and notes with pride that we might be catching up.

… Clayton recounts the story of how the head coach of an excellent football camp recognized him at practice.

… Anthony reads me excerpts from Calvin and Hobbes, chortling (and yes, that’s the best word) over how crazy they are. (“I’m inferring that, Mom!”)

… Buddy  rips around in the field after gophers and then lays peacefully in the cool grass to have a snooze.

… Amy sends me photos of our baby nephew and their new house.

I hear the good news of home renos being tackled, of a young man I know being drafted into the WHL, of enjoying a moment under a beer cloud with good friends…I am so grateful to be connected and for the joy that brings.

When I coach, it is a process of becoming connected with others.  It’s a connection that evolves and can be transformative.  I am a small part of something very significant, like a drop of water that makes its way to the ocean.

As a coach, my heart smiles when colleagues

… take an idea and run with it.

… experiment with what they know.

… honestly reflect and keep reflecting.

… see me after our time working together and excitedly say, “Dubiel! I have got to tell you what we’ve been up to!”

Catching these glimpses of joy in the vastness of my world is helping me to stay connected and grounded and thankful.

What might be the little moments of other’s joy that make you smile?

buddy   harrowing

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Continuing to Discover my Literate Life

I am constantly discovering and rediscovering my literate life.

This was one of many revelations that I have had so far at the Summer Literacy Institute (#wsi2015) in Warman, Saskatchewan.  I have had the opportunity to listen to the keynote addresses of: Debbie Miller, author of Reading With Meaning (amongst several other pivotal texts on literacy) and Patrick Allen, classroom teacher and author of Conferring: The Keystone of Reader’s Workshop (and other pivotal texts on literacy).  Tomorrow, we get to hear from Penny Kittle, classroom teacher and author of Book Love: Developing Depth, Stamina, and Passion in Adolescent Readers (again, among other pivotal texts on literacy).

Today, we talked about rediscovering reading and supporting students in building their literate lives by modelling ours.  How might we be nudging the reading identity of our learners by visibly living our literate identities?

Patrick encouraged us to try lifting a line from a thoughtful piece of writing by Rick Reilly (2014) called “Heading for Home”.  I totally recommend reading this thoughtful reflection by a man who’s journey through life was influenced by so many.

Basically, I was nudged.  As a reader and a writer.  It’s amazing what a good story can do for a person.

That said, I felt like sharing, making my literate life visible (at least for you).  So, thank you Rick Reilly and Patrick Allen for this nudge.  Here’s my attempt at a ten minute write.  Take it as you will.

“From them, I learned service.” – Rick Reilly

From her, I learned service.  She cared for my great grandmother, my grandfather, my great uncle, and countless neighbours, family members, and friends.  She was always a nurse.

From her, I learned grit.  She married for her children, worked full time, raised three kids, divorced, and held her head high.  She was a matron.  She took my mom for accordion lessons once a week for many years with a 40- minutes-one-way commute.  She knew how to work hard, and how to do this for others.

From her, I learned generousity.  She baked, made preserves, cooked meals, volunteered, visited the elderly (when she was elderly), wrote letters, gave thanks, gave cash, all without a second thought.  She just gave.

From her, I learned love.  She wasn’t going to take chemo, but did so to meet our unborn child.  We felt that love and were so thankful for it.

It was a privilege to be her granddaughter.  To reap the rewards of her generousity, service, grit, and compassion.  She is why I have an undergraduate degree.  Why I had my first car.  Why I love to bake pies.  Why my children pray.  Why I plant potatoes and try to can fruit.

She was better to me and to so many others than we probably deserved.  I live my life thinking of her in unexpected ways.  I know she’s smiling at me, telling me to forgive myself or just to let some things go.

How might you be making your literate life visible and honouring your stories that deserve to be told?

 

 

 

‘Hibernation’ was refreshing…it’s almost on to ‘spring’

One of many animals that hibernate...we've got tons of gophers here at the farm.

One of many animals that hibernate…we’ve got tons of gophers here at the farm.

I’m alive!

Seriously, though, even I could hear the cricket chirps coming from this blog.

I have been in a continuous cycle of writing and reflecting, but only a select group of people and I have been privy to my writing.  My master’s classes in Professional Development are nearing completion (only seven weeks to go!) and I feel like… a gopher, maybe (otherwise known as a Richardson Ground Squirrel).

The analogy begins with any hibernating animal.  Why hibernation?  For these animals, it’s a matter of survival.

  • weather changes are drastic
  • food is scarce

Check out 10 Animals That Hibernate if you’re curious.

I am like a wood frog.  My heart (for teaching) has in some ways gone back into action following this university hibernation.

I am like a deer mouse.  Their hibernation is called torpor, where they hibernate during the day with other deer mice and spend their nights in their regular pursuits.  My university hibernation had a reverse schedule.

I am like a gopher.  They apparently have awesome tunnels built with all the amenities (including bathrooms) and are said to go into hibernation “as a response to a change in their blood” (Conservation Institute, 2015).  I have spent many an hour studying in the comfy chair by our wood-burning fireplace.  And I felt compelled to do this work in order to do my coaching well.

This bear looks well-rested.

This bear looks well-rested.

I am like a bear.  Their hibernation is also more like a torpor, and they are easily woken.  During my university torpor, I was constantly being awakened to connections between my coaching and my course work.  I was able to focus on both because each helped the other.

Like all of these animals, I focused on the essentials during my university hibernation or torpor.  I worked hard.  I cared for our family.  I read. I wrote.  I slept.  And I did it all over and over again for the past 18 months.  No room for extras, like blogging.

Spring is springing around here, friends.  I’m feeling it.

And I can’t wait to move from this life-giving survival period into the new spring of my life.

Action Research on Instructional Coaching, Blog Entry One

Okay, my friends.  I began an inquiry as part of my master’s program, but it’s more than just doing a project.  Here’s the introduction to my action research plan:

Dana & Yendol-Hoppey (2009) noted, “As teachers engage in the process of inquiry, their thinking and reflection are made public for discussion, sharing, debate, and purposeful educative conversation, and teaching becomes less isolated and overwhelming” (p. 12).  As the only instructional coach in our school division, action research has become an intentional reflection to consider the impact of my work with colleagues on their individual growth, as well as the growth and success of students.  This inquiry will be an opportunity to look back at my past coaching opportunities, at present implementations of instruction and learning I may have influenced through coaching, and reflect on next-steps for the future.  Investigating the success or struggles others have had in their coaching roles through an analysis of literature will further serve to refine my wondering.  Ultimately, the goal is to build self-efficacy as an instructional coach by engaging in inquiry around the lasting influence of coaching on classroom instruction and learning.

The more I got thinking about all my combined teaching experiences and my most-recent experiences as a coach, the more I wanted to know about the lasting or long-term impact of coaching cycles on current instructional practices and student learning.  I did a literature review and discovered

The literature on coaching emphasized that coaching effects change.  Defining the roles of coaches can enable in-school administrators to provide more support to coaching, which is seen as an invaluable part of school professional learning and student success (Dean et. al., 2012).  Coaching is multi-faceted and facilitates professional learning, but the most successful interactions are founded on mutually-respectful relationships (Smith, 2012).  The greatest observed changes in instruction and learning resulted less from professional development removed from the school and more from focused, personally-meaningful, individual coaching cycles in which comfort with instructional practices developed (Gross, 2010; Richards & Skolitz, 2009).

Ultimately, after much consideration with critical friends and really reflecting on what it is I was wondering about, I came up with the following two-part action research question:

What impact have individual coaching cycles had on instruction and learning?  What trends might I discover that will inform future coaching cycle decision making?

I have started by looking back through my Cognitive Coaching Seminars (R) Foundation Training Learning Guide (Costa & Garmston, 2013).  I have several pages of notes scribbled on a note pad, but I have synthesized the key pieces as they might connect best with my wonderings:

1.  “The relationship presumed by Cognitive Coaching (SM) is that teaching is a professional act and that coaches support teachers in becoming more resourceful” (p. 6)

  • it’s not about changing behaviours or giving advice; it’s about developing resourcefulness
  • could the intention and purpose of the “Four Support Functions” (p. 15)  (coach, consult, collaborate, and evaluate) guide a data collection sheet?
  • see blog entry “Be the coach, not the horse”
  • in the Cognitive Coaching process, I am looking for Observable Behaviours and Enhanced Performance

2.  Holonomy = ” the science or study of wholeness; simultaneously part and whole” (p. 20)

  • we can be independent beings that function within larger, necessary support systems (much like the human heart in a body) (p. 22)
  • developing holonomy means:
    • “support people in becoming independent and self-actualizing” (p. 23)… “they will be reflective, using self-coaching inner thought processes – voluntarily and spontaneously – without the need for the coach’s interventions” (p. 23)
    • function interdependently in school (p. 23)
    • learn on own and with others
  • build resourcefulness in the Five States of Mind – efficacy, flexibility, craftsmanship, consciousness, and interdependence
  • how might the Five States of Mind p. 25 – 26 contribute to my data collection plan OR data analysis??? Hmm…

3.  Five States of Mind

  • Consciousness – focused, concentrate on reaching goal
  • Craftsmanship – “seek precision, mastery, refinement and specificity” (p. 28)
  • Efficacy – “They are able to operationalize concepts and translate them into deliberate actions while establishing feedback spirals and continuing to learn how to learn” (p. 28) This is my favourite!
  • Flexibility – seeing diverse perspectives, “open and comfortable with ambiguity; create and seek novel approaches;…have the capacity to change their minds as they receive additional data” (p. 28)
  • Interdependence – “contribute to a common good, seek collegiality, and draw on the resources of others” (p. 29)

4.  “The success of an intervention depends on the inner condition of the intervener.  That’s far more important than techniques or strategies for change.” O’Brian, 1991, p. 34

5.  Results of Being a Mediator of Thinking

  • knowledge structures “can be altered to accommodate new understandings, or they can be made obsolete because some new experience has caused the creation of a new knowledge structure” (p. 34) Need to consider what we originally targeted, evidence of these targets, AND non-targets or new evidence of efficacy. Will I know when I see it?  Is it up to me, as a non-evaluator?
  • There were points made about relational trust as well, ie.  creating a culture of learning.  “Efficacy is more likely in schools with greater trust among teacher colleagues.” (p. 39)

6.  Four Support Functions

  • “When beginning with coaching [default support function], the coach learns what other support function might be necessary and gains information about what s/he might say when navigating to a different support function. … If the person being coached has no ideas, then the coach can move into consulting, knowing that the ‘well is dry'” (p. 42)
  • coach, collaborate (equals in achieving a goal), consult (share expertise), and evaluate (not me!)

 

Now, according to my timeline, I need to take a closer look at building rapport.  I have done a blog post on that exact topic and will use it.  I still need to complete a review of my previous field notes and create a data collection sheet.  This review is likely going to clarify my questions in “Results of Being a Mediator of Thinking”.

I would very much appreciate any and all feedback on this blog post.  As my critical friends, what might you be noticing about coaching?  What qualitative data might I be looking for in my colleagues’ classrooms?

References:

Costa, A. and Garmston, R. (2013). Cognitive Coaching Seminars ® Foundation Training Learning Guide (9th ed.).  Sacramento, CA: Thinking Collaborative.

Dana, N. F., & Yendol-Hoppey, D. (2009). The reflective educator’s guide to classroom research: Learning to teach and teaching to learn through practitioner inquiry (Laureate Education, Inc., custom ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Dean, M., Dyal, A., Wright, J., Carpenter, L., and Austin, S. (2012).  Principals’ Perceptions of the Effectiveness and Necessity of Reading Coaches within Elementary Schools.  In Reading Improvement 49 (2), p. 38 – 51.

Gross, P. (2010).  Not Another Trend: Secondary-Level Literacy Coaching. In Clearing House: A Journal of Educational Issues, Strategies, and Ideas 83 (4), p. 133 – 137.

Horwitz, J., Bradley, J., and Hoy, L. (2011).  Identity Crisis: External Coaches Struggle to Clarify Roles and Maintain Focus on Student Learning.  In Journal of Staff Development 32 (1), p. 30 – 32.

Richards, J. and Skolits, G. (2009).  Sustaining Instructional Change: The Impact of Professional Development on Teacher Adoption of a New Instructional Strategy.  In Research in the Schools 16 (2), p. 41 – 58.

Smith, A. (2012).   Middle Grades Literacy Coaching from the Coach’s Perspective.  In Research in Middle Level Education 35 (5), p. 1 – 16.

Seeing through the sound: watching and listening

Dad and Clay making a bow and arrow this summer at camp.

Dad and Clay making a bow and arrow this summer at camp.

My dad recently ended up in the emergency room because of pancreatitis.  He had his gall bladder removed some time ago after some rather difficult bouts with stones and such.  However, as his MD put it, there may still be some sludge and your liver is still making bile.

Mom took him in twice.  The first time, he had a lot of miserable physical symptoms that were pre-empted by a surliness that is super uncharacteristic for my dad.  When he feels tough, you can see through the sound.  He quits humming.  He mumbles under his breath.  He’s short tempered.  And this is coming from a whistle-a-tune, “howdy, how are ya?”, patience-of-Job kind of guy.  Over the years, my mom has learned to see through the sound.

And so they went to the hospital.  He had a very uncomfortable procedure (you know, the kind where you can’t pronounce the words so it’s an acronym), was give pain medication, and finally rested.  He was discharged the following evening, only to return in the middle of the night.  Mom heard him showering at 2:30 a.m.  She could see through the sound what was coming.  And by three, my poor dad was asking to go back to the hospital.

We Skyped with them yesterday, and it was lovely to see my dad’s smiling face and to hear his laugh when he talked with our boys.  I watched and listened while my boys visited with Grandpa.  My youngest son spoke first while my eldest watched.  And listened.  And I’m pretty sure that he could see through the sound of Grandpa’s raspy throat.

This has all gotten me thinking about how in tune I am to my family.  But, how am I “seeing through the sound” when it comes to coaching and my colleagues?  September is a cacophony of sound!  And as I am watching newbies and veterans alike saying yes to more and more and expressing their busy-ness, I am wondering how taking a close looking and really “seeing through the sound” might help me to support them in their work.

I see more clearly through the sound of my trusted friends’ thoughtful conversations and reflections.  It’s harder work to see through the sound of poor yields and break downs at the farm, but I can still watch and listen and notice the passion that’s in my husband’s heart for our farm.  Watching and being mindful of the nuances is just as important as listening to the words.

I am going to be so much more mindful of seeing through the sound… of noticing the bigger picture that subtle clues can help to make.  I need to be more in tune to, for lack of a better descriptor, the background noise that surrounds teachers and how it impacts their work.

Strangely enough, like millions of times before, my dad has brought me insight without even realizing he’s done it.  He’s an amazing man with an inflamed pancreas.  Of note, my mom has reported that he’s much better today.  She could tell because, “He’s even humming a little.”

It’s amazing what you can see through the sound.

Related Articles:

Body Language: Understanding Non-Verbal Communication – Mind Tools

Ignoring the Background Noise When You Are Overwhelmed – Time Management Ninja

A World Made of Ambient Sounds – Ambient Mixer

 

That (enthusiastic) voice in the crowd…

Cousin Andy, my mom, my dad, and Clay, ready for his first football game.

Cousin Andy, my mom, my dad, and Clay, ready for his first football game.

The idea for this post began with my mom turning to me and saying, “I’m not embarrassing you, am I?”

Her enthusiastic cheering and championing is the stuff of legends!  Well, okay.  Maybe not legends, but worthy of a reflection on why being that enthusiastic voice in the crowd is something worthwhile and too often quelled.

When we were kids, Mom attended as many of our functions/performances/events as possible.  She clapped.  She cheered.  She congratulated and hugged and smiled and made us feel like stars.

Perhaps this sounds familiar.  But the best thing about my mom’s voice in the crowd is that it has never wavered.  During middle and high school drama productions, our friends would ask, “Is your mom going to be here tonight?  I love it when she laughs.”  At my graduation, she stood up clapping, my own personal ovation, and shouted, “Way to go, Rob!”  At my convocation, much the same thing.

When we watch the Riders play football, you’d think she was coaching.  She yells and cheers and does the happy dance.  She commented today that she could do the ‘Gainer’ job (the team mascot).

And today… we were at our 10 year old’s second football game of the year.  The first became another exhibition of my mom’s enthusiastic cheering and support.  Today was much the same!  She gets so invested and is so loyal.  She wants the kids to succeed.  At one point, while being her wonderful exuberant self, she turned and said, “I’m not embarrassing you, am I?”

I’ll admit that once, a long time ago, I could have melted into the floor with some of my mom’s actions.  But not any more.  I’ve realized what a great example she’s set for me in enthusiasm, loyalty, bravery, and being yourself (even if it might not be ‘cool’).  I know that this has been an important part of who I am as a parent, wife, friend, and teacher.  It’s a big part of my work with others, and I can’t believe it ever crossed my mind that being positively and vocally enthusiastic for the success of others was ever embarrassing.  In fact, I’m embarrassed that I ever made her think that it was.

So, in answer to your question, Mom, I want to say thank you…for being the voice in the crowd, the signal of hope and encouragement.  Keep on inspiring and supporting in the wonderful, vocal way that you do.

I wouldn’t be me without it.

Technology, Leadership, and Differentiation: #LeadershipDay2014

Leadership Day 2014

“Successful leaders understand that if they want to improve, they have to be willing to keep growing and changing. … invest their time, energy, money, and thinking into growing others as leaders.” (Maxwell, 2013, p. 97).  Two important pieces here: 1) self-efficacy; and 2) supporting efficacy in others.  How do administrators build their own efficacy with technology when they are tasked with building the (technological) efficacy of those around them?

The first step from tech “newbi” to tech “natural” is taking the step.  Purposefully.  Even if it’s small.  Your toe in the pond that is 21st century learning will cause a ripple that others will notice.

I recently took a class on Differentiated Instruction, and we were asked to reflect on research-based practices that support success.  I choose integration of technology.  We were to consider guidelines for success, on-line resources for further exploration, and make the connection between tech and DI.  When @ecsaibel suggested that I contribute to #leadershipday2014, I took a closer look at some of the question prompts, and I figure that my discussion post would be a great ‘first step’ or ‘toe in the technology pond’ for some administrators.  The original discussion post is as follows:

I have chosen to take a closer look at the integration of technology in instruction.  Much like Tomlinson (1999) described as some instructional strategies being applied shallowly, I often feel that my integration of technology is falling short because it lacks depth.  I found a great article online at entitled “Infusing Technology into the Balanced Literacy Classroom” (Shettel & Bower, 2013) that considers how technology is being used in classrooms, particularly at three levels: technology as a novelty, technology as a necessity, and technology as natural.

Shettel & Bower (2014) begin by recognizing the changes in the world of education over the last 20 years – from No Child Left Behind to Common Core State Standards implementation – that would have put the role of technology (alongside great teaching) in a lesser spotlight.  However, they recognize the importance of 21st century skills and how “Technological, Pedagogical, and Content Knowledge [TPACK model] are all interrelated with the effectiveness of the classroom teacher” (Shettel & Bower, 2013, p. 4). So, one of the first guidelines I would suggest is for teachers to look at their technological proficiency on a continuum that may include one or a combination of the following (Shettel & Bower, 2013):

  1. Technology as a Novelty
  • Using your SMART or interactive whiteboard to replace the overhead
  • Games as a reward
  • Reliance on school division/district for PD
  • Lots of teacher control
  • “…it is a first step, a starting platform for learning a new tool or device” (p. 5)

 

  1. Technology as a Necessity
  • Less traditional and more technological tools
  • Focus is on the tool, not so much the content; tools are explicitly taught
  • Students may be the “TechSperts” (p. 6)

 

  1. Technology as Natural
  • “…the teacher understands that it is always the learning that must come first, and that the tools are just one possible way to achieve the learning goals” (p. 7)
  • Teacher is a learner alongside digital natives
  • Part of formative instruction and assessment

Considering the different levels on the technology proficiency continuum, I would recommend the following online resources:

Novelty – check out the article 12 Easy Ways to Use Technology in the Classroom, Even for Technophobic Teachers (Haynes, 2014) that gives suggestions of places to possibly start, if you’re a beginner.

Necessity – find out ways to advance student achievement through technology at www.cue.org.  There are a bunch of ideas for Ed Tech professional development.

Natural – Shettel & Bower (2013) evolved “Bring Your Own Device” to “Bring Your Own Tool/Technology”, an excellent DI acknowledgement that everyone can contribute to creatively, “whether it be a new iPad or a pack of favorite colored pens” (p. 7).  However, if you’d like to learn more about Bring Your Own Device to enhance learning in your school or division, this website has a ton of great PDFs and links from getting started and planning to implementing BYOD: http://www.k12blueprint.ca/byod.

Technology can allow teachers to differentiate in a variety of ways.  It provides another way to communicate with others and build relationships (ex. online platforms such as Twitter or Edmodo).  It can provide access to cultural perspectives from around the world (ex. ePals).  Technology can help us differentiate content by enabling instant access to visual, audio, and textual matter at different levels (ex. learninga-z.com).  Creativity and process are supported through explicit instruction around end exploration of a variety of tools other than pencil and paper tasks to go about learning (ex. KidBlog.com).  Products are innumerable, with online publishing tools such as Prezi or Animoto.  In a tiered lesson, students could create different products based on their interests, readiness, or learning profile that are all still outcomes-based.  The potential for differentiation using technology is tremendous.  I am still discovering ways to move between technology novelty, necessity, and naturalness to support the learning of divers students.

References:

Haynes, K. (2014).  12 Easy Ways to Use Technology in the Classroom, Even for Technophobic Teachers [Website Article].  Retrieved from http://www.teachhub.com/12-easy-ways-use-technology-your-classroom-even-technophobic-teachers.

K-12 Blueprint Canada. (2014).  Bring Your Own Device Toolkit [Webpage].  Retrieved from http://www.k12blueprint.ca/byod.

Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2010). Differentiating instruction: Strategies for differentiating instruction. Baltimore, MD: Author.

Shettel, J.W. and Bower, K. (2013).  Infusing Technology into the Balanced Literacy Classroom.  In e-Journal of Balanced Literacy Instruction 1(2), 3 – 11.  Retrieved from http://www.balancedreadinginstruction.com/uploads/1/8/9/6/18963113/ejbri_v1i2_shettel__bower_infusing_technology_into_balanced.pdf.

Tomlinson, C. (1999). The differentiated classroom: Responding to the needs of all learners. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.