Category Archives: coaching


In the past month I came across the #observeme trend. Just take a look at the movement on this hashtag on Twitter in the past couple months. Combined with my reading and thoughts on the necessary evolution of teacher evaluation, I became very interested in this movement.

After reading Robert Kaplinsky’s post about the topic, I decided that I would try it out. I only officially teach one class right now, so my opportunity to explore this idea is limited, but I wanted to give it a go.

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I believe that a teacher we need to model continuous learning and this is one way that we can learn and grow as educators. As a coach, if I’d like to encourage others to do this, I feel like I should probably walk the walk, and not just ask others to take on this challenge.

For a little background knowledge, this course is a required, semester long course for 6th graders. It is an opportunity for them to develop in their understanding of how to use their laptop to enhance and extend their learning. I have 23 students this semester and this is their first year being in a 1 to 1 environment, as this program starts in Grade 6 in our school.

When deciding on these goals, I thought a lot about the state of my class currently. I was concerned that a few students were requiring more one on one attention and preventing me from being able to circulate evenly among the full class. I would like to move away from whole class instruction and develop ways to move towards a more student-centered approach. Lastly, I’d like to push my students thinking beyond the superficial level of just using the computer and see what other deeper thoughts and ideas can surface.

With all that said, I created my first #observeme sign.


As I don’t believe feedback given to teachers should just tell us ‘good job’ or pat us on the back, I developed a form for observers to complete while in the room. I want to be able to analyze and reflect on the feedback myself instead of someone else determining the quality of the job I am doing.

Here’s the feedback form I initially developed for my goals.



Since this was new to my school, I emailed a few teachers and administrators that I knew might be able to make the time to come observe. I posted my goal sign on the door of the classroom and used a gift bag to hold the observation forms and hung it on the door handle.

I posted the sign for the two periods I taught during one week and was able to get six different people to join me in my class.

Here are my takeaways:

  • I need someone to help guide my reflection of the data I’ve collected. I mentioned Cognitive Coaching in previous posts, and this would be applicable here. I’m sort of staring at my data and struggling with my next step.
  • I paid a lot more attention to the things that were my goals when someone was in the room. I wonder if this changes over time if observers become a regular part of your teaching.
  • I was actually spending less time in one section of the room.
  • I do a lot of individual instruction compared to whole group instruction. I’d like to move this more towards student self-directed learning.
  • I’m still not sure if the feedback form I developed is how I want it. I suppose more thought and discussion is needed on this.

Moving forward, I think I’d like to narrow the focus to one or two goals for a few weeks at a time, but I need to find someone who could talk me through my thoughts post observations. Perhaps this could just be a colleague at my school who wants to work together on this…

Have you participated in the #observeme trend or have read about it? What do you think?

Changing Up Teacher Evaluations

As a educational technology coach teacher evaluations do not fall into my jurisdiction.

But the way evaluations are used in a school impacts my role as a coach.

And this makes it important to me.

For this reason and because I recently read Teacher self-supervision: Why teacher evaluation has failed and what we can do about it by William Powell and Ochan Kusuma-Powell and participated in a Twitter chat with the authors this topic is at the forefront of my mind. (You can look up our Twitter chat with the #teacherbookclub hashtag.)

The Powells bring to light many points worthy of consideration by every person who conducts evaluations. And they jump right out on the first page and state, “It [traditional teacher evaluations] doesn’t improve student learning; it is immensely time and energy consuming; and it destroys the culture of trust in schools” (p.7).


I feel like this drives a central point home.

How does traditional teacher evaluation impact our students’ learning in a positive manner?

I don’t think it does.

And if it doesn’t, as the Powells state, then why do schools continue to utilize such a traditional system?

Then the obvious next question is if the traditional system doesn’t work, what should we be doing instead?

Through the book and the Twitter chat, here’s what I’ve come up with.

There is a need to establish a culture of professional growth instead of a system of appraisal that causes feelings of anxiety and reduces trust.

tweet 1

Bill and Ochan “advocate for an approach to teacher professional learning that capitalizes on teacher strengths” (p.25).

As adults, most of us are aware of our strengths and weaknesses. Acknowledging those helps us set goals for our own learning.

The Powells stipulate that “we should be focused on adult learning: professional learning that is self-directed” (p. 21).

When it comes to the learning being self-directed, school administrators must expect that teachers will participate in their own professional learning (Powell, p. 17).

In addition, the book reports, “The answer to the quandary of improving learning for students lies squarely in improving learning for teachers. As a result, teachers have a sacred obligation to become architects of their own, on-going professional growth” (p. 18).

As a tech coach, I believe that this professional learning is something that I should model for our teachers. And I believe that this is something administrators should be speak to and model as well.


This is why I’ve been trying to get back into writing this blog, documenting my professional reading online, and sharing what I’m learning with our staff through emails and PD.

When designing professional development, this is something that I take into consideration. I’ve recently shared my experiences trying both speedgeeking and unconferencing instead of a traditional whole group PD approach.


I want to have our teachers leading professional development. I want them to share their learning. Sharing your knowledge with others empowers you and helps you grow and reflect on your own teaching. I think that this is a valuable piece of the teacher evaluation component.

This self-directed learning of teachers drives a new look at teacher evaluation. As teachers reflect on their learning needs, they should have meaningful conversations with the evaluator about what they’d like to focus on and how the evaluator can document and collect appropriate data. With data in hand, post-evaluation, the teacher makes her own judgment about his/her performance and the next steps moving forward.

These conversations can be meaningfully held using strategies from the Powells’ Cognitive Coaching seminars I’ve recently written about. Cognitive Coaching was developed by their mentors, Art Costa and Bob Garmston.

In this methodology, the evaluator does not pass judgment, either positive or negative. They simply gather data, listen carefully, paraphrase and offer questions that allow the teacher to continue to reflect on their observation and plan for the future.

“Praise is, after all, just as much judgment as criticism” (p. 46).

This is a change from the traditional line of thinking by most teacher evaluator approaches. According to the Powells, “The ability to refrain from evaluation and stay in the descriptive mode promotes deep shared understanding and, even more importantly, separates the observation from the person being observed” (p. 61).

This concept of feedback is written about in detail in the Powells’ book.

Speaking about feedback given to students, they write, “Teachers are often much better at providing feedback to students than they are at ensuring that students use it. Giving feedback that isn’t acted upon is arguably one of the single most wasteful uses of teacher time” (p. 65).

The same is true of feedback given from administrator to teacher.

So by changing the way administrators evaluate teachers, we can shift the dynamic between these two parties, and create a real culture of growth and learning in our schools.

This is why I believe that everyone working in schools could work on our skills at having meaningful conversations. We are often too worried about ‘playing nice’ with each other and not encouraging each other to push our thinking forward to really engage in reflection that can be an agent of change.

The same is true for me as an educational technology coach. How can I have meaningful conversations with my teachers that helps them reflect on their use of tech in the classroom? Does this have to focus just on technology or can it be more widespread across the curriculum? How do you successfully implement these ideas across your school?

Charting a new course.        flickr photo by Martin Hricko shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

These are the questions I’m pondering.

And how can I take these pieces and create a concrete plan for myself, independent of the methods my school chooses to implement for evaluation?

Time to consider the next steps!


Are you a tech coach? What is your relationship like with your teachers? What are your best coaching tips?





saving our schools

I wrote this post months ago and am just now digging it out of the drafts folder…

Being a teacher today is a challenge. The diversity within each class of students is broad, the ideas of what are ‘best practices’ are seemingly limitless, and the demands of high stakes testing adds a level of pressure few are prepared to face.

Teachers are frustrated and there’s no chance they can do their best work when they feel like they’ve lost ownership of what happens each day when they step into a classroom.

But, I think I’ve been given the opportunity to see the solution.

Last summer, I completed Days 1-4 of Cognitive Coaching with Doreen Miori-Merola of Thinking Collaborative.

This methodology is designed to help teachers construct their own thoughts, reflections and planning through guided conversations with a coach.

The conversations are structured to help build reflective thinking and use that knowledge to become more effective and thoughtful in planning.

conversations. more listening. less talking.

It gives ownership of the classroom back to the teacher. When the teacher feels successful, they can attribute it to the work they have done. When the teacher identifies student growth, it can be their success. The teacher make the decisions, determined the best way to proceed and the results belong to them.

The coach is simply the guide or facilitator along the way.

The coach doesn’t provide the answers.

This concept runs in the same theory as the parable, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

The coach can be flexible in his role and switch between collaborator, consultant and evaluator as it is needed by the teacher.

During the workshop, we practiced these conversations using the maps and tried to develop our skills at both questioning and paraphrasing throughout.

I feel like I have barely dipped my toe in the water here, but I found the four days in Genoa to be eye-opening.

I consider myself to be a pretty reflective person and I am constantly seeking ways to improve my teaching and coaching.

seeking growth and wisdom.

I’ve been trying to find a more tangible way to move our teachers from the small pieces of innovation they are bringing to their classrooms to a much larger scale version of transformation and innovation in their every day approach.

I think Cognitive Coaching is the key.

And, I’m horrified to think that this program has been around for decades and we’re still fighting against standardized tests, constantly changing curriculum, fear of change and bureaucratic BS that always gets in the way.

If every teacher received the mentoring and feedback possible through coaching, I’m convinced our classrooms would be on the path to redefinition.

And that would result in more achievement from our students.

Isn’t that the whole point?

Have you had Cognitive Coaching training? How do you use it in your school and/or job?


Conversation pic from: flickr photo by ftbester shared under a Creative Commons (BY-ND) license

Flower pic from:  flickr photo by daiyaan.db shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

Changing the Way We Approach Professional Development

Lately, I have been reading a lot about adult education and the ways to make Professional Development really effective. And collecting articles in a Flipboard magazine. There are some really great articles out there!

We’ve all been there, sitting in those meetings, with our eyes rolling back in our heads, wondering why in the world we’re being forced to endure such torture. Whether someone is reading a PowerPoint to you or telling you how to use Google Docs instead of Word, we’ve all found ourselves in the position where we felt our time was being wasted.

And for a teacher, time is everything.

flickr photo by Sean MacEntee shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

So much is asked of teachers who already have so little time.

As someone responsible for providing some professional development to our staff, I continue to look for ways to ensure that the opportunities I have are well planned to meet the needs of our staff.

I don’t want to waste anyone’s time, including my own.

I’ve read about the importance of the choice in adult learning and for them to be in control of their learning.

Earlier in the year we tried “speedgeeking” for the first time. Everyone was really happy with the experience and though it was really valuable PD. We’re planning on this happening again next year, at least twice with Technology topics, but maybe also using it with other subject areas.

One thing that makes speedgeeking great is the opportunity for our teachers to teach each other. More teachers can and should share their knowledge with others. We all think that what we’re doing is not exciting enough to share and quite simply, we’re just wrong. Each school has so many great resources within the building (the TEACHERS) that really can and should be used!

Last week, we took a page from the Learning2 playbook and offered an “un-meeting” instead of our standard faculty meeting. One of the elements of Learning2 are un-conference sessions that are determined by the participants during the conference. There is no set expert or agenda. The group that shows up determines how they will spend their time with that topic.

Our meetings are held on Wednesdays, so on Monday morning I emailed out a Google Doc with directions for adding ideas that the teachers were interested in learning about or talking about in a group. Once ideas were added, teachers could vote on the topics.

Wednesday afternoon I counted all the votes and picked 6 topics that appeared to have some interest. I assigned each topic a room.

Before heading off into the topics, we met in a large group just to discuss the overall idea of the “un-meeting.” We talked about how each group might go about getting started and what to do if no one in the group felt like an expert.

I also borrowed an idea from the Eduro learning team that Kim Cofino posted about where they asked everyone to think about the feelings you have when you are forced to learn something versus when you learn about things that you are passionate about.


I wanted to get everyone on the same page in terms of recognizing their choice in the “un-meeting.” Their choice of topic, their choice to be an active participant, their choice to be fully present.



After the meeting, we asked each group to share back some of their discussion on a Padlet so that you could see what happened in other groups and that the learning was available to those who had some other commitment.

We also did a short survey to gather some feedback.

Here’s what we learned:

feedback 1

Overall, it appears that most everyone felt their group was productive, which is good. With some of the topics that had been voted on I was a little concerned it might just be a session of complaints.

And no one wants to sit through that!

We also asked teachers to write one new thing they learned. Here are some of their responses.


I thought some of the comments were really thoughtful, in recognition of there being possibilities to explore new ideas and learn to work together more.


Since I organized the “un-meeting” it was important to me to have an understanding if my explanations and structure made sense to everyone else.


Clearly, the idea for choice did resonate with the teachers. I think that the smaller group size and informal setting was something that allowed more people to participate in a meaningful way and that made a difference in the success of the time spent.


I also asked for suggestions for improvement. Beyond the idea that the teachers would be really happy to see prosecco show up for the “un-meetings”, the most commonly mentioned thought was about following up on the content discussed. I think this is especially true because two of the meetings involved topics that affect the whole elementary, the schedule and the units of study. And it makes sense that those groups would want to know that the time they took discussing and developing ideas was heard by all and thought about in planning for next year. This is something for me to connect with our principal about and see what would be the best strategy to take those ideas and discussions into consideration.

There is also a bit of interest in there being more structure to the “un-meeting.” I think that this is something that we look to because we’re so used to having everyone tell us what to do and how to do it. We need to continue to challenge ourselves to build our own learning and find comfort in the lack of structure. This is difficult, even for me, but I think it is the path to take. For ourselves as learners, and for our students.


Has your school explored different formats of Professional Development? What strategies have you found that are effective? I’d love to hear your ideas!

Fighting the Comfort Zone

Many teachers face times in their career when they find themselves less than satisfied with the work they are doing.

This is true for me too.

I want to feel that the teachers I work with are making gains with their technology education and that the work I’m doing is leading to those successes.

And I don’t feel this way every day.

But I want to.

And I also know that I shouldn’t be so hard on myself!

We are doing great things!

Many people love finding their comfort zone and nestling down deep in it.

flickr photo by symphony of love shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

I love my comfort zone, but what I’ve realized is that space does not make me feel happy or fulfilled.

And I don’t know about you, but I’d much prefer to feel happy and fulfilled each day.

So I’m working on some things to continue to grow and develop my practice.

Like reading more professional books on coaching and professional development.

And trying new methods of professional development for our teachers. (We’re giving another new idea a go next week. Reflection to come!)

I’m also attempting to write here on this blog more in an effort to make my reflections on things more concrete.

I’ve been meeting regularly with my principal to discuss ideas for moving our whole elementary forward, and not just with technology.

And I’ve been looking to people I respect and rereading their blogs and following articles that they are sharing. (See some of these curated here.)

I’ve essentially had a tab open on Kim’s Always Learning blog for several weeks on end.

Here’s to fighting the comfort zone.

Who’s with me?

What do you do when you feel the ‘teacher slump’ coming on? What are other suggestions for overcoming the negative emotions that seem to bring so many down?

“The Art of Coaching”

It seems that my motivation to write on this blog regularly is seriously lacking.


But I really should  get on top of it.

So, as I wrap up my 4th year teaching internationally, I continue to try to improve my craft. I’m surveying my teachers about the work we’ve done this year. The first year I really consider myself a coach.

I’m most certainly a work in progress.

So I’m headed to a cognitive coaching workshop next week. I’m reading Elena Aguilar’s “The Art of Coaching.” 

I’ve only read Part I so far, “The Foundations of Coaching.”

But already there are some real simple, but masterful statements to reflect upon.

Here are some that I’m taking into consideration:

“Coaching can be perceived as a mysterious process, but in fact it requires intention, a plan, and a lot of practice…” p. xii

I think I need to have a little more intention and a lot more planning in what I’m doing. I feel like I’m often just rolling with things, and we might find better results if my work was developed more out of a place of intention.

“Coaching, like creating art, requires intuitive capacities, an ability to see something that is not yet- but could be- in existence, and the willingness to surrender to the process and trust that a worthwhile product will emerge.” p. xii

This is what I like about coaching and teaching, for that matter. Believing that all your work in the end will result in some meaningful difference.

Aguilar quotes her masterful coach, Leslie Plettner as saying, “No one can learn from you if you think that they suck.”

This one has really been in my head. I think I’ll print it out next year as a reminder to have a growth mindset about everyone that I work with.

In this first section, Aguilar also encourages you to settle on three core values after choosing from this list. You start with ten, narrow to five and then to three.

I settled on





These are words I hope to think about in my work next year when I start to meet with the teachers I coach and as we move throughout the year. I think this will also help bring more intention to the work we accomplish together.