Jul 27, 2017

So You Want to Start a Coaching Program?

A few weeks ago I got a DM with the following question:
Have you ever experienced [imposter syndrome]?
And do you have any favorite quotes, lessons, words of advice that got you through hard times? I am always trying to get better and pass on inspiration.
I expected this to be a conversation, so I wrote a short reply.
I just finished a two-year stint as a tech coach where I felt imposter syndrome everyday.
My advice would be to put your head down and do the work. That’s how you will show you belong there.
I just finished a two-year stint as a K-12 Tech Coach. Prior to that, I had seven years of experience in a small international school before that. I was a kind of Jack-of-all-trades, and one of my hats was helping teachers -- especially elementary teachers -- integrate technology into their curriculum. Having been there for so long, I was a fixture and was confident I could help where needed.

Then I saw an opening for a K-12 Tech Coach for Kaohsiung American School in Taiwan. I did a lot of research on the school, and it looked like a small school similar in size, but a little bigger than where I was coming from. But that's a part of growing I thought.

From orientation and having more new teachers than were at my previous school, to the transition for all to a new building, to new teachers having to learn new technology, to a new elementary principal; there were a lot of moving parts to this school.

I still feel grateful to have had the position, and would have stayed had the budget for the program been available, but I never lost that feeling of being an imposter during those two years. It definitely got better towards the end, but for me, I always felt like an imposter.

I now feel that while I was on the upswing at the end, feeling more confident in myself, some things could have been different in this position as a whole that could have suited me better. I know that is selfish as an employee, and maybe I could have voiced these concerns, but I needed the time away to reflect on them.

With that in mind, here are some suggestions for schools looking to start a coaching program.

Have a vision 
Why do you want to have a coaching program? If you answered, "To improve student learning!" Then you are on the right track. If it is anything else, I would seriously reevaluate the need.

Once the vision is set, make sure the person at the top shares the vision with the school. Make sure that the teachers are well-informed about what the coach's role is and how they can use the coach effectively.

Articulate the vision to all from the top 
Everything above should come from the top of the school. The directive needs to come with school's backing.

After the leadership team announces the initiative, I think it would be a good idea to have the division teams talk about how they could use the coach within classes in the division.

Give feedback regularly
Set up a schedule to meet regularly with the coach. Those involved will probably be the principal(s) and department leaders. Make they are informed of an expectation to include the coach in meetings.

Give support where needed
Having a vision and a solid plan will help a coach, especially a first-time coach. Having a plan will be a huge support to the coach.

Having regular meetings with the coach will open a channel of communication. This is a great way to listen to what is happening from the coach's perspective. It is also a chance for the coach to talk about ideas he/she might have to make improvements.

Allow for independence
Give the coach leeway to implement initiatives and make suggestions.

If this is a new position, hire from within
Teachers familiar with the school will have a better understanding of the school's culture, will have already had built relationships with others, and best of all, the school will know what they are getting into with an established teacher.

Consider making the position stand-alone
My coaching position had an MYP Design teaching component attached to it. I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to teach high school and learn more about design. The experience pushed me to experiment with the maker movement both in class and in after school clubs.

But, there were times when I would be asked to come into a class, but was unavailable because of my class duties. For some reason, this happened a lot my second year with high school teachers -- the group I met with the least of the three divisions.

This is my view of what schools can do. Do you have other suggestions?

I will write a follow-up saying what the coach should do.

Jul 16, 2017

Which creative style do you most relate to?

In a review of the book, The Launch Cycle, Matt Miller describes several different ways people approach creativity then poses the question: Which one do you most relate to?

  • the artist, who loves to make things from scratch
  • the geek, who is fascinated by systems and structures
  • the architect, who crafts things from the systematic side
  • the engineer, who focuses on fixing problems
  • the hacker, who tears things down to build something better
  • the point guard, who makes a difference and creates opportunities 
  • (He missed this one) The astronaut is the teacher who is always exploring new ideas 

    If I had to choose two, I would definitely say that I am either the engineer or the point guard. Honing in on one though is more difficult. I am confident in the two I chose if for no other reason than I came back to this assignment after six months and my choices are the same as before. 

    • What does it mean to have a bigger definition of creativity?
    Teachers should be on the lookout for creativity in the process as well as in the final product. Creativity can manifest itself in any subject.

    • How are certain creative types misunderstood?
    Often creativity is misunderstood or interpreted differently by different people. I am reminded of the student who painted a picture and another teacher remarked how "powerful" it was. I didn't see it. 

    Different people can show their creativity differently. Some people need more time to make the connections necessary to be creative in the first place. Students might need to do a gallery walk or some additional reading/viewing before jumping in to allow their creativity to show through. 

    • Why is it important to have a maker mindset?
    The maker mindset consists of the skills students need to learn. It teaches them to be more flexible with their thinking and solve problems or challenges.

    I was going to write the word "real", but not all challenges are something they might encounter in the real world. However, the challenges allow students to think through and solve problems at hand with the tools and resources available. 

    In that sense, the problems are "real". 

    • What is the risk in failing to develop a maker mindset?
    I think the risk in failing to develop a maker mindset is that the jobs of today, as well as the future, demand the skills of a maker mindset; flexible thinking, making connections, improvising, being creative, and thinking critically.

    I think this is where we teachers risk failing to prepare our students for life after schooling.

    From Education Closet, but I forgot the link

    Jul 4, 2017

    Publish to a Wider Audience

    Recently a teacher asked me to look into different options for publishing ebooks.

    Publishing digitally to an audience covers the 4 C's of 21st Century learning, Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Creativity, and Communication. This project also covers a fifth C, choice. 

    Critical Thinking

    My mind immediately came to the conclusion of an actual ebook, one with pages that turn. For that, I had the following ideas:

    "Book" Options

    PDF -

    Saving as a PDF is the Swiss Army Knife of publishing since they can be opened on any device. Students could write their story in Google Docs and download their doc as a PDF.

    Issuu -

    Issuu allows you to make an animated version of your PDF where you can turn the pages. Students would do the above and upload the PDF to Issuu. Then embed the Issuu PDF in their blog.


    Apple has a good tool with iAuthor. It is a little challenging and awkward for me, but I cannot argue with the beautiful results. I am thinking it would be interesting to make some sort of unit book using iAuthor.

    Book Creator -

    This summer (2017) Book Creator will come out with a web version of their app. Until then you need an iPad or Windows computer to use this great tool. Books created with Book Creator can be exported as a movie, so embedded movies and recordings will automatically play.

    Google Slides - 

    Google Slides is an extremely useful tool outside of presentations. In class, I use Google Slides for my own resume and have used Google Slides for students to publish infographics and ebooks.

    Make yourself a copy of this resume

    Other Options

    Lucid Press

    Lucid Press is the "Google version of MS Publisher". While not a product made by Google, it was created for the GSuite environment. I don't use it much, but it is very flexible.

    GSuite Apps as Webpage

    Google Docs, et. all has the ability to embed links. So, in theory, you can create a site with any Google product as long as visitors are available to view the content. In this case, I like to use Bit.ly to create a unique short URL.

    Google Sites

    Google Sites is pretty cool and the new version is very easy to use. One idea I would like to try is a site for a unit where each student has their own page to act as either a digital scrapbook or a summative project.