Planning for Differentiated PD. Let’s Change It Up!

Blah..Blah, blah..Blah, blah.

This is usually what’s running through my head when I’ve attended a bad PD session.

And what do I mean by bad PD? I mean irrelevant, impractical, poorly managed, and (gasp!)…boring!!

There’s pretty much nothing worse.

So when you know how annoying bad PD can be, and you happen to be the one planning for the work, you REALLY want to make sure teachers are feeling engaged and excited to be there with you.

No pressure!! :)

As I’m currently working through a differentiated PD cycle myself, this is a topic I’ve been thinking about lately, so I thought I’d share some thoughts.

And because it’s always more fun to see thoughts/ideas “in action”, let’s do this with a case study!

What follows are the steps we worked through to create our Differentiated PD sessions. It’s always flexible, so take a look, and let it spark some ideas for what you might do.

1. Ask for Input, yet Know your Goals

Here’s an idea. How about asking teachers what areas they feel they need more support in, or are interested in learning about?

Sometimes we (admin/leadership) think we know what’s best for teachers. We might make assumptions on their behalf because “the data says” or “it’s their first year”, which isn’t really the best way to treat teachers as professionals and engage buy-in to learning.

Yet data is important, and PD should be data driven. But it doesn’t mean that teacher voice and choice isn’t also important.

What we did is ask teachers what areas they would be interested in learning more about, that were connected to our school’s Work Plan goals. Teachers then ranked their level of interest for the different areas provided.

2. Consider Grouping

After we collected the completed surveys, we were able to use this feedback to form the differentiated PD groups — we called them “Learning Cohorts.”

Small groups is usually a good way to go when thinking about differentiating PD. Though there are definitely some cool ways to differentiate-it-up with technology.

Anyhow, once you’ve got your groups formed, you can start thinking about how to divvy-up the facilitation roles.

3. Calling All Teacher Leaders!

This is kinda what I feel like we did, when we asked on the Inquiry Form if teachers would be interested in facilitating/co-facilitating any of the Learning Cohorts.

And the response was a little underwhelming. Not because certain teachers didn’t have the know-how or interest, but because facilitating adult learning can be outside of their comfort zone and teachers are already super busy. So this may feel like one more thing.

In response to these challenges, you may have to more actively recruit those teacher leaders on staff. Let them know that they’re the Bomb(!), they’ve got a lot to share, and you’ve got their back in planning and facilitating.

4. Stay Organized

When you have more than one PD group, several facilitators, and a range of session dates you’ve got to stay organized! Thanks a million to our school designer who took the lead on this and created two guiding documents for all of us to stay on the same page.

5. Fun with Format

Now it’s time to really dive into planning for the learning. Think about how to change up the format, and provide experiences/tools that will make your time with teachers highly relevant, supportive, and fun! Here are just a few ideas:

  • Book Study
  • Field Trips
  • Live Model Lessons
  • Videos
  • Interactive Agenda

Here’s part of an Interactive Agenda I created for one of our sessions:

6. Monitor and Adjust

Continue to ask for feedback and differentiate along the way. We have a total of 7 Learning Cohort sessions planned, so it’s important that at the end of each session we ask teachers to fill out a quick exit ticket, so we know what to add/skip/adjust for the next session.

 

7. Celebrate!

After all this awesome learning going on in differentiated groups, plan a final session to come together, share their work, and celebrate!

Hope this post gave you some good ideas to think about how you might implement or improve any differentiated PD structures at your school(s).

Thanks for reading!

And if you’d like some more support with planning and prepping PD, check out the PD Planning Kit I’ve put together for you!

 

The Journey of a First Year Coach – Part One

I just finished reading a really good memoir called, “Born to Rise.” It’s the story of educator Deborah Kenny, and her journey as the founder of Harlem Village Academies. I finished the book feeling inspired and renewed.

Reading this book made me think about the importance of sharing stories.

And then a podcast interview I heard this week with Tom Rademacher, author of “It Won’t Be Easy: An Exceedingly Honest Book About Teaching,” pretty much said the same thing — You’re an educator. You have cool and interesting things to talk about. No matter where you are in your journey.

He’s right. So, I’m sharing a story.

Not my story, since I share a lot.

But the story of another coach, who’s just starting out. Today you’ll hear Part 1, and we’ll check in with Part 2 and 3 as the year goes on.

Enjoy!

Can you share a bit about your background? What got you interested in coaching?

I worked as a classroom teacher for 7 years, in first and second grade. I first started to get interested in coaching/teacher leadership when a teammate and I had the opportunity to lead a PD session together…I had a blast! At that point I started to realize that I really liked, and was interested in teaching adults.

When I was teaching, I was entrusted a lot as a lead teacher and was given opportunities to share classroom strategies with other teachers. I really enjoyed these discussions!

I also really enjoyed the coaching cycles I participated in when teaching. I really learned a lot through this work, and liked the structure of it. It felt like a partnership…coaching felt “friendly.” I felt very free to share and learn, and it was a great opportunity for me to really grow.

When I decided I needed to leave my position to be a mom, my principal invited me into a part time coaching role so I could continue to work. I was able to work alongside a new teacher and support her with classroom management. I loved it!  Though I was only able to continue that year, I knew I would want to do more when the time was right.

After a two year break, I am now working as the school’s part time math coach.

What are you really loving so far about coaching?

I love that I get to work and learn with teachers in the whole building, and not just my grade level. This is fun! But this can also feel like a challenge at times…as a teacher you work so closely with your team which feels comforting and great, and as a coach it’s different. I’m able to work with Kristin and our principal, but it still feels different and scheduling your day and time is different than when I was a teacher.

I also really like the facilitation work I’ve been able to do so far this year. Planning for PD is in many ways similar to planning lessons for the classroom. I like being a part of the school’s planning process for PD, and having a voice is great. Working with adults is different from working with kids and can be hard, but I like it!

I’m also able to participate in a weekly coaches meeting, which feels like important work. I work to keep students best interests first and foremost in mind, and provide a voice for teacher support in the building.

What has been your biggest success or celebration this year?

I’m working in my first ever coaching cycle right now, and that has felt like a success so far! Kristin went with me to our Kick-Off meeting, and I felt great afterwards. I’ve worked really hard at making sure that the feedback I offer is specific and manageable. I notice a lot of things when I’m in her room, so I really have to zoom it in and not overwhelm her! And so far the feedback I’ve shared has been well accepted.

Another success was my interview for this Teacher Leader position in the district! I was really nervous going in, but I really prepared and I showed myself well. At the end, one of the interviewers said she wished I was her coach! :)

What areas are you working on improving at this point in your coaching journey?

Facilitation for PD. Parts of the facilitation work I’ve done so far have felt successful and have felt like “me” and what I envision successful PD to look like. I’ve had good models before as a teacher and want to replicate what I’ve experienced, but I also want to be true to who I am and my style of facilitation so that it feels just right. I’m still working on figuring out what that exactly is (!), but I’m making steps forward with each time I do it. In planning for my first ever whole staff PD I felt overwhelmed, but I told myself, “You can do this!” I asked for feedback and reflected with Kristin, did a lot of planning and preparation, and my efforts payed off! I feel like I’m getting better and better. I also appreciated the opportunity to get started with practicing my facilitation skills right away! Our principal gave me a chance to get in front of the staff in a smaller role at first, and I built up from there. I’ve learned along the way that I really need a good amount of time to plan for a good PD! I’m not sure I gave myself enough time at first.

Another challenge has been rolling out a brand new curriculum. There is a lot to learn! I’m learning as much as I can as fast as I can, but it still feels overwhelming at times.

What has been most supportive to your learning so far this year?

Our leadership has been so supportive. I’m grateful. I don’t feel like I’m drowning, and things feel manageable! Kristin has been a great partner for me too. She’s someone who has gone through it and has collected a lot of wisdom along the way. She helps me with bite-sized goals, what to work on and think about. I took her Coaching Workshop, printed the resources, and used it a lot at the start of the year!

What are your goals moving forward in this next quarter?

I’d like to keep working on reaching out to other teachers, who for different reasons, I may feel are a little outside of my “comfort zone”…some teachers may have a different personality than me, may be a bit quieter, or I just don’t know them yet. I’m working really hard to get into everyone’s room, and also make connections with teachers…by just sitting and talking with them at lunch, or at PD!

I also need to work on nailing down a more predictable schedule for myself :)

If you were able to share any advice with another new/aspiring coach, what would you say?

Tackle things that you know you’ll have some success with. Classroom management is a strength of mine, so I felt good about providing coaching support in this area early on. Too much “new” would have felt overwhelming for me. I think it’s important to try to find a balance with “new” and with what feels comfortable, so you experience some success!!

And look out for those successes!…you know that excitement you feel when you see your class is starting to get something??…seeing a teacher/classroom you’re working with starting to put into place what you’ve been working on in coaching, feels just like that!…it’s great!

Leadership and having a mentor is really important. Do what you can to find someone to support you or work with.

That’s it! Thanks Kristin!

Thank YOU!! I’m excited to continue to tag along with you throughout this year, and share your “to be continued” story with the MsHouser community.

Take-Aways

  • Approach every day, every experience, every conversation with a “Beginner’s Mind” — there’s always something new to learn and be appreciative of, if you’re open to it.
  • You can do hard things — but maybe not too many hard things at once :)
  • Collaboration with school leadership is important.
  • You probably have a story too. Maybe you could share it?

Get the easy to follow, step-by-step guide of your first 90 Days as an Instructional Coach.

Thanks for reading. Talk to you soon!

How to Keep All Your Paper Stuff Organized

If you’ve read the blog for any length of time, you likely know I have an addiction.

Organizing.

I love to organize pretty much anything and everything, but especially paper. At home, Luke is afraid to leave me alone for too long, for fear that he’ll return to an overly organized office desk. He piles, and I sort. I guess opposites attract.

Anyhow, don’t laugh at me. I’ll bet when you read “paper stuff” in the post title, you knew just what I was talking about. A boatload of paper gets passed around schools far and wide, and I’m sure you’ve got no shortage of it coming straight your way.

But! With the right mindset, paper organizing is fun and rewarding work, that can make you a happier and more effective coach :)

 

Let’s take a tour of the “organize your paper stuff” system, shall we?

Organizing Paper

Whenever any kind of paper comes my way, it goes straight to the In-Box. This is your paper organizing system home base.

Whenever anything comes “IN” you have to decide what to do with it. I’ve found that my papers go in typically one of five categories, which you can see outlined above.

I found these cool hanging wall files on Amazon, and they’ve worked just great. I’ve done the standard paper stacking trays before, but I think these add a little style to my paper organization system. To pretty it up a bit, I bought some cute turquoise folders at the Container Store.

 

Paper Organization

 

Once I process, and decide which “bucket” my papers go in, I take it a step further and organize my buckets.

So within each of my wall files, I have labeled file folders naming the different areas/categories particular to that bucket.

For example, in my “Active” bucket, I have my folders for teachers I’m working with, a PD folder, and another project folder for Video Coaching which is an area I’ve been actively learning about. These are folders with papers that I need quick and easy access to, without having to dig through my “Reference” bucket.

My “Later” bucket, contains a labeled folder for each day of the week. Any paper/work I’ll need on a specific day of the week will go here.

And lastly, my “Out & About” bucket is where I throw reminders and other papers I need to pass on to others. Anytime I pop out of my room, I’ll check here to see if anything needs to be delivered.

Any papers that I need to visually see more regularly, get put on my cork board, such as my End of Day Review sheet. I need this right in my face to remind me of what I need to do at the end of the day, so I can start off tomorrow on a good note.

And there you have it! Paper Stuff Organizing made fun!

Thanks for reading!

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