As we reflect on the first six weeks of school, all the instructional coaches are asking, “Where did those first six weeks go?” We have been busy meeting teachers, working with classrooms, and attending workshops that will help us be effective in our new roles at Dike-New Hartford. We decided last year that instead of calling our program TLC (Teacher Leadership and Compensation), we would name it Growing Learners and Leaders. Our mission is to empower teachers with resources and strategies that will help them meet their goals of improving student achievement. Our students are the reason for our school district and therefore at the center of Growing Learners and Leaders.
Our Growing Learners and Leaders program includes involving our teachers in coaching cycles. This sounds a bit intimidating at first, but at the core it is sitting down with individual or groups of teachers and having discussions about the core standards and learning targets they are desiring their students to achieve. Once a teacher defines a clear goal for learning, we look at student data and work together to design instruction that will best meet the needs of all students. Teachers may ask a coach to observe and give feedback. They may also ask a coach or another teacher to model a strategy with the class. After visiting several times and evaluating assessments, we decide our next steps. That may lead right into another coaching cycle, or the teacher may decide to put the resources and strategies into practice to continue monitoring learning.
We were uncertain if our teachers were ready for coaching cycles so early in the school year. When we asked who might be interested in starting, we had over a dozen who wanted to get going immediately. We’ve worked with teachers at every level and building. This is a testament to our district. Our teachers work really hard to help our children become the best learners and leaders they can be. Coaching cycles will help them focus that energy effectively. As we move forward, we look forward to working with all teachers. As we have discovered, everyone can benefit from coaching cycles because all of our students have the need to learn.
If you are like me, you have a love-hate relationship with Homecoming.
I love the passion and excitement I see in students during Homecoming week. I love seeing the high school students spend two frantic hours on Sunday evening decorating halls. I love seeing the junior high students celebrate their dress up day winners. I love hearing the elementary students cheering loud and proud at the pep assembly. I love seeing the cheerleaders and football players dressed up in their blue and white, proud to be Wolverines. I love seeing the Homecoming Court and their parents announced before the game.
There’s just so much about Homecoming week to be excited about and love!
But that leads me to the hate part of my relationship with Homecoming. It seems like we are constantly trying to redirect students to focus on the lesson we are teaching. With all the excitement of Homecoming activities, how do we as teachers accomplish anything academic this week?
So how do we take this passion--this hunger--that students have during Homecoming week and build on this throughout the rest of the year?
Let’s take some of the concepts that make Homecoming exciting and bring them into our classrooms! Here are 5 strategies that you can use with your students for an exciting year:
5. Competition--Students get excited about creating the best poster or having the best hall or door decorations, so incorporate some healthy competition into your classroom. Game-based learning is on the rise. Check out these game-based learning resources on edutopia. You can also use games like Jeopardy or Kahoot for pre-assessment, formative assessment, or review. (A small prize is nice but not necessary!)
4. Fun--Dress Up Days are all about FUN! And who doesn’t like to have some fun? Use student interests to connect to your curriculum. Take time to do something out of the ordinary. Laugh. Create fun and interesting bulletin boards and activities. Here are a few that I have already seen around the district: Homeworkopoly (Check out Terri Brown’s board!), painted ceiling tiles (Check out the HS art room!), and relaxing reading corners.
3. Collaboration--Have you ever noticed how when we have the whole student body cheering at the pep assembly, it just seems so much more exciting? Bring the collaboration to your classroom. Consider co-teaching a lesson or unit. Plan and teach a cross-curricular unit that brings in more resources and more voices. Don’t forget...instructional coaches are available to collaborate with too!
2. Victory--There’s just something about winning...especially at Homecoming! In teaching, when students learn, we win. So, what goals are we setting for students? Are we helping ALL students reach the standards that we ask of them? Differentiating is a great way to ensure that all students are getting what they need in order to learn. Check out our differentiation page as we add more ideas throughout the year. Instructional coaches or model teachers can also help you with ideas for differentiating for your students.
1. Celebration--There’s nothing better than celebrating a Homecoming victory than with a dance! The dance is the final event of a busy, exciting week. So, we celebrate! Be sure to celebrate victories--big or small-- in your classroom. Recognize the success students are having as they are victorious in achieving their goals. Give stickers or prizes. Bring treats. Have a party. Dance!
When sharing about my new job, this is the question I am most commonly asked. Many people, including myself, at first, have never heard of an instructional coach and have no idea what he or she might do. My husband still teases, “Where’s your whistle and clipboard, Coach?” While I am in no way an expert, I would like to share what I have learned so far and mention some of our team’s first steps.
Part of the Dike-New Hartford’s Teacher Leadership and Compensation (TLC) plan was to create four new instructional coaching positions. Current staff members were hired as instructional coaches in the areas of technology (Joanna Seymour), literacy (Amanda Bonjour), mathematics (Diane Eilderts), and mentoring/collaboration (Amy Seitz). The coaching team was no longer assigned to a classroom or a particular group of students. Instead, we are free to work at all levels, preschool through grade 12, to support teachers and improve student learning.
Trainings this spring and summer provided us tools to help support our teachers and improve student learning. To support our staff, we will:
We instructional coaches will NOT:
Starting coaching this fall, it has been exciting to observe many grade levels, and witness strengths of different teachers and students. We coaches have a goal to make it to all classrooms during the next few weeks. We are eager to visit with students we haven’t met yet and find ways to be supportive of staff needs.
#whyiteach is a movement that has been sweeping through schools across the country. This hashtag is spreading the message about why we choose to be educators, and sharing our passion and desire for motivating this generation of learners. As is very evident on storify.com, teachers’ voices matter, and sharing our own personal motivators for being in this profession can bring us all together!
"I think sometimes the world loses sight that we are people who choose to be here on a daily basis," Gail Adams said. "By publicly stating why we teach, people get to see we choose to be here. And they need to know that. I think it helps us take a more public statement of pride. We're proud of what we do every day." ~Gail Adams, 2015 Teacher of the Year for West Virginia
During the first day of teacher inservice, we asked teachers to come prepared with an idea in their minds as to why they teach, and we watched this moving video clip. Each educator created their own speech bubble which included #whyiteach, and filled it with their reason for being here, empowering and inspiring students, each and every day. They had their pictures taken with these signs, then we created bulletin boards for each building to share the message of why each teacher loves educating our students!
We truly work with an amazing group of innovative, passionate, and driven professionals. It is inspiring to see their individual reasons for being in education, and even more powerful is how all of their #whyiteach statements revolve around one thing...the students!
We are so excited to work with each of you this year, and are hopeful that we can help build on your passions to reach each and every learner! Here is to a fantastic school year! We look forward to learning and growing together, and sharing the message of #whyiteach!
For more information on #whyiteach, check out this article!
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