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Thursday, July 3, 2014

Teaching Wonders: Real-Life Teachers in 2014

Part 2 (continued from previous post)


Is it possible to take "some boring, antiquated, real-life teacher" and make him/her into a human version of the Teaching Wonder in time to avoid extinction? What would the "right parts" consist of?  What would the investment be? What would the Assembly Instructions say?  What might you need to troubleshoot? What would the training manual say? 

What would be required beyond Patience and Optimism?

THE ANSWER-----------

Once a teacher has entered the profession, there is only one real way to keep from becoming antiquated and to avoid extinction.  It is through quality professional development.  But what is it?

I Googled "quality professional development for teachers".  Pages and pages of results were position papers/opinions of school boards, various states' departments of education, and many, many companies who have something to sell that will "fix" your teachers.  Try this Google search for yourself--who would YOU trust?  

I opened some of these documents and tried to discover who wrote them, what their agendas were, and how this related to profits (or not).  It was fairly easy to see the profits, but I had to exercise everything I know about my profession and close reading to determine agendas.  Even more challenging was to investigate "who" was behind each organization, company, and what "research" they were using to propel their cause.  (Sadly, the Supreme Court made that even more challenging this week with making it tougher for voters to access financial disclosures regarding the freebies our elected officials accept from lobbyists.)

So why did I bother?  

Because where and how we seek professional development matters.

I can remember a time when there was truly healthy competition among groups offering professional development for educators.  Options and ideas prevailed in a truly academic, scholarly environment.  In my state today, nearly everything has to have "approval" by our Dept. of Ed.  Recently, I noticed that in order for our Educational Service Centers to do a presentation, the DOE's logo must signify acceptance of each PowerPoint slide--logo that denotes the state's approval of that slide and that indicates that the slide can never be altered in any way.

Am I the only one that thinks this is a little like my "sci-fi" parody, TEACHING WONDERS (see yesterday's post)?

So what else is available?

The most sane offerings come from a local consortium called All Write!!!  This is a grassroots group of school corporations that pay a small membership fee to have access to the best educators in the world.  Through the All Write!!! Consortium, I have been able to participate in workshops with countless educational professionals and cutting edge thinkers, including:

  • Ralph Fletcher
  • Stephanie Harvey
  • Donalyn Miller
  • Barry Lane
  • Christopher Lehman
  • Penny Kittle
  • Jim Burke
  • Kelly Gallagher
  • Carl Anderson
  • Georgia Heard
  • Cris Tovani
  • Lester Laminack
  • Tim Rasinski
  • Dan Feigelson
  • Sharon Taberski
  • Debbie Diller
  • Matt Glover
  • Martha Horn
  • Katie Wood Ray
  • Karen Caine
  • Kylene Beers and Robert Probst
  • Jennifer Serravallo
  • Debbie Miller
  • Janet Angelillo
  • Franki Sibberson
  • Patrick Allen
  • Katherine Bomer
  • Laura Robb
  • Jeff Anderson
  • Ruth Ayres
  • Aimee Buckner
  • Max Brand
  • Frank Serafini
  • Peter Johnston
  • Tanny McGregor
  • Terry Thompson
  • ...and more

And through wonderful publishers, such as Heinemann and Stenhouse, and professional organizations, such as the International Reading Assn., and the Nat'l Council of Teachers of English, I have been able to spend days with Lucy Calkins, Mary Ehrenworth, Nancie Atwell, Linda Reif, Ellin Keene, Harvey Daniels, Reba Wadsworth, Jennifer Allen, Char Forsten, Jim Grant, Pat Cunningham, Sylvia Ford, Carolyn Chapman, Anne Goudvis, Kristin Ziemke, Mary Lee Hahn, 

The days have turned into hours, hours to weeks, weeks to years of learning, listening, reading, studying/collaborating, and implementing best practices--both tried and true and cutting edge--but all from the the best we have in the field of education.  All of this adds up to the 10,000 hours that Malcolm Gladwell says we must accumulate in our field in order to achieve mastery.  

In addition to the time we invest, what we read and hear influences what we say and do--and what we say and do influences who we become.  So...

WHO we listen to matters.  

What separates real-life teachers from "Teaching Wonders" teachers?  What makes you irreplaceable?

Over the years, experienced teachers have asked, "Why is it that I can have so many years of teaching experience without really feeling like I am a 'master teacher'?"  I think that it goes back to Gladwell's 10,000 hours.  While practice counts, what are we practicing, exactly?  

  • Are we constantly honing our craft?  
  • Do we seek growth, intentionally planning for our own professional development?  
  • Do we know what we want or need to do in order to grow?  
  • Do we thrive on learning and growing professionally, being truly "all in" and willing to joyfully invest time, energy, and spirit?  
  • Do we read professionally?  How often?  
  • Do we thoughtfully collaborate?  With whom?  For what purpose?
  • Do we attend workshops with only the best presenters who are doing the work and have first-hand experiences with the strategies that they are teaching?  Are we "fully present" when there?
  • Are we reflecting?
  • Are we implementing our new learnings as we go?

What Gladwell doesn't address is what it takes to sustain mastery, knowing that mastery today will surely look different tomorrow.  AND THAT MATTERS.

Teachers in our area are fortunate to live and work in a place that has access to our consortium for professional learning (see above).  The opportunities exist to learn together professionally vs. having "training done to teachers" by people who are not living the work.

But living in a place that has ready access to world-class master educators is different from choosing to attend their workshops and participate in job-embedded professional development.  Existing with those who are vested is different from being fully invested for yourself.  

Surely, building and sustaining mastery of teaching requires consistently and intentionally choosing to grow, seeking the appropriate professional development (including book studies, collaborations, workshops, and implementing with a coach).  

In particular, thoughtfully implementing new learning--putting it into reflective action in the classroom NOW--is what sets teachers apart in their growth, learning, specialization, and expertise.  

We have the freedom to choose... to participate... to actively engage... to exist see our learning as intrinsically valuable and necessary. Peter Block (1993) says, "If we cannot say no, then saying yes has no meaning."  When do you accept professional development?  When do you seek it?  From whom?  Do you see yourself as being finished?

I think the sense of urgency in growing and learning professionally has to exist among all teachers.  When administrators and others "in charge" worry that we have become passive about our learning, that is when "training is done to teachers."  

Parker Palmer (THE COURAGE TO TEACH, 1998) says, "Authority is granted to people who are perceived as authoring their own words, their own actions, their own lives, rather than playing a scripted role at great remove from their own hearts.  When teachers depend on the coercive powers of law or technique, they have no authority at all."  (p. 33)  

That might be when we inadvertently become boring and antiquated... replaceable by a "Teaching Wonder".

So how do teachers "author their own words/actions/lives"?  How can a district assist in honoring each teacher's voice?  

In 1989's THE SEVEN HABITS OF HIGHLY EFFECTIVE PEOPLE, Stephen Covey says, "The more deeply you understand other people, the more you appreciate them, the more reverent you will feel about them.  To touch the soul of another human being is to walk on sacred ground."  (p. 258)  This is the work of an instructional coach.

Jim Knight, president of the Instructional Coaching Group at the University of Kansas, discusses coaching as a partnership in his book, UNMISTAKABLE IMPACT (2011).  Knight reminds us that when teachers work in a partnership with the coach, "...we respect our partners' professionalism and provide them with enough information so that they can make their own decisions.  Partners don't do the thinking for partners.  Rather, they empower their partners to do the thinking.  Reflection stands at the heart of the partnership approach, but it is only possible when people have the freedom to accept or reject what they are learning as they see fit."  (For more on this topic, see my post, "One-Minute Wisdom".)

To be reflective, to enjoy your teaching work, and to build competence in tackling new challenges, three steps are required (Knight, p. 37):

  • We must look back at what we might have done differently--what worked and didn't and why.
  • We must look at, considering what we are doing while in the act, monitoring our work as it is in progress, making adjustments, differentiating every moment of the day.
  • We must look ahead, thinking about how to use an idea, practice, or plan in the future, thinking about what we can do to ensure success.  This is where we can be creative in making an idea our own by reshaping, adapting, or reconstructing it to fit our style of teaching and (of course) our current students' needs.

It is our accumulated knowledge that helps us assume autonomy in this complex process of building and sustaining 'mastery' in teaching.  

Though we have the freedom to opt out of many professional development experiences (such as reading professional books, thoughtfully collaborating with colleagues, partnering with our instructional coach, participating in workshops with the best in the profession, etc.), we do so at our own peril. 

Without being invested in our own professional development, our knowledge does not accumulate with our experience--we might think we have autonomy since we have opted out, but in actuality, we have sacrificed it.  

When we opt out of professional development, we opt in to losing our teaching voices, being handed scripts to follow with fidelity, and quick-fix prescriptions for teaching written by people who do not know us or our students... all of which stand to destruct education as we know it.

True autonomy for our professional growth occurs when we intentionally and willingly learn, implement, and reflect.  

To gain (or regain) control of our own professional development, Jim Knight (2011) says that we need to exercise the following principles:

  • Equality
  • Choice
  • Voice
  • Reflection
  • Dialogue
  • Praxis
  • Reciprocity

Equality means that professional learning occurs with teachers and isn't "training" done TO teachers.

Choice means that teachers have choice regarding what and how they learn.  (Notice that opting out of learning is not part of this equation.)

Voice means that teachers are empowered and respected as they learn.

Reflection means that we think about instruction by looking back, looking at, and looking ahead.

Dialogue is authentically integrated in learning.

Praxis means that teachers apply their learning into real-life practice AS THEY ARE LEARNING.

Reciprocity means that we should expect to get as much as we give.

All of these naturally occur in a partnership with the instructional coach.  A mark of an invested, "all in", authentic professional is his/her willingness to partner with the coach, interacting as equals, to impact professional learning.

This is how we avoid extinction.  This is how we are better than the world of the automated "Teaching Wonder".

What action will you take?

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Ordering the Perfect Teacher: A Sci-Fi How-To by "Teaching Wonders, Inc."-- A Parody

I'm reading and contemplating this rather bizarre "catalog," that focuses on building your own perfect bird, part by part, in a world (2031) where birds have become extinct.  To quote p. 4 in the text:

 "To build the proper way, you'll need more than Patience and Optimism.  You'll also need the RIGHT PARTS."

In these days of standardized "accountability," I have been thinking about why our teaching species are endangered, many disappearing, while others have already gone, and whether we should worry.  By 2031, will a company have created a catalog for building your own teacher?

Consider this YouTube "trailer" for Aviary Wonders, Inc.

Now, let's reword this for teachers:

"Teachers of the past faced many dangers:  norm-referenced test scores, school grades, budget cuts, pay freezes, skyrocketing insurance costs, decreases in benefits... the list goes on and on.

But now, it's 2031...

Here is the classroom--where are teachers?  They're now extinct...

But don't worry!

Now you can have your very own teacher in any style you want with 'Teaching Wonders'. 

And you don't have to settle for some boring, antiquated, real-life teacher!  Choose from hundreds of possible combinations of your favorite kinds of Teaching Wonders... 

Each Teaching Wonder Teacher comes complete with all of the Assembly Instructions and a manual that shows you how to train your teacher to get good test scores while providing you with entertainment and a passion for learning.  All this can be yours... with Teaching Wonders.

Who needs real teachers when Teaching Wonders can provide you with everything you need?"

So why do you need a Teaching Wonder?

Imagine the thrill of purchasing the teacher that is available at your beck and call, delivering the perfect script with just the right words, ideal tone of voice, willingness to repeat directions up to 300 times all while displaying an impeccable, lifelike smile and remarkably human LED eyes (choice of color available)!  The plastic skin (color choices available) is guaranteed not to tarnish or wrinkle from years of worry or thinking pesky beliefs or best practices.

Patented engineered movable parts will allow your Teaching Wonder to point to worksheets, hold a pencil or ruler, or even type on your electronic devices.  Your Teaching Wonder arrives dressed in a professional-looking school uniform of up to two of your favorite colors--but WAIT!  You can use our convenient, online catalog to purchase other stylish outfits from our Teaching Wonders clothing line (on size fits all Teaching Wonders).  or your Teaching Wonder, dressing it up for special occasions, making it more like a family member than an employee.  Picture how envious your friends will be!

Best of all, your little ones will appreciate the convenience having time built in to their day, so that they can play video games, watch TV, text their friends for social fun, and explore other mind-stretching interests--all while safely knowing that your user-friendly Teaching Wonder is always available when your student is ready to learn.  Imagine how this will free up your time--and your child's--so that education no longer needs to be of concern!  Parent-teacher conferences and "Back to School" nights will be an inconvenience of the past.  All you have to do is build your own Teaching Wonder, like your favorite teacher that lives in your memory (or imagination).

Students will now have more time for true passions while parents may rest assured that their dear ones will become consummate test-takers, producing the highest scores ever known to man, which is surefire proof of authentic learning and college/career readiness.  Teaching Wonders teachers are handcrafted by "artisans" from your favorite textbook/testing company; take pride in being able to tell your friends that your Teaching Wonder is the best, most high-quality teacher on the market.

Your Teaching Wonder is an "agent of change" programmed to automatically notify parents via convenient texts or emails with updates regarding daily testing practice.  It's a dream solution to all of your worries!  Purchasing optional updates will allow your Teaching Wonder to provide research-based spreadsheets of other data about your child, including quantifying of trips to the restroom, attempts to contact friends, calls to 911 or Nancy Grace, DCS, and more!  You can even purchase an update that will allow your Teaching Wonder to track and report the quantity and types of contact it makes with you on a handy printout, PDF, or Google Doc.  The program will conveniently track this data on the Teaching Wonder's performance rubric so that you don't have to!

We are proud to announce that starting this fall, parents will be able to pay an annual fee to include a built-in "spy cam" in the eyes of your Teaching Wonder. Imagine the possibilities! It will seem like you are there, sharing in your child's education, even when you have to go to work, the store, or enjoy a night out!  Think of the savings--no more babysitters or daycare!  You and your child will be amazed and delighted.

Your personalized Teaching Wonder has been proven to protect Americans from experiencing the flaws of faulty intellectual thinking that might result in their developing defective beliefs.  Instead, discover the comfort you and your family will take in believing that politicians and other leaders, textbook publishers/testing companies, and billionaires are trusted change agents with only the best intentions.  Your family will love the peace of mind!

Best of all, your tax dollars will support a portion of the initial start-up fee (excluding the cost of the Teaching Wonder), making this an affordable alternative to public education.  For each year that you renew your membership in the exclusive Teaching Wonders Organization, you will earn the use of additional tax dollars for virtually free or inexpensive updates for your Teaching Wonder, including unlimited access to online test prep materials.   Your child will anxiously anticipate the hours of learning fun, and you will love the results!

Your Teaching Wonder is virtually foolproof; if within 90 days you are not fully satisfied, you could be eligible for free software updates (see requirements below) if your Teaching Wonder begins to:

  • independently form thoughts that deviate from programming 
  • ask questions that cannot be answered by choosing A, B, C, or D
  • require work that is complex but which may not intentionally increase your test scores
  • fail to follow the copyrighted Teaching Wonders script with fidelity
  • perform any other corrupt teaching practice that endangers a perfect educational testing experience  

Though your Teaching Wonder has been programmed to only read the script, studies have shown that more advanced Teaching Wonders are sometimes impacted by students' questions, stories about their lives, or their human faces/eyes/emotions. Your Teaching Wonder contains a sophisticated computer chip to recognize feelings, moods, and key words in students' stories and will direct all non-academic/non-tested thoughts, questions, and feelings to the human parent.  

If that chip becomes defective, your Teaching Wonder might begin to experiment with developing a personality or other disconcerting social habits, such as expressing opinions or believing that it has real thoughts or attempting independent communication with the outside world.  IF that happens, remember that your Teaching Wonder is not the responsibility of your lawmaker or any laws/policies!  You may opt to return your Teaching Wonder and use the prorated tax dollars toward enrolling your student in a nearby charter school that employs only the most effective Teaching Wonders with the best research-based scripts for increasing the value of our nation's human capital--your child.  

If you choose, instead, to rehabilitate your defective Teaching Wonder, you may digitally send your Teaching Wonder's year of manufacture along with an evaluative rubric of imperfections and evidence of decreased test scores to us; upon approval, your Teaching Wonder may become eligible for special downloaded updates that occur over a period of time (conveniently excluding weekends, holidays, and up to 30 days of your family's vacation/activities time per year).  If, at the end of that time, you are not fully satisfied, you may exchange your Teaching Wonder for an more recent model that is guaranteed to be cost-effective (though not necessarily deemed more effective as a teacher). Extra costs (beyond tax dollars) will apply.  

We believe that the quality of your Teaching Wonder can be improved by investing in regular updates to its software; you won't even have to think  about.  Just check your catalog for choice updates and purchase them as soon as they become available. Remember, all Teaching Wonders are manufactured equally, but some will fulfill their potential and require updates more often than others.  All Teaching Wonders require annual updates to maximize and validate yearly student growth from each testing cycle.  Tax credits are available to ease the burden for those making more than $300,000 per year.

Therefore, in order to ensure that motivation and performance of your Teaching Wonder consistently aligns with goals for higher achievement scores to positively impact our nation's economy, simply use your copyrighted TW Adaptor (purchased separately) to connect your Teaching Wonder to the nearest computer and allow 10 minutes for each update to sync. This educational investment in your worker will significantly improve its productivity in your home or classroom.   We are pleased to announce that this syncing process will soon include updates that allow Teaching Wonders' teachers to digitally interact with each other, creating healthy competition within the Teaching Wonder labor force, thus increasing the value of your Teaching Wonder.  Indeed, this will ensure that your human student is prepared for college or a career.  

WARNING:  If your Teaching Wonder at any time begins to question its working conditions, affordable benefits, or fair salary increases, you must destroy it immediately. We are sure that you will agree that this is economically sound for the Teaching Wonder labor market and the most palatable way to ensure maximum organizational benefits. 

As you can see, building the perfect teacher with Teaching Wonders is as easy as framing a photocopy of a masterpiece... and twice the fun.

Or is it?

Coming up...

Is it possible to take "some boring, antiquated, real-life teacher" and make him/her into a human version of the Teaching Wonder in time to avoid extinction? What would the "right parts" consist of?  What would the investment be? What would the Assembly Instructions say?  What might you need to troubleshoot? What would the training manual say? 

What would be required beyond Patience and Optimism?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

One-Minute Wisdom

by Anthony de Mello

One of my sisters enjoys reading aloud a page from this text and then sharing her thinking about it with me. It is a way that we exercise our spirituality and feel more enlightened and connected.  It's truly soulful work, as we contemplate our beliefs via de Mello's themes and lessons.  In a similar way, I find myself searching for wisdom in books like THIS I BELIEVE, in poetry, in music.

Of course, as an instructional coach, I think, "How can I help teachers to find their own wisdom, promote harmony in their teaching lives, and to work wholeheartedly--to be "all in" as they work, moving in a common rhythm with me, their beliefs, and their colleagues?

Consider these lyrics from Lifehouse's "All In":

There's no taking back
what we've got's too strong,
we've had each other's back for too long...

And you know it's okay, I came to my senses
Letting go of my defenses
There's no way I'm giving up this time

This is what wholehearted teaching and living is all about...  Letting yourself be seen, vulnerabilities and all, knowing that there will be someone (your instructional coach, perhaps) who has had your back (even if you didn't realize it) and who is there for your journey of gaining teaching strategies and deepening your wisdom.

Consider this quote from ONE MINUTE WISDOM, p. 196:


Said a disappointed visitor,
"Why has my stay here yielded
no fruit?"

"Could it be because you lacked
the courage to shake the tree?"
said the Master benignly.

Which brings me to one of the most difficult experiences I have had as an instructional coach.  This has only happened a couple of times (thank goodness) but yet I feel haunted by the experience.  Someone asks for coaching services but lacks the courage to "shake the tree," seems unable to let go of their defenses, and is not invested--not "all in"--and then wonders why the work was not as satisfying as it could have been.

When a coaching client is reluctant to "dare," or take a risk, the work suffers.  As with any relationship, one person can not compensate for the absence of mutual sharing, caring, allotment of time, dedication, and work. Thankfully, this rarely happens; but, when it has, I emerge feeling scathed... frustrated, empty--barely "alive" (professionally).

And I am disappointed, too.  I used to be more disappointed in myself, as I believed that somehow I should have been able to "shake the tree" for the client.  Somehow, I believed that if I somehow just did a little more... somehow I could "fix" the motivation by trying to care enough for both of us.  But now I know, to be of use as a coach, I have to lay down boundaries:

  1. I can't do your work for you.
  2. I can't grow for you.  
  3. You have to jump into the work head first, no dallying in the shadows, and do what has to be done--again and again.  
  4. While a coach can support you and guide you, you are the responsible for your submersion in the task, making your work uncommon, satisfying, and evident.

It is the teacher's role to make the work s/he is doing with the coach as real and authentic as possible.  

A plethora of reasons exist for why a person might not be invested in or even resist coaching... perhaps s/he felt coerced into accepting coaching services; maybe the experience just exposed too many vulnerabilities for comfort; or it's possible that the client didn't understand the work that we needed to do; perhaps s/he is experiencing competing commitments... the list goes on and on.  As a coach, I try to show up with respect and humility.  I feel innately invested in the teacher's growth.  I realize that most of the time, when a teacher doesn't seem invested, it isn't about me at all.  So I keep trying.

A coach cannot go it alone.  (This is why you don't see a coach on the sidelines with no team to play the game.)  I know that the people I love best will help by finding (or providing) an inroad "To Be of Use", doing work that is real.  Ultimately, the client must willingly harness the time and energy it takes to patiently propel our work forward.  That is when coaching works, satisfies, and is clean and evident.

To Be of Use

by Marge Piercy

The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who stand in the line and haul in their places,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.

In the minute or so that it takes to read this poem, I find wisdom in the room to breathe, to believe, and to remember the good things that have come of our work.  I love jumping into work head first, and I know that there are many people who are willing to swim off with sure strokes, do what has to be done, and strive for work that is real.

Monday, June 23, 2014

What Payton Manning Knows about Literacy Coaching

I love football.  Being a Colts' fan, my respect for Payton Manning has followed him to Denver.  Though he is "only 38" years old, he is getting close to retirement, as that is practically ancient for the NFL.  In today's sports news (NBC Sports,, Kevin Patra), Payton lamented about what he knows he will miss most when he leaves the field as a player.
  "Sometimes I sort of kick back and I pause and I think what sorts of things would I miss the most if I wasn't playing," Manning said.
So what would Manning miss the most?

"Being in the huddle," Manning said. "That's what I missed most when I was injured, I'll say that. I mean, there's no other type of unity or bond that I think any other job can provide. I know there are meetings, there are video conferences. But that huddle, because of where it takes place: it's often on the road, in the middle of the field, in front of 80,000 people, it's unique."
"When you don't play football anymore, you can broadcast, you can coach, you can be in management, whatever, but you are not allowed to go into the huddle anymore," Manning said. 

This is particularly interesting to those of us who know that Payton almost single-handedly instituted the "no-huddle offense" in the NFL.  Why would someone who is known for NOT huddling say that he values the huddle so much?  He responds, 

"That huddle is just for players. You can go into the locker room after the game and you can speak to the team, but I think any retired player would probably tell you they miss the huddle."

As a teacher for 20 years and coach for the past six, I can tell you that what I love most about teaching and coaching has been "the huddle."  In the classroom, "the huddle" is the time where you feel the sense of classroom community that you have worked so hard to foster; someone will say/do something that shows their connection to the group, the learning, and the investment you have collectively made.  These are the moments that we live for as teachers. If my coaching job ended, I would likely return to my own full-time classroom, and I know that I would, once again, live for "the huddle" that occurs there.  

As a literacy coach whose job expires annually with our funding, I remain cognizant that there is always the possibility of "no tomorrow" in my line of work.  That knowledge probably keeps me "present" in this moment--neither looking back nor too far into the future--just working and living in the here and now.  This job differs in critical ways from that of a principal, curriculum director, or superintendent.  In reality, an evaluator ("boss") cannot authentically enjoy the collegial relationship of a coach--an equal.  Nor does an administrator have the time to dedicate to mentoring/coaching on a daily basis.  An administrator, like an owner of a team, cares about employees, watches closely for improvement, and has no choice but to press for the win (in education, the test score).  When I think about "what else" I might do with my life, I understand Payton's remarks about "the huddle" more and more. 

A coach's job is to "huddle up" with colleagues to figure out each "play," as we do our best in each "game."  Working in a classroom, everyday is the Super Bowl.

A coach is actually in the arena, daring greatly beside the teacher, "showing up," honoring the vulnerability of herself and her colleagues.

In STITCHES, Anne Lamott likens life to "a patchwork of moments, memories, connections, and stories that I've found help steer me in the direction of answers that will hold, for now and even over time" (page 7).  So, too, is instructional coaching; it includes a patchwork of opportunities to work alongside others, facilitating: collaborative meetings, book studies, round table discussions, long- and short-term coaching cycles, workshops, consulting, demonstrating lessons, co-teaching, providing feedback from classes, analyzing data to plan instruction, projecting and co-planning units of study, and individually coaching teachers.

Here is what I know about coaching:  when I work 1:1 or with small groups of teachers, I feel a sense of unity through "the huddle"--as Merriam-Webster defines it: "coming closely together to discuss privately." Within that patchwork of duties, there "is no other type of unit or bond" that can replace that felt between teachers or teacher/coach when "in the huddle."   

"If you can raise somebody's level of positivity in the present, then their brain experiences what we now call a happiness advantage, which is your brain at positive performs significantly better than it does at negative, neutral or stressed. Your intelligence rises, your creativity rises, your energy levels rise. In fact, what we've found is that every single business outcome improves. Your brain at positive is 31 percent more productive than your brain at negative, neutral or stressed. If we can find a way of becoming positive in the present,then our brains work even more successfully as we're able to work harder, faster and more intelligently."

Achor goes on to cite studies that show that high levels of social support is as predictive of longevity as regular exercise, while low social support is as damaging as high blood pressure.  Now we know why it feels so good to feel positive connections in our lives.
On the best days of coaching, I get to experience this increased "level of positivity" in almost every coaching session with teachers.  Brene Brown (in THE GIFTS OF IMPERFECTION) describes courage, compassion, and connection as those gifts:

"I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship."

I suspect that this is the same energy that Payton Manning feels while in the huddle.  He knows he is "daring greatly."  He knows that Brene Brown is correct in saying, "To practice courage, compassion, and connection is to look at life and the people around us, and say, 'I’m all in.'"  Shawn Achor says, "The greatest predictor of success and happiness at work is social support. And the greatest way to increase social support is to provide it to others."  Payton does that; as a coach, I do that, too.  Based on Payton's interviews over the years and what I know about myself in my heart, I would say we both feel privileged to be "all in" as we provide support to others.  As Anne Lamott says (STITCHES) about searching for meaning, "...I do know it somehow has to do with sticking together as we try to make sense of chaos, and that seems a way to begin."  Isn't that what they huddle is:  a way to make sense of chaos while being "all in," invested as colleagues with a common goal?

This is why people love Payton so much--when he's your quarterback, you know he's "all in."  When he's the quarterback for your team that is playing the Broncos, this is what instills quiet fear in your heart--you know he is "all in."  

Payton is living a wholehearted life.  Those of us who love our jobs, care to see, hear, and value the people around us, give and receive without judgment, and derive sustenance and strength from our relationships, know his secret to happiness.  It's not really the Super Bowl ring (or, in our case, the test scores)--though those are nice.  It's really the energy of God--wholehearted goodness--surging between us as we "huddle up" to do our best work.


 verb \ˈhə-dəl\
: to come close together in a group
: to come together to talk about something privately

Full Definition of HUDDLE
intransitive verb
a :  to gather in a close-packed group
a :  to hold a consultation

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Again and Again Signpost Lesson--Notice and Note

Again and Again
Lesson Plans
Reading Workshop:  Notice and Note

·         Notebooks for students
·         Chart paper/writing tools and/or   Interactive Whiteboard for Teacher
·         Sticky Notes and/or Graphic Organizers (from back of  N&N text)
·         “Handout” (word document) to display words from CHARLOTTE’S WEB
·         Fiction Text for Words of the Wiser
o   IDEAS:
§  NEW KID (short story)
§  EACH KINDNESS by Jacqueline Woodson
§  A Christmas Carol (excerpt) by Charles Dickens

·         Possible Videos/clips:
Scrooge’s bad behavior… again and again  (start at 2:40 into the video)
                                                Start at 1:15 and go to 2:53

Scrooge’s good behavior… again and again  (start at 1:28:20 end at
       1:38:50) – 10-1/2 min.

Standards:  The Signposts from NOTICE AND NOTE can be used to meet the following standards from the IDOE’s Assessment Guidance for 2013-14:

4.RF.4 Read with sufficient accuracy and fluency to support comprehension.
Ø  Read on-level text with purpose and understanding.
Ø  Read on-level prose orally with accuracy, appropriate rate, and expression on successive readings.
4.RL.1 Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.
4.RL.2 Determine a theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in the text; summarize the text.
Ø  (IAS 4.3.6 – The CCSS requires the summarization of the text.)
4.RL.3 Describe in depth a character, setting, or event in a story or drama, drawing on specific details in the text (e.g., a character’s thoughts, words, or actions).
Ø  (IAS 4.3.3 – The CCSS requires in-depth description of character, setting, or event by using specific details in the text.)
4.RL.10 By the end of the year, read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poetry, in the grades 4–5 text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range.
IAS 4.3.2 Identify the main events of the plot, including their causes and the effects of each event on future actions, and the major theme from the
story action.
4.SL.1 Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 4 topics and texts, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.
Ø  Come to discussions prepared, having read or studied required material; explicitly draw on that preparation and other information known about the topic to explore ideas under discussion.
Ø  Follow agreed-upon rules for discussions and carry out assigned roles.
Ø  Pose and respond to specific questions to clarify or follow up on information, and make comments that contribute to the discussion and link to the remarks of others.
Ø  Review the key ideas expressed and explain their own ideas and understanding in light of the discussion.


  1.  Each student will learn about the signpost of “Again and Again” in order to read closely to consider/better understand:
    • Theme
    • Conflict/plot
    • character development across a text


1.      Review that we have been working with the signposts, “Contrasts and Contradictions”  “Aha Moments,”  “Tough Questions,” and “Words of the Wiser”.  These are sets of clues that authors use to get you to think about characters—it is how they make them seem real, multi-dimensional, interesting.

2.      This next signpost is one that you have probably experienced but may not have really noticed in your reading.

3.      Explain to students that patterns help us to make predictions or learn about things. When something happens over and over we start to think about why that same thing happens again and again and what that means. For example if we ate a candy bar and then our tummy hurt one time we probably wouldn’t think much of it. If we ate the same candy bar again and our stomach hurt again, we might take notice of that. If we eat the same candy bar AGAIN and our stomach hurt AGAIN we might stop and ask ourselves what is happening here? What do we think that means? Why does our stomach keep hurting? What is our body trying to tell us?

4.      Imagine that you are sitting with a few friends when another joins you.  One of the original group grows quiet and after a few minutes gets up and leaves.  You may not think anything of it at that moment; but, if it happens again the next day and then again the next week, you will probably notice it.  It’s the pattern, the repetition, the event that occurs again and again that lets you know something is up—if you notice it… and if you think about it.

5.      Obviously, noticing it isn’t enough.  You have to do something with what you have noticed or it’s lost.  You have to wonder about it, speculate on what it might mean, and perhaps compare it with other incidents, or it won’t help you to understand what is going on.  When you think about what it might mean, you will figure it out.

6.      We call this signpost technique the, “Again and Again” .

Begin creating poster while students make their in the their notebooks.
“When you’re reading and you notice a word, phrase, object, or situation mentioned over and over, again and again.”

7.       Pause to add this to the chart as kids add this definition to their notebooks.

8.       Then we want to pause and ask ourselves one question:

(Write this on the poster while kids add to their corresponding reading notebook page:)

Why does this keep showing up again and again?

9.      Add to anchor chart.

10.  Authors try to help us stop and take notice of important things in their books by having something happen again and again. It is a clue that we should stop and notice something in the story.

11.   Let’s take some time to think about one of the ways that an author might present a word, phrase, object, or situation over and over—again and again—in a text or story.

12.  Let’s think about “Again and Again” as we look at some pictures.  Display “handout” of web words from CHARLOTTE’S WEB.  Who recognizes these words?  Discuss how Charlotte did this again and again because she believed that it would cause the Zuckermans to have an “Aha Moment” that Wilbur was no ordinary pig—even though he WAS, she wanted them to believe that he was a far superior (contradictory to ordinary) pig.

13.   We know that A CHRISTMAS CAROL has a lot of signposts in it—from contrasts/contradictions to aha moments to tough questions to words to the wiser.  Does it have again and again?  What did he do again and again at the beginning?  Was there more than one spirit or ghost?  How does that provide again and again experiences?  What does he do in the end again and again?  Why does the author have him do these things?

14.  Now as we read, we should be on the lookout for places where the author shows us a character experiencing something again and again—or you notice that the author has used many similar words or phrases again and again.  Sometimes you might notice colors or objects again and again, as well.  The key is to look for patterns.

15.  Review our story, EACH KINDNESS by Jacqueline Woodson.   We want to think about any “again and again” patterns in this story.  Let’s highlight them with yellow crayon, colored pencil, or highlighters. 

16.  Allow time to read/highlight.

17.  Discuss.

18.  Repeat process with NEW KID.