Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Yet I Will Rejoice

We've made some major systemic changes this week with technology and it has been trying at times - for every knot untangled there are two more found. I was reminded of a favorite passage in Habakkuk and had to make a modern version inspirational photo.

As the principal said, we don't need any of this technology to do what we do (teach). When it works, great. When it doesn't, we continue teaching. And while it is very frustrating when the tools and resources do not function correctly or we discover that data is lost or broken, I am so glad that my eternal destiny is not dependent on any electronics!

Are you a good person?

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Book Review: Flotsam

Flotsam Flotsam by David Wiesner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

David Wiesner does more than illustrate, he tells an engaging story through his illustrations. His watercolor paintings are colorful and full of hidden details that allow for additional discoveries when reading again. This 2007 Caldecott winner is a wordless book so it is appropriate for all ages. I especially recommend reading it with children, and allow them to explain the story that they see.

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Friday, July 15, 2016

Book Review: Romeo and/or Juliet: A Chooseable-Path Adventure

Romeo and/or Juliet: A Chooseable-Path Adventure Romeo and/or Juliet: A Chooseable-Path Adventure by Ryan North
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ever since junior high I've been a fan of the choose your own adventure style book. Ryan North has done a fantastic job.

My only complaint is that there are so many variations and the tales so long that I had trouble tracing back to a particular point of decision. I found that numbered sticky notes would allow me to retrace my steps and see how the adventure would change based on a single different decision.

I also enjoyed how each ending was accompanied by an illustration drawn by a different artist. What a great way to emphasize different outcomes by using different drawing styles!

Check out the author's website for the book at

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Wednesday, July 13, 2016

How Coaching Works

This video explains what I do everyday: facilitate great teachers. #INCLC

Did you notice what the coach (in the hat) did? Or what they didn't do?
Special thanks to Erin Brown for sharing this video in her presentation.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Connect.Learn.Coach Workshop Day 1

What I learned at #INCLC - take time to connect and learn before teaching teachers. On day one I attended the keynote address, two workshops and taught one workshop.

The keynote address was A Kaleidoscope of Powerful Possibilities and Partnerships presented by Dr Jennifer Wheat Townsend, Director of Learning at Noblesville Schools. She set the tone for the workshop by focusing on three key areas: Collaboration, Growth Mindset and Asset-Based Thinking.

Collaboration is characterized by trust (taking time and being open), giving unselfishly, and receiving (a willingness to acknowledge someone else might know more and to learn from them). We develop a growth mindset through dedication, resiliency and a love of learning. While asset-based thinking looks for the possibilities (instead of the problems), is focused on productivity (not easily sidetracked) and is people oriented.

A workshop titled Coaching Relationships by Beth Neidermeyer, Superintendent at Noblesville Schools, was an interesting overview of emotional intelligence and a discussion on characteristics of trust. I appreciated the practical tips for improving self awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management even though I'm sure there is a larger sociological theory at play. One personal take away was the thought that as an instructional coach, I can help facilitate communication between groups of teachers and administration.

The portion on building trust was especially poignant and yet disappointing to realize that schools everywhere struggle with issues of trust between teachers and administration. As a coach, I am uniquely positioned to help build that trust and develop relationships. The keys to building a trusting climate are inclusion (staff needs to feel cared for and important), influence (provide experiences that allow staff to contribute to the groups success),building a feeling of community, and celebrating achievements in problem solving, decision making and completion of team work.

The other workshop I attended was Strengthening Teams to Strengthen Collaboration led by Lisa Wescott, an instructional coach. This was a practical, hands on workshop where we identified our collaboration beliefs or norms, tried developing team agreements and discussed the difference between sharing and collaborating. It would have been nice to have more time for this workshop as we were rushed to get through all the material, but the reality is that good teams do not happen because someone put the team together. It takes time and planned effort to create a quality team experience.

The big idea I came away with today was how much time and planning should go into developing quality relationship at the beginning of the school year. If we want to achieve better outcomes later in the school year, we need to start out with a quality foundation. I'm planning to spend more time in August establishing those relationships before asking teachers to take on new technology challenges.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Book Review: Who Could That Be at This Hour?

Who Could That Be at This Hour? by Lemony Snicket
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Everything you would expect from Lemony Snicket, including a less than satisfying conclusion or answers to all your questions. This first person narrative follows a young Lemony on his first assignment but everything is wrong. Told in a film noir style complete with monochromatic pictures and descriptions of a monochromatic world. There are clues throughout the entire book but none of them solve the mystery or explain what is going on.
This is a great upper elementary or middle school book. There is little of substantive plot but plenty of nonsensical action. Lemony is always a great wordsmith, being careful to explain nuanced meanings of colloquial phrases and such. Here I am using "and such" to indicate that there are other examples but I am too lay to look them up.
It's a quick read and leads quickly into the next book of the series. The reader is always teased with an answer just beyond their grasp, both a torment and a delight.

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