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.