Superintendent of Schools – There are so many jobs I could not do. I am consistently impressed with the skills of others and after watching them for a bit, I start to wonder if I could pull off what they are doing. Upon reflection, I normally come to the conclusion that I probably could not. I don’t think I am really different from most because each of us has a unique set of skills and experiences that allow us to be successful at different things.
The latest job I realized I could not do is music/band teacher. I am, and was, a pretty good teacher, but I do not think I could be a music teacher. I honestly do not think I could do it. I was at two winter concerts this past week and while I was impressed by the student performances, it was the two teachers who gained the majority of my attention. They were so generous and positive with their young performers. They beamed with excitement. They were so encouraging with their students, who had only begun playing that instrument two months before. Every so often, I could see the teachers in that “flow” state described by author Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. The work appeared effortless; they seemed lost in the moment. Yet through the movement of the baton, the encouraging prompting, or the rise of an eyebrow, they supported the young musicians. I saw pride in the teacher as a youngster hit the note that they had been struggling with. When the teacher put their arm around the struggling soloist, I saw care, support and encouragement for the young risk taker. It was a lot more than just a winter concert!
So, add music teacher to the list of yet another job I could not do. For all of you who are music teachers (including my niece who is going to school to be one), kudos to you. Thanks for all that you do!
Literacy Specialist – Uh oh. You have been assigned a new role this year (team lead, literacy lead, FI lead, coach, etc.) and you aren’t sure what this is all about.
Well, that’s quite a natural feeling. These job terminologies imply that you will be working in a coaching capacity with your colleagues and it may feel awkward. A few years ago, I was assigned to be an instructional coach at my school. It took me a few months to feel comfortable with this. I recall hesitating before accepting this new role as I did not see myself as an “expert” in any specific area. Moreso, I did not want my relationships with my colleagues to change because of this new role. After some reflection, I decided to accept the coaching role and focus on the “co” part of the word. I dedicated myself to working alongside teachers to co-teach, co-plan, and collaborate with those who could provide us with support. My role enabled me to serve as an extra set of eyes in classrooms. Together, my colleagues and I could decide how to better meet the needs of learners. After settling into the work, I felt great about myself and fell in love with the role.
Here are a few tips that helped me on my journey as a coach:
- Job clarity – Make sure that you are clear about the expectations of your new role. Make sure that your administration and colleagues are also clear about it. Teachers will not feel comfortable opening their classroom doors if they are not clear on why you are there. Depending on your job assignment, your role might be to coach, co-teach, model, co-plan, find resources, etc.
- Relationships – Relationships are key to success! If you don’t establish relationships of trust, it will be hard to have authentic discussions with teachers. Each teacher is a learner with their own learning style (just like our students). Some may prefer to watch you model a lesson, others may want you to suggest articles on a certain topic, while others may want to try a new practice with you. One size does not fit all. Get to know the teachers you will be working with. Don’t hesitate to ask them how they want you to support them. A coach needs to have strong interpersonal communication skills, be a good listener and be able to question teachers in a non-threatening way. Once a relationship of trust is established, the coach can support the teachers in elevating their instruction to be more impactful on student learning.
- It’s not about “fixing” teachers – Coaching is not about judging the practices of colleagues or “fixing them”. Coaching is collaborative work where together you establish goals, try out new strategies that teachers have in mind, and work to elevate areas in teachers’ practices that they have identified.
- Keep the focus on the students – Diane Sweeney (2010) defines Student-Centered Coaching as being about “setting specific targets for students that are rooted in the standards and curriculum and working collaboratively to ensure that the targets are met.” By keeping the coaching focus on students and practices that impact their learning, it will not be threatening to teachers. It’s not about them – it’s about improving student learning.
- Change is hard – Humans are creatures of habit and change can be uncomfortable. Change often causes anxiety and confusion and it takes time to move from confusion to coherence. Coaches therefore must be patient because each teacher processes information at a different rate. Changes in practice will not happen overnight. “A coach might come to believe that teachers are stubbornly resisting change when in reality they are simply taking time to balance competing demands on their time” (Knight, 2007, p. 72).
- Support for in-school PL implementation – One-shot Professional Learning (PL) is not effective and the best rate of implementation that can be hoped for is 10% (Bush, 1984). The coach can help bridge the learning and assist teachers to add the new PL to existing classroom practices. I view coaches as resources who help teachers connect the dots between the initiatives and various demands of the teaching world. Instead of new initiatives being interpreted as “add-ons”, coaches can show teachers how they should be interpreted as “build-ons” that connect to what is already being done.
Coaching is a wonderful opportunity for personal growth for coaches and teachers. We are all working towards the same goal: supporting our learners to become engaged and successful.
Resources to help support and build capacity around coaching
- Knight, J. (2007). Instructional coaching: A partnership approach to improving instruction. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
- Sweeney, D. R. (2010). Student-centered coaching: A guide for K-8 coaches and principals. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
- Bush, R. (1984). Effective staff development. In making our schools more effective: Proceedings of three state conferences. San Francisco, CA: Far West Laboratories.
Superintendent of Schools – This week we will present our proposed Annual Education Results Report (AERR) to the Board. I blogged about this earlier this fall, but now we’ve laid out the various survey results, achievement measures, transition data, drop-out rates, and information from our audited financial statement and capital plans, into an incredibly ‘readable’ format to share our story about the 2016/17 school year.
It is important to remember that the jurisdictional results are the compilation of all the individual school results. Over the fall, schools have been looking at their specific school results as a staff and with parent council. Principals build a School Annual Results Report as a summary document, which highlights their accomplishments related to our three divisional goals (Learners are Successful; Learners are Engaged; and Learners are Supported), priority areas for future school education plans, and their specific school results on both the provincial measures and RVS’ satisfaction survey.
In RVS we have many reasons to be proud. Specific accomplishments we are highlighting this year in our AERR include:
- Increased satisfaction about the efforts we are making to build foundational literacy and numeracy skills.
- Maintenance of an incredibly low drop-out rate and very strong high school completion rates.
- Provision of safe and caring schools where people believe they are receiving a high quality of education.
- Our stakeholders noting that we are focused on continuous improvement.
- Our First Nations, Métis and Inuit students performing significantly higher than their provincial First Nations, Métis and Inuit peers on many academic measures.
- Putting supports in place to increase students’ regular attendance.
- Utilization of inquiry and project-based learning along with balanced assessment practices.
- Learners taking ownership for their learning.
While we have much to be proud of, we must address those items where our results are not where we want them to be. All of these challenges will take time and effort to address and we do not believe that we can resolve them in one year. Specific areas for improvement identified in our AERR include:
- Math performance from K through 12.
- Providing students voice and choice in their learning, which will improve student engagement.
- Eliminating the performance gap between RVS students and our RVS students who self-identify as First Nations, Métis and Inuit.
- Building connections, confidence and resiliency for our students.
- Enhancing parental involvement in their child’s education.
- Supporting students with special needs achieve their learning goals.
- Improving a student-centred focus across our jurisdiction.
One other item in our AERR shares how we spent our money for the 2016/17 school year. Based on a cost breakdown per student, RVS spent: $8,828.44 on instruction, $1,559.87 on Plant Operations and Maintenance, $726.54 on Transportation, and $327.32 on Governance and System Administration.
We are committed to continuous improvement and supporting students to be successful. Thank you to our staff for all of your work.
Students grocery shopping at No Frills.
RVS Learning Support Teacher, Rainbow Creek Elementary – What do you know about Enhanced Support? When I was given the chance to share about the Enhanced Support program at Rainbow Creek I jumped on the opportunity. I love being able to celebrate the successes of our exceptional students!
For those of you who don’t know, the Enhanced Support program at Rainbow Creek Elementary provides direct support to students with complex communication needs. As the lead teacher, I am supported by three educational assistants, as well as divisional staff who collaborate on student programming. Programming is based on each students’ individual needs with a focus on improving communication, social interaction, behaviour and independence in addition to their academic skills. I have the opportunity to work with homeroom teachers to modify curriculum, promote peer interaction and ensure student success in their inclusive classrooms. In addition, students have the opportunity to develop specific skills in the Enhanced Support room. Our students participate in weekly outings such as grocery shopping for our school breakfast program. Students also develop independent life skills through activities such as cooking.
A student learning to use their power wheelchair.
Currently our students are working on goals, such as learning to drive a power wheelchair, communicating using Touch Chat, practicing street safety, and developing a greater understanding of expected school behaviour. It is amazing to see our students develop skills which will help make them more independent in their lives.
As the Enhanced Support program continues to develop, I have come to realize it is about more than just students with complex communication needs. It is about creating a culture of acceptance where all students can feel that they belong. It is about teaching all students to embrace diversity and difference. It is about creating an environment that promotes equal opportunities for all learners.
If you are ever in our building, come by and say hi. We would love to share more about what we are learning!
Director of Facility Planning – Every so often, I hear or read something that shifts my universe a little. This happened to me just last week.
Have your ever heard of the trust equation?
As we all know, trust can be difficult to earn and yet easily lost. Why is this? What builds trusts? And how is it so easily lost?
The trust equation has helped make something obscure into something more tangible. According to Charles H. Green, founder and CEO of Trusted Advisor Associates, the trust equation goes as follows:
Trustworthiness = (Credibility + Reliability + Intimacy) / Self-orientation
Differently stated, to be ‘worthy of trust’, the numerator requires to be greater than the denominator. And the greater the numerator and the lower the denominator, the more trust is strengthened.
I’m not a math buff, but this equation resonates with me because it has to do with people, which I understand.
When it comes to professional interactions, often credibility and reliability are the most talked about terms. For example, “I trust Pam; she’s credible on the subject,” or “Lawrence says he’ll have the information tomorrow and I trust him; he’s always been reliable.”
Now, intimacy in the trust equation for professionals at first seemed odd to me. Until I dug a little deeper… intimacy, refers to the safety or security we feel when entrusting someone with something. For example, “I trust her with this information,” or “She will not use this information against me.”
Lastly, self-orientation – or the person’s focus. If you’re trying to gain trust, stop thinking about yourself and think about whom you want to build the trust with. To achieve high trustworthiness, self-orientation needs to be low – the focus should be on the other person. Think about a time when someone was giving a speech and the entire time that person was concerned about his hair. Chances when you lacked trust in this person, not because he had bad hair, but because he was focused too much on himself and not you, the audience. His self-orientation was high.
Let’s use the example of the stereotype of the used car salesperson. Why do we generally view the used car salesperson as untrustworthy? The salesperson is credible (knows a great deal about cars) and is reliable (has documents to back up his/her knowledge); however, intimacy is low (it takes time to establish a relationship and feeling of safety) and self-orientation is high (we automatically think the salesperson is in this relationship to make money).
The trust equation has given me a new perspective on how I approach relationships, in both my personal and professional life. It doesn’t matter if I’m meeting with people from other organizations, having a chat with a member of my team, or presenting to a group of parents – I know that establishing trust (through credibility, reliability, intimacy and self-orientation) is vital to getting my message heard and understood.