Leaving for Germany #globalteachers

Leaving for Germany #globalteachers

A few months ago I was selected as one of the recipients of the Borchardt Award.  This program provides teachers from the Triangle area the opportunity to travel abroad with the GoGlobalNC organization and other teachers throughout the state to increase their global awareness to (hopefully) bring that experience back and share with their students and staff.    This year’s trip is to Germany and the day of departure has finally arrived!

A large part of why I applied to this program (other than the awesome opportunity to travel) is that I really believe it is more important than ever for people to be aware of the greater world that we are all a part of.  I want the students (and teachers) at my school to learn about and appreciate other cultures.   In the fight against intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, transphobia, etc those of us in the majority have to learn how to remove ourselves and our experiences from the center of the conversation and give way to the voices of those who have been historically marginalized.  Learning about and appreciating other cultures is one small step towards doing this.

I hope to bring back a small piece of Germany and share my trip with everyone at my school and beyond.  I’m really excited to document the trip here and on Twitter.  I can’t wait to visit German schools and learn about Germany’s incredible renewable energy program.  This truly is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I hope I am able to capture all of my learning and reflection here!

There are 28 teachers on this trip and in true teacher fashion, today has been spent matching names to faces.  Our first leg leaves from Newark to Berlin at 6pm.  Between the 8 hour flight and the 6 hour time change we arrive right at 8am Saturday.  Needless to say, I will be trying to sleep on the plane.

Auf Wiedersehen!

Every day is a new day

Every day is a new day

I’ve been thinking a lot this year about coaching.  I want to learn about coaching, how to coach, be called a coach.  So, it makes sense that I’ve started reading about coaching.  I’ve finally made the time to start The Art of Coaching by Elena Aguilar.  First of all…wow.  Like, I hope to be a tenth as reflective and insightful as she is.  Secondly, I love how she approaches coaching from the belief that “We can transform our education system.”  Because I agree.  I firmly believe that we can change school to be meaningful for children, not to mention prepare them for life.

Aguilar states that our beliefs drive our actions.  She shared a tool she uses to help people get to the root of their actions and beliefs.

Ladder of Inference
The Ladder of Inference-Elena Aguilar


So it has led me to question my beliefs.  I have spent this whole year talking about coaching and taking action towards becoming a coach.  Why?  What beliefs do I hold?  What assumptions and conclusions have I made?

I believe that coaches are taken more seriously.  That what they have to “sell” is required to purchase.  I have heard the coaches at my schools talk about their position and what they do.  But I’m realizing I have not taken the time to watch a coach in action or talk to the people being coached.  There is a lot of “data” out there that I have not seen.  I have assumed a lot about their role.  I’ve assumed that magical changes are happening just because of the formalized relationship between coach and teacher.  I think deep down, I want to rely on the title to help me do my job.

Well.  That’s not good.

Fortunately, the infinitely wise Ms. Aguilar has something else to say.

We're all somewhere

Each day is a new day to be a little better.  Learning coaching skills might be the right thing for me to do (and I really do think it is, despite some misguided assumptions), but I can work on addressing those beliefs about WHY I want to learn how to be a coach.   Changing my title won’t magically get my job done.  I still need to put in the work and time.

So think about your actions.  What beliefs are driving them?  Where are you and where do you want to go?


Everyone is telling me to fail.

Everyone is telling me to fail.

You’d think these posts would get easier after the first one.  That having done one, I wouldn’t be as worried about the rest.  But I guess a perfectionist procrastinator is always a perfectionist procrastinator.  That’s what I get for surrounding myself with amazing #eduheroes as inspiration.  Totally worth it though.

Over the past few weeks I have found myself at various conferences and professional development and noticed an emerging trend.  Everyone is talking about failing.  They’re talking about how important it is to teach our kids that it’s ok to fail and even as teachers we need to throw away our fear of failure and take risks.  One thing that I think hasn’t been getting as much play though is HOW to fail.  We talk about being ok with failure, but what do we tell kids (and ourselves) to do after they actually experience that failure?  For a lot of us, once we fail, do we know what to do to get back up?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately.  Because frankly, I’m in a fail cycle.  I have had a few setbacks as a coach and as a tech facilitator and I’m feeling a little lost.  I already feel as if I fight an uphill battle and when I make mistakes or through no fault of my own (I’m looking at you Cold and Flu Season) let down my teachers, it’s as if I’ve fallen that much further down the hill.  I worry that I won’t be able to gain back what little trust I had and that teachers will hesitate to buy into what I’m selling because it hasn’t worked out perfectly before.

How do you gain back that creative momentum after a setback?

Source: lyrafay.tumblr.com

I’m still learning.


Sweet Tech Tools

Sweet Tech Tools

I’m always trying to get the attention of the people I work with.  Whether it’s through email or face to face PD I figure the more I can put technology in their face the better chance they’ll have of using it.  Now, I’m not fooling myself.  I know that best case scenario a few people might pick up ONE idea or tip, but until I can establish more in depth partnerships, it’ll have to do.  Plus I love bulletin boards.  In college I would spend hours making intricate displays for the cafeteria in my dorm where I worked.  Now, of course, I don’t have that much time.  But it’s still fun to do something creative every now and again.


Listening IS important

Listening IS important

So I’m jazzed.  I’m spending the year learning about coaching and specifically did not write into my development plan anything about initiating coaching relationships.  As my AP said, it’s ok to give yourself time to learn.  But I couldn’t wait.  (Big shock, I know, for anyone who knows me.)  I’ve been reading and learning so much I wanted to try it out.  So I found some super generous volunteers who were willing to work with me in a coaching relationship to test out my new skills.

My first victim volunteer is a second grade teacher and today was our initial meeting. My main goal for this meeting was to ask questions and listen as much as possible.  I have found that as an ITF I am more often than not a last-minute source of ideas.  Sometimes, teachers want a cool “dessert project” and ask me to come the last couple days of the unit to teach their kids how to use a presentation tool.  Or they want ideas for a good app to teach or practice specific skills.  There is nothing wrong with any of this.  However, if this is all we’re asking our kids to do with technology, we have a real problem.

So most of the time I am viewed as an “expert” (your words, not mine) who is there to give a solution.  It is very much a role I have fallen into and even secretly enjoy (I mean, c’mon, who doesn’t like looking knowledgeable).  Plus, I am a problem solver and impulsive by nature.  I can only handle so much discussion before I want to come up with a solution and implement it then and there (ask my husband about our house renovations….).  Don’t get me wrong.  As an ITF, there is definitely a time to be a source of ideas and an “expert”.  But this is not who I want to be when acting as a coach.

Talking is a hard habit to break.  Especially when you’re a nervous talker and like to fill silence.

We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak. - EpictetusSource BrainyQuote

I knew I needed to be prepared or I would ramble.  I came in with the following questions:

  1. How would you describe your class?  What are their characteristics, areas of strength, areas for growth?
  2. What are some areas you’ve had a lot of success?  Why do you think that is?
  3. What are two areas you want to improve?  What do you think is preventing your students from being successful in these areas
  4. What are you hoping to accomplish with our partnership?
  5. What is your understanding of what coaching is?
  6. How do you feel you learn best?  What should I know about you to make our work as effective as possible?

Some of these are my own, some are from this article.  As we spoke, I focused on being present and actually listening to her answers.  Though I haven’t formally read or studied Stephen Covey, I am aware of his work.

“The habit to “seek first to understand” involves a very deep shift in paradigm. We typically seek first to be understood. Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”-Stephen Covey

This quote has always resonated with me and I really took it to heart for this meeting.  What it allowed me to do was repeat her ideas back to her to check for understanding.  It allowed me to think of additional questions to further our conversation and deepen my understanding of her needs.  Most importantly, it allowed us to come to a place where we are working on her goals and wants rather than what I feel is important.

In the end, we decided to work together to plan her next social studies unit.  She wants her kids to be more engaged and excited.  I’m so looking forward to meeting with her next week to look at the objectives and start setting up a plan!  I’m also looking forward to the initial meeting for my second volunteer.  I’m looking forward to not just getting the chance to work with another teacher, but to take a completely different journey with her than anyone else because we’re moving based on her needs, not my “expertise”.


“But it was a beginning.”

“But it was a beginning.”

Well, I’ve finally done it.  I’ve started my blog.  I really wanted this to be all pithy and lofty and motivating, but then I got some great advice…and from an unexpected place actually.  Wordpress offers some how-to guides for new users.  One was about choosing a theme that fits you.  Michelle W. said:

“If I put on the skinny jeans, I’ll be self-conscious and will spend all night tugging at my clothes to get them just so. Eventually, I’ll give up and leave them in the closet…”

That really struck home.  Not only because I view skinny jeans as the death of comfort, but because it’s true.  If I try to be someone I’m not on this blog, I’ll spend all my time thinking of the perfect way to word something.  Or spend hours finding that just right graphic.  All of this will be done instead of accomplishing what this blog is actually for: reflection and sharing.

Now, sure, I hope that I will develop some kind of audience (other than the spambots) so I need to be a little polished and well spoken.  In the end though, the main purpose is to help me reflect on my practice to make changes and improvements.  And I know me.  I don’t listen to myself when I get all uppity.  So expect some humour.  Expect some sarcasm.  Expect too many parentheses, commas, and ellipses (I’m a science nerd, not an English major).  But most of all, expect plain talk that probably won’t be made into a meme anytime soon.  Oh yeah, expect a lot of memes too.

So, welcome to my little corner of the world.  Congratulations George Couros.  You have motivated one more educator to take the leap.

Post title courtesy of Robert Jordan.