“Coaching" means something different to everyone. Many of us have had both positive and negative experiences with coaches in the past, which influence our definition of and expectations from coaching. Becoming an instructional coach is often seen as a natural next step for classroom educators. Unfortunately, all of the skills that make one a good teacher may not be everything that makes a person a successful coach. Additionally, there aren’t always enough coaches to support all teachers. This limited capacity leads to some frequent misunderstandings of the role and accountabilities of a coach. We’re here to bust those misconceptions and encourage coaching to thrive.
What’s the most meaningful thing a district can do to support innovation in its schools? When my colleagues and I at Education Elements work with schools and districts, our approach to innovation and change involves a framework of 25 key factors, all of which are important. In the past year, though, we’ve been thinking a great deal about one of these – “roles to support teachers” – and the tremendous impact it has on innovation. Specifically, we’ve come to believe that there is a certain kind of innovative leadership, a set of skills and a way of thinking about innovation, that can enable district leaders, instructional coaches, school leaders, and teacher-leaders to have a transformative impact on their schools through the way they support teachers. We believe that one of the single most impactful efforts a district can undertake is to help their district leaders, school leaders, instructional coaches, and teacher-leaders learn to practice this kind of innovative leadership.
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Every 4-5 years, I try to pick up a new activity and focus on it until I get to a level of intermediate competency. It started with scuba diving in 2003, snowboarding in 2008, swimming in 2013, and this year was surfing. I took a 3-day boot camp with a private instructor where it turns out I had a different instructor each of the 3 days. While the instruction was 1:1 and technically couldn’t be more personalized for me, I was surprised by how much each instructor met or didn’t meet my needs. So I wanted to break it down for you.
In Putnam County, Tenn., with 23 schools spread across 400 square miles, we share many of the challenges faced by our fellow rural school districts nationwide, including inconsistent attendance, long commutes, and a high "mobility rate" - the rate at which students are moving in and out of the district. Previously, Putnam County teachers had been using more traditional, often low-tech teaching methodologies. But starting eight years ago, we began to make a significant shift toward personalized and virtual learning with the goal of preparing students to be "future-ready," a term we use in Putnam County to encompass both college-and career-ready as a more flexible concept as students often work toward both at once.
The end of one year and the beginning of the next is frequently a time of reflection and introspection, writing lists, and making resolutions. In the spirit of the season, I've been reflecting on my time with Education Elements. I’ve been a part of the Ed Elements team since 2013 - not quite six years - and in that time, I’ve seen quite a lot of change in the work we do and the work schools and districts ask us to do. But, I’ve also been surprised and proud at how much has remained the same in terms of our mission, culture, and how we think about these challenges.
Over the past year, we published 71 posts, and we’ll probably manage to sneak in a couple more before the year is done! Here at the Bring Your Own Thoughts blog, it’s always been our goal to create space for a wide range of perspectives and experiences so that as many educators as possible can find content which is useful and relatable to their own challenges and goals. We’re proud to say that every year, the B.Y.O.T. blog includes diverse voices – from teachers to administrators to coaches and consultants – and this year was no different. With thought leaders from schools, districts, and education organizations across the country, as well as our own team, we talked about everything from PL to equity to curriculum to leadership to organizational practices and beyond, in the form of blog posts and multiple new blog series, podcast episodes, downloadable tools and resources, and comments from our readers! You can learn more about our work over the past year in our reflection on 2018, and today, we’re sharing this year’s most popular posts on the blog.