Friday, September 25, 2015

Learning from Coaching

Okay -- so I bet you are wondering why I have a picture of my junior high physical education instructor in a clown costume in a blog entry entitled "Learning from Coaching"?

I recently read the very short (yet incredibly informative) book entitled Learning from Coaching -- How do I work with an instructional coach to grow as a teacher written by Nina Morel.  As I was reading, my thoughts went to people in my life who have taken the time to "coach" me and those I have been blessed to be "coached" by.  

I'm fortunate that many people have invested in who I am today and Jim VanEtten just happens to be one of them (and connecting how Jim has impacted me as a "coach" was one way I could share this great picture of him).  Every time I look at this picture it makes me smile and reminds me of how I might be making a difference in the lives of those I have the opportunity to interact with on a daily basis.   
  • Mr. VanEtten was my junior high teacher and he taught me how to play a mean game of table tennis, along with how to lift weights, run stairs and work as a team member.
  • Coach VanEtten was also one of my high school track coaches.  He taught me that I could improve my times based on solid workouts and by challenging some of my assumptions of what "effort" really was.
  • Jim was a co-worker of mine when I started working at the school district I happened to have graduated from.  He re-enforced with me the importance of creating connections with students and staff; if I wanted to have any chance of making a difference in the culture of our school district.

As I read Nina's book -- here are a few connections I made between her words and my interactions with Jim VanEtten - my teacher, my coach, my co-worker and most importantly my friend.  
  • Good coaching is "movement made easier".  Coach VanEtten definitely helped make those laps around the track easier by encouraging us often during our workouts.  Nina shares one great tenet of instructional coaching is replacing criticism with gratitude and looking and moving forward with our teaching practices.  
  • Professional learning that includes theory, demonstration, practice feedback and coaching leads to positive transfer of new learning to teacher practice.  Coach VanEtten gave me great feedback about my breathing and form to help me achieve maximum benefit of my then 101lb. frame during my races.  Good instructional coaching will do the same -- instructional coaching helps improve upon our instructional practice - no matter where we start from.
  • Instructional Coaches can be your thinking partner.  Jim was great about coming into my office and starting conversations with, "Boss, have you thought about..."  His insights helped divert many rookie administrator mistakes.
  • Adults learn by:
    • having a vested interest in what is being proposed.
    • having a problem to solve or a challenge to be met.
    • having the opportunity to practice within the context of their work environment.   Mr. VanEtten used the resources he had as a junior high physical education instructor to teach us the value of keeping our bodies healthy so they would hold up for us when we got old and to teach us activities we can still do now that we are old:)
  • Instructional Coaching works best when the coach knows your learning preferences.  Coach VanEtten took the time to know each of us as people.  He often gave his students and co-workers great messages about knowing ourselves and our beliefs and to reflect upon those to add meaning to our experiences and to challenge our own mental models and to continue to grow as learners.   
  • Instructional Coaching assumes every person has good intentions and is doing their very best with what is on their plates at any given moment.  Jim had a knack for finding the best in people and making connections with every student he had in his classroom.  He could say because he knew, "I had your grandpa (brother, aunt, mom, etc.) in my classroom!"  

If you are wondering whether you might benefit from working with an Instructional Coach -- I suggest you read Nina's book.  I know I gained from the "coaching" Jim has given and continues to give me. 

P.S.  As I was writing this blog entry -- I emailed Jim and asked him to proofread, give me feedback or make changes on what I had written.  Here's what he wrote back to me:

You have my permission to use anything about me that you need to for your job responsibilities or that you think would benefit someone in the education field or thinking about education...
Keep in mind, most of anything I did or said, was probably borrowed, begged or stolen from someone or somewhere else.
Remember, I only learned 10 things for sure in those 43 years I taught and I have forgot 8 of them already.. So the only two I can now remember are that as a teacher:
1. There is a God! 
2.  I am not him!

Friday, September 18, 2015

"I use to think...but now I think..."

Where does my thinking come from?  I'm quite sure my husband has thought that many times over the course of our marriage.  But, being the very smart man he is, he doesn't say aloud those thoughts that might be screaming in his head.  As I reflect on how my thinking has changed over the years, I cannot pinpoint just one event, but many, that have helped shaped my thinking.

In my short, almost 52 years, I've had many opportunities for learning.  When I was in upper elementary school I was fortunate enough to be part of a small group of students who were able to benefit from project based learning with our media specialist.  I vividly remember scouring the town to map out every home and business.  One benefit of this work is we got to stop at my grandparents home each time we were able to work on our project.   One additional benefit is my Grandmother always had chocolate chip cookies (always burnt and always good:) for us.  Our end project was a movie about how our town how changed in the past one hundred years.

Pillsbury Chocolate Chip Cookies -- not my Grandma cookies.  Which I would of taken a picture of those;)

During the early 80's as a high school student I was fortunate enough to be part of a group of students who learned with "Psychology of Winning" creator with Denis Wailtey.  This learning has had a tremendous impact on my understanding of myself and how I could use my new enlightenment to work with others in a more collaborative and effective way.  I continued to use this learning with high school student groups while I was in college and then again when I worked for a consulting group in my late twenties.
What a blast from the past finding this in one of my many boxes of STUFF!

During the early 90's I was fortunate to be a student in a training of trainers in Stephen Covey's "7 Habits of Highly Effective People".  Covey's work was the rage at that time.  I distinctly remember the 4th Habit of "Put First Things First" as resonating with me and our busy lifestyles.  Todd and I were both attending grad school, working full-time and raising our three girls during this time.  Learning how to determine the "important" and "not urgent" things to attend to was, and continues to be, an immensely valuable way of thinking to us, as life has not slowed down, even though we are empty nesters today:)
Stephen Covey website link

As I reflect on these three decades of my learning journey -- I am feeling very blessed that I have taken advantage of the learning opportunities in front of me to help me continue to say, "I use to think, but now I think..." as I learn.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Growth Mindset

I'm a curious person by nature.  I love to learn and pride myself in following through on the advice of my Grandma Hilda, "Learn something new everyday!"  She was an avid baseball fan who kept a score book as she watched the "Cubs".  She played "Scrabble" like it was her own "business" and full-time job and if you didn't take it as seriously as she and her sister (Great Aunt Ida) did, they would politely remind us to "get in the game or get out".  Scrabble was serious business and the lessons I learned from those moments of "business" still stick with me to this day.

One of those lessons was we could always learn.  Aunt Ida and Grandma would give us subtle hints to use the dictionary to help build upon our initial word thought.  They didn't want us beating them at their game, but they did want us to expand our vocabulary and grow as learners.  So, often my siblings and cousins would have the dictionary next to us as we tried to find words that would give us more than 5 points.   Sometimes we made up words and Grandma would say, give me that dictionary.  If it wasn't in the dictionary, it wasn't legal and it didn't count.  My vocabulary grew as I researched the dictionary trying to be as creative and "legal" in playing scrabble with those two wonderful role models.

When I became a parent, I looked to other things to research besides words in the dictionary.  I was drawn to Growth Mindset when our youngest daughter ran cross country in high school.  She (along with her older sister's) had running ability, yet she didn't seem to have the desire to compete.  Being the competitive soul I am, I was puzzled by this behavior and wondered what I could do to influence her thoughts and behaviors.  As I quickly learned in my research -- I was the one that needed to change.  I needed to change the language I was using with her.

Carol Dweck describes Growth Mindset as the belief that you believe your abilities can improve with effort.  The opposite of growth mindset is fixed mindset.  Fixed mindset is the belief that your abilities are already set and no amount of effort or energy will make you better.

Some examples of how we might use this type of thinking in our language are below:

  • Growth Mindset:  "I'm not good at math right now, but I can get better if I work at it by going to skill development time."  
  • Fixed Mindset would say, "I stink at math!"

  • Growth Mindset:  "I'm currently struggling with my reading, but by working on specific skills I'm going to tackle my reading deficits!"
  • Fixed Mindset:  I am not good at reading.

  • Growth Mindset:  "I'm not as fast as I want to be, but I'm improving my speed by lifting weights and speed training."
  • Fixed Mindset:  "I'm a slow runner!"

Taking this new found knowledge, I challenged myself and became very intentional in the ways I spoke with our youngest daughter.  I praised her effort and made statements reflecting her effort put into her tasks at hand -- whether that be academic, athletic or personal.  By the end of her high school career, our youngest daughter completed her cross country career with many accolades.  My heart's desire of her seizing and developing her potential was, in part, possibly propelled forward with Growth Mindset language.  I hope she believes she can learn anything, grow in areas of challenge and put forth the effort to solve any problem in front of her.

As a testament to her efforts (and maybe just possibly my Growth Mindset language), she graduated from college in three years and is now enrolled in an Occupational Therapy doctoral program.  During her undergrad experience, she even studied abroad in Ireland and I took the opportunity to go and visit her and was able to photograph these amazing sites.

What I found most intriguing in my research on Growth Mindset is the language I use with others promotes a "fixed" or "growth mindset".  One example of this is instead of saying "I am proud of you!" -- simply say, "You should be proud of yourself."  Being thoughtful in my language in how I praise others has an impact on development of Growth Mindset within myself and I hope with those I communicate with.

Carol Dweck  says, "If parents want to give their children a gift, the best thing they can do is to teach their children to love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort, and keep on learning."  I believe this is a true statement we can take to heart with all the people we are blessed to interact with and I truly hope others are willing to help me continue to learn by using Growth Mindset language with me.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Benton Community students earn 1458 college credits during the 2014-15 school year

Want to earn college credit while still a Benton Community student?  

Last school year 185 Benton Community students earned 1458 college credit hours.

Through Senior Year Plus (SYP), school districts are provided with a variety of options to enhance students’ high school experience. Enacted by the legislature in 2008, SYP was created to provide increased and more equal access to college credit and advanced placement courses. Courses delivered through SYP provide students the opportunity to take a rigorous college curriculum and receive, in many cases, both high school and college credit concurrently. Benton Community students enroll in college coursework through a variety of mechanisms including Postsecondary Enrollment Option (PSEO), courses delivered through sharing agreements between Kirkwood Community College and the Benton Community School District and enrollment in college courses independently as a tuition paying student.   Additionally, Benton Community students can enroll in high school courses that postsecondary institutions recognize for college credit or advanced standing. College credit opportunities help to bridge the gap between completing high school and starting college. 

Through joint enrollment, students are provided with the opportunity to supplement their high school curriculum with challenging college courses that would not otherwise be available. By taking these courses, students may be able to expedite their progress toward a degree and graduate from college earlier.  

Kirkwood College credit  courses offered at Benton Community span the academic areas of :  Arts & Sciences, Business & Technology, Engineering, English, World Language, Health and Auto Technology.

To find out more -- contact our Benton Community MS/HS Guidance Office.