Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Good Holiday Read

What Great Teachers Do Differently has been wafting around my world, and so I finally took it in hand and read it. It is a positive and energizing read, and it is a great handbook for LEADERS, too! The lessons here apply to life and work in general, and I'm taking away some gems. Author Todd Whitaker is a principal who shares his experiences in concise and interesting stories. One chapter that made a difference in my behavior already is one called "The Teacher is the Filter." He poses the question, "How is your day going?" And then continues: As educators, we hear this question many times a day. Our response not only influences how others view us, but also affects the frame of mind of the person who asked. What's more, we have choices about how to respond...You can smile at a fellow teacher and and say, "Things are great! How about with you?" Or you can respond, "That Jimmy Wallace is getting on my nerves!"--and all of a sudden Jimmy Wallace is getting on that teacher's nerves too (whether the teacher knows him or not. Whitaker then takes that lesson further by describing how important it is for principals not to share information with their staff about an irate parent, for example, because it serves no useful purpose. This is an authentic leader with real experiences on which to draw. Many principals with whom I get to work have a similar positive outlook, and it's energizing to be around them. You can literally feel it when you enter their building, because this attitude is contagious--teachers, janitors, and parapro's all "catch" it! And, most importantly, kids catch it, too.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Educators apply Cognitive CoachingSM skills

As more educators (teachers, administrators and retired administrators) across the state are learning the process of Cognitive CoachingSM, it is becoming evident that the skills and tools are becoming their default. As I travel around the state coaching educators who are currently involved in trainings or were past participants, I find they are eager to learn how to continue to develop their capacity. They want to push to the next level of coaching groups as they find using their skills in these situations valuable. A big questions is, "How do I coach and faciliate at the same time?"

So, what is coaching? Coaching is skill set. It is a capacity for effective communication. The fundament skills of coaching are: rapport, listening, giving wait time, paraphrase, probing for specificity, inquiry and the use of structures or maps.

This skills are learnable. Some of the strategies for internalizing the ability to attend to these skills at a level of automaticity include;
· Real time practice – applying the coaching skills
· Mental rehearsal
o Listening to the radio mentally formulate paraphrases to what you hear announcers speaking
o Listening to the radio or watching TV interviews, formulate questions of inquiry that you might use if you were a part of the conversation
o Listening to other people’s conversation mentally formulate paraphrases, questions or probing that you might use if you were in the conversation
o Select one skill that you want to acquire at a level of “unconscious competence” and devote intentional focus on that singular skill for an appropriate time period until you are confident that you do it automatically. (i.e. for the next two weeks I am going to pay serious attention to “rapport” etc.)

· With a friend or colleague ask them if you could practice your communication skills as you engage in a social conversation
· Using these communication skills in most conversations – it doesn’t have to be a “coaching” to make use of high level communication skills such as these. (John Dyer, 2008)

The Cognitive CoachingSM website is:

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Spark: Exercise and the Brain

While preparing a book talk on Spark: the Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, I asked many random teachers and leaders if anything was happening with fitness in their school or community. No one had much to share...So, I gave my book talk at the Systems Change Conference and SUDDENLY, I'm hearing great things about fitness in South Dakota schools! Some standouts are described here:
The book confirmed what I had already noticed about my own exercise and how it enhances my mental functioning. Author Dr. John Ratey shares compelling research about improved test scores, overcoming depression, coping with ADHD, and many motivating stories and statistics. There are great reasons for encouraging exercise for kids, and I think it's just as important for us adults to benefit from and to model this transforming behavior. Here at TIE, we celebrate a colleague's birthday with an annual hike up Harney Peak. It's great for our brains, our bodies, our relationships, and our work! Are you doing anything to encourage excercise for the adults and/or kids in your schools? Please post them here--or at the Healthy South Dakota website. One idea can spark a movement...

Monday, November 10, 2008

Systems Change Speaker Keith Sawyer

This speaker braved the blizzard to get to Rapid City on November 7 to speak to educators who appreciated his low-key but informed approach to creativity and innovation. One idea he described that sparked my interest was how the Gore Company (makers of Gore-Tex) encourages innovation. The company allocates 10% of employees' time to explore something they feel has great potential. They do not need permission or approval to do this exploration, but they frequently collaborate. This unstructured time allows innovation to come from the bottom-up, which has kept the company viable, fresh, and competitive. Imagine what it would be like to have 10% of a day or a week to be creative or to follow a dream! It reminded me of some school leadership teams that I have seen at work...The synergy in those teams as they look at student work and plan instructional improvements can be extremely creative and energizing! It also supports my belief that everyone is creative...just in different ways.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Smart Boards - What a Phenomena!

Watching Jackie Jessop Rising manipulate the Smart Board was a phenomena. While I was hardly able to keep up with her maneuvering, it was even more difficult to transfer what I was seeing to how I might use it. And I really haven't figured that part out yet. However, I was so impressed with the capabilities of the Smart Board, that I started asking teachers questions about how they were using this tool. Several special education teachers started talking about how they are utilizing the Smart Board and they left me in the dust. I confess I really don't know what they were talking about. So, I did some research and WOW. Check out this website and and then log onto Anne Marie's blog.
and log onto the Talking Smart Boards & Much More blog.

As you work with teachers across the state, I suggest sharing this website with them. The site includes resources such as interactive websites, sharing notebook lessons, and an interesting section called "Sharing SMART Board successes.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. I am amazed at the vast number of websites that offer quality blogs, tips and lesson plans for using the Smart Board. Now, I just need to figure out how I can use it so I'll be look for Jackie!