Saturday, October 25, 2014

Up to my Eyeballs...but Still Seeing Clearly

Guilty.

It's been four months since I have really written a post.  Enveloped in those four months has been a wide array of challenges, excitement, beginnings, and controlled chaos.

We had the privilege of earning one of 39 spots in Iowa for the Teacher Leadership and Compensation program.  It was tireless work.  Exhausting amounts of writing and rewriting to submit just what we wanted.  But you know what?  It worked!  It. Worked.

So here I sit while the house is asleep on a Saturday morning (and I totally should be), sipping my coffee in peace, reflecting about where we have been and where we are headed.  We have so much work to do to make this happen.  So much work that some days I can't keep my head straight and completely rely on Siri to gently remind me where I need to be next.

I saw a quote recently that I have repeated over and over. "Coaching is an action, not a title, and actions will result in successes!"  It's so true, and yet its repetition reminds me that my work is never done...thus a winding journey with no end point.

We have a new model of teacher leadership in this school ranging from instructional coaches like myself, to model and mentor teachers who help influence fellow teachers through their experience and skills, as well as traditional career teachers and those just starting out in the field. Dave Vonk (the other Instructional Coach) and I have daily conversations about what we are seeing and what we can do to help improve student learning.  We are in constant contact with teachers about what they need and how we can help.   I'll spare you the nitty gritty, but suffice it to say that we have a good thing going.  Well, we really always did, but this is even better.

Change stinks sometimes.  We can get so used to our little hamster ball where the littlest bump in the road can lead to full on catastrophe.  Teachers everywhere, not just here, are working harder than they ever have before.  It's often a thankless job filled with the daily stresses of wearing so many hats during the day.  It'd be really easy to cash in and go work down the street, where, let's face it, you could probably make more money.  Frankly, however, if it's about the money, you need a wake up call or slap in the face, because, honey, ya ain't gettin' rich doing this.

One of the areas I am most excited about as an Instructional Coach is the team I get to work with.  These are some of the best brains I've ever encountered. PD used to be this attempt at one-size-fits-all training on something that maybe applied to 1/2 of us.  We multitasked, we drew graffiti on our handouts, we tried (and failed) to pay attention.  This was at every school and with every teacher I have ever talked to. We all desperately craved more.  And more is what we've created at Rock Valley.  Together, we have designed professional development that is nothing short of amazing.  It's personalized, focused, and self-selected.

Our PD plan has a name... Rocket University.  Our first Rocket University is a PD buffet, if you will, of sessions delivered by our own staff as well as a couple of wonderful experts from our local Area Education Agency.  Teachers select two of the offered sessions and the third time slot is for work time. Yes, WORK TIME. That tasty morsel of awesome that most teachers are denied during professional development.
Session descriptions for upcoming Rocket University
Sign up for selections came via a Google Form.  This way, session sizes, room selections, and any pertinent handouts can be adequately prepared.  Teachers choose what they want to learn.  Ya hear that?  CHOOSE.  It doesn't happen enough in schools, and there is a wealth of knowledge out there to make this happen in every school.

I spoke of our PD plan at ISTE in Atlanta this summer, as well as on edWeb.net and Education Talk Radio. Here is a link if you'd like to listen to or watch more about the planning that was involved.

The sun is now just coming up, and I hear little feet running around and probably sneaking Little Debbie's from the pantry.  I challenge you this week to bring ideas to your administrators to take charge of your learning.  You shouldn't have to do all of your "real" learning on your own.  I'm passing the PD transformation torch to you.  Run with it.

--Rachel