And there’s the adventure in our game called real life. We might have rules and guidelines, and we might intentionally work on ourselves to be our best selves, but it’s all very real; it’s not a game. The brilliant moves, shocking turns, and brain aerobics needed to solve frustrating conundrums takes on a new level of intensity when “the game” is actually real life – your life. So use the advice and the techniques to craft your own vision of good relationships as you strive to keep it real in a world that wants you to believe it’s all just a game.
When the way forward is uncertain, the Captain goes first.
When safety is compromised, the Captain goes last.
Never give up – fight to the end.
Your team is the most important thing.
Keep your composure – always.
Keep it personal.
As I reflect back on last season, I see I met all my goals but two. One I need to continue focusing on is finding ways to better utilize and integrate technology into my work and the work of my teachers. I see I set the goal, but I didn’t quantify it nor did I put it in my schedule / work plan so I’d make time to actually do it consistently. There’s a piece to add to this season’s goals and targets. The other goal that didn’t quite get met was improving communication with my teachers when I wasn’t physically with them. Although I tried several things, nothing got me where I wanted to be. The things I tried were too static and not interactive enough. There’s another piece to add. Overall, I ended the season on an upward trend. Now the challenge will be to sustain and improve on it this season. There’s another one to add.
Step 2: Where do I want to go?
Step 3: Let’s write a plan!
I’m a runner and a running coach, in addition to being an instructional coach, so my posts are usually peppered with my running references. For my non-running friends, sprints and speed work help to build different muscle responses to make us better runners. So it is with these sprints. The resource is quick to check out and hopefully gives you something useful you might be able to apply to your own work to make it even better. I’ve got two sprints for you today.
The first comes from Ms. Houser’s blog “Ms. Houser”, Instructional Coach and Teacherpreneuer. As we start preparing to line up at the starting line of another school year, it’s a great time to consider how we’re sharpening our saw to stay at the top of our game. She’s got a great idea – hope you check it out!
The second sprint comes from P21 Partnership for 21st Century Learning (p21.org) on blended learning. Great discussion in general about how the quality of our questions is really what provides the rigorous, deep learning we’re looking for in our students. My take away – it still takes a great HUMAN teacher to ask the right questions that help our students get to the next level of understanding. Teachers matter! The author reminds us of some good teaching and coaching points – worth the read!
If you’re having new thoughts from reading these, please share in the comments below!
Thanks for sprinting with me!
This step is where self-confidence, commitment, and a heaping dose of nerve come together. It’s where the rubber meets the road. The key to successfully navigating this part is having a general plan of action. You need to think about how you plan to go about getting the work done. Some important points to consider include sequencing (what needs to come before what), pacing (how much can you reasonably get done in each work session), and accommodations (special circumstances that need individual attention). However, it’s equally important to keep it pretty general and be flexible as you get into the work. Rarely does your initial plan roll out perfectly all the way to the end. If there’s one thing you can count on, it’s that nothing ever goes as planned. (And sometimes that’s an innovative thing!) So back to my faux bricking walkway example. This is where I have to look over the space I’m going to “brick” with paint. How will I break up the space? What pattern would complement the space and add harmony and balance to the other elements it’s working with, like the flowers, bushes, hardscape, and overall look I’m trying to create? Once that’s decided, I get up my tools, pour the paint, coat the sponge “brick” with the paint and . . . stamp the first brick! I start working my plan until I reach the first stopping point to assess how it’s going. Pretty early on I notice that although most of my plan is working, there’s a couple of issues emerging. At this point, I need to decide if I need to adjust something now or just hold with the plan and see how it plays out a while longer. I decide to stick to the plan to the next stopping point and see if it resolves itself by then. And on I go.
As all teachers, leaders, and coaches know, getting the plan going can give your stomach some butterfly flutterings in the beginning. Nervous, excited, focused but calm, you try to just keep your effort even and your performance consistent. But as you watch your efforts start to play out – on a class, on a team, or on an individual – it’s important to assess and adjust frequently. Is it going as planned? If not, is that a bad thing? Does it need correction or is it just a variation you hadn’t considered but it’s working well too? Sometimes it’s obvious it’s just poop on a plate; you gotta stop and fix NOW. Sometimes it’s just different, and you need some time to think about it. Either way, when the plan starts interacting with others it becomes a collaborative effort and the it takes on a life of it’s own. I’m a firm believer of going with the flow of this new collaborative effort, giving it the respect and consideration it deserves as it becomes something new.
Once you’re in the creative process phase, be prepared for the new insights, flashes of inspiration, and bold new visions you’re likely to have. The work will teach you if you let it. And that’s magic. You’re going to need that new perspective for step 4 – Troubleshooting the Dilemmas and Celebrating Your Success!
This step is the key to EVERYTHING you will do – the quality of the outcome, how long it will last, and how well it will hold up over time. Whether you’re talking about planning a unit of study, developing an organizational plan, or working with your clients and their growth, this is the step that supports everything you’re trying to accomplish. It’s also the step that often gets short-changed or overlooked altogether. So going back to my walkway example, my first step was to completely clean the areas I was going to paint with a stiff scrub brush and TSP. If the concrete isn’t properly prepped, the paint won’t adhere right and all my painting work will be wasted because it won’t last past the first real test of its endurance.
I’m sure you see where I’m going with this. As you start to “prep your ground”, so to speak, you need to make sure your building blocks are up to date and being used effectively. As a teacher, make sure your standards, assessments and activities are appropriate, based on current research, and will be value-added to the overall learning and growth of your students. As a leader, consider what foundational work needs to be in place and firmly established in order to support the next stage of the work. For coaches, our “ground” is people, and this means considering the state of our clients’ foundational skills. Do they have a quality understanding of basic concepts and skills in order to build upon them? What is their level of fitness – literal and figurative? After taking stock of your “ground”, you might decide it’s necessary to spend more time prepping. Although it can feel frustrating to have to linger in this stage, it is vitally important to the quality of the final outcome. It’s really a simple equation: the quality of the base = the quality of the result. Granted, this looks like the unsexy part of the process – and it is – but it’s also the key ingredient to making the magic happen in the end. As a runner, I know all the time and work I put into my base and my overall fitness will allow me to reach whatever personal goals I set for myself later. So it goes with most everything else, as well.
The next part of this step is laying down the new base or framework upon which you’re going to create your new work. It’s providing the clean, solid base that will make the rest of your additions work well together to create the right effect. The final tip for this step – give it time to set up. You don’t need a long time, but enough time to be sure that the new base has adhered properly. In our TLC vernacular, this means buy in. Again, if the new base doesn’t adhere properly, the rest of your work won’t last and ultimately won’t produce anything. Once your foundation is solid, you’re ready for step 3 . . . Jump in!