Connected Learner

Design by Jan White

Connected Learner 2a

Pursue Professional Learning

Working in the DEL master’s program has introduced me to the ISTE standards and allowed me to intentionally incorporate them into my own teaching.  I have also had the opportunity to start a discussion about how we as a school can start incorporating the standards into each grade level curriculum. 

Since I love learning so much, I love to encourage others to learn with me and have invited my colleagues to join me at the ISTELive 21 EdTech conference in June. This will be my 2nd ISTE conference.

Each Summer I attend a conference or workshop.  I have been teaching for 32 years (I know, a long time, but it does not feel that long to me😊,) which means I have attended a lot of conferences, workshops, and other training.  For the last 10 years, I have focused my attention on technology integration. One of the fun aspects of Summer training is that when I get back into the classroom in the Fall, I am always trying something new with my students, but also, I have something new to share with my colleagues.

In November 2019, I attended an EdCamp for the first time and reflected on that experience in a post, An Unconference Experience.  EdCamp is an unconference; to find out more about an Unconference, read my post. Initially, I thought the Unconference experience would be most uncomfortable for me, however, it turned out to be a wonderful and different learning experience. It ticks all the boxes for Adult Learning: self-directed, drawing on current knowledge and experience, goal-oriented, relevancy oriented, practical, and collaborative.

I have just revisited the post and I’m struck by the last paragraph because it captures the essence of what all educators I know do – we do what it takes to reach and teach each student in our classroom, even if it means spending the time and money on professional learning. Being in a room filled with other educators from various districts, various public and private schools, teachers of different grades and subjects, it struck me that we all took a precious Saturday morning away from our families to spend together for one very special reason – one special student. I know we see and teach many students in a day, but it was plain to me that each teacher in that room valued the uniqueness of each kid in their room.   That thought made me happy.

One of my personal goals is to create more opportunities to share my own love of learning as well as what I have learned with others outside of my immediate circle of colleagues. So, the next time I attend an Unconference, instead of being an interested listener and learner, I will share my experience and current knowledge with others.

Another post that demonstrates my understanding of indicator 2a focuses on Personalized and Job-embedded Professional Learning. In this piece, I highlight several paths which teachers can choose for professional learning to enhance their teaching practice, including Micro Credentialing.

The post Teachers Coaching Teachers is a reminder to have good coaching conversations by listening well to teachers, asking questions that help teachers reflect on their teaching practice and focus on student learning outcomes, and honoring the teacher’s goals. During my ISTE Standard explorations, I have relied on the awesome resources found on Elena Aguilar’s website Bright Morning. The tagline for her site is every conversation counts, how true is that! Elena suggests that before coaches reach out to connect with teachers they reflect on the following questions:

  1. How can I make this conversation meaningful to the teacher? What do they care about that we can talk about?
  2. What’s one question I can ask the teacher to help them reflect on their practice?
  3. What’s one instructional practice that might be useful for this teacher to reflect on and make a change in? How can I help this teacher reflect on this behavior and make changes?

Since reflection is such a significant aspect of assessment and evaluation, a useful habit to acquire as a coach would be to self-reflect after formal coaching conversations. Using Elena Aguilar’s questions I would then ask myself: Did I find what this teacher cares about? Was I able to make a meaningful contribution to their ideas about their practice? Did my question/s help the teacher reflect on their practice? Was I able to suggest a practical step this teacher could take to improve their teaching practice or classroom management? How can I continue to support this teacher moving forward?

Coaches pursue professional learning that deepens expertise in the ISTE standards in order to serve as a model for educators and leaders.

Coaching Standard 2a
Professional Learning by Jan White

Connected Learner 2b

Participate in Professional learning networks

Over the course of the program, I have been able to get to know my cohort more by working in smaller PLNS.  To be honest, when I first saw that we were working in PLNs I nearly called it quits on the whole program because I’m that student who prefers to work alone. I am so pleased I didn’t. 😊

The indicator for this standard calls for actively participating in PLNs; the word actively being the operative word.  This has probably been the most challenging ISTE standard for me.  I love to learn from others, I follow educators and coaches on Twitter, I join live webinars, I’m part of a lively MIE (Microsoft in Education) PLN who are always posting exciting discoveries for engaging students in the classroom and at home with technology, but I seldom share anything myself. This program has helped me take baby steps in actively engaging with other educators outside of my colleagues at school.

Read about how I processed through thinking about my own PLN in the post A Personal Learning Network. While investigating how beneficial PLNs could be for students,  I came across Kayla Delzer’s Tedx Talk in which she encourages teachers to release the power of learning to the students. She talks about the value of authentic active learning experiences and I was inspired by her.

In another post, Coaches Inspire Professional Learning, I explore the differences between Professional Development and Professional Learning. Professional Learning is active, collaborative, and requires participation.   I value and require active, collaborative participation from the students in my classroom because I know that it deepens their learning experience. Weirdly, It’s taken me a good few years to realize the value of active and collaborative learning for myself.

Coaches actively participate in professional learning networks to enhance coaching practice and keep current with emerging technology and innovations in pedagogy and the learning sciences.

Coaching Standard 2b
by Jan White

Connected Learner 2c

Establish Shared Goals

I am drawn to working 1:1 with teachers, so this indicator appeals to me in terms of establishing shared goals with individual teachers and then following up with them to reflect on their experience, usually trying to establish best practices and how to make practice even better for both the teacher and students.

This kind of up-close-and-personal discussion requires teachers to be vulnerable and coaches to be sensitive. I really enjoyed our quarter with Les Foltos. I think he did a great job of reminding us as coaches to balance the task of encouraging teachers to stretch and grow their own teaching craft for the benefit of their students with grace.

As I was thinking about indicator 2c which calls for coaches to share goals and reflect with teachers, I was reminded of the discussions we had with Les Foltos about Active Listening and Norm-setting, which are both necessary in a successful coach/mentor relationship. Read my thoughts about establishing a coaching relationship that allows both coach and teacher to be vulnerable and set the framework in which frank discussions about goal-setting and reflections on practice occur in the post, Two Essential Conditions for Collaboration: Active Listening and Norm-setting.

Because I feel that relationships are precious, I feel passionate about protecting and growing relationships.  So, as I consider sharing goals and especially reflecting on teaching practice, my thoughts are drawn to all my tired yet resilient colleagues who are just keeping it together as we all move toward the hope of  Summer. In my post Supporting Teacher Wellness, I mention five ways that coaches can support teacher wellness as they work with the teacher they are mentoring: 1) recognize their emotional labor, 2) Coach teachers through adversity to find resilience, 3) Have a toolbox of strategies ready to share with others, 4) Encourage teachers to write or share about their emotions, and 5) Find the funny.

Once coaches have established a relational connection, honoring the emotional well-being of their peers, sharing the vulnerabilities of teacher practice is easier.

Foltos, L. (2013). Peer Coaching : Unlocking the Power of Collaboration. Corwin.

Coaches establish shared goals with educators, reflect on successes and continually improve coaching and teaching practice.

Coaching Standard 2c

Blog Posts to Support ISTE Standard 2