Today I attended the first day of training under Diane Sweeney's Student-Centered Coaching model. I'd read the first few chapters of her book prior to today's workshop, and the ideas were already resonating with many of my core values as an educator. The work we did today reaffirmed that positive feeling on so many levels. Today wasn't just PD that gave me some things to think about back in my classroom. Today was PD that made me wiggle in my seat like a puppy. Today was PD that made me want school to start right now, tomorrow, just so we can get things started. Today was a good day.
Ever since I started my involvement with the Teacher Leadership Compensation (TLC) plan for my district, this was the ultimate goal. Putting a system in place that would be student-learning focused while also giving teachers more agency over their professional growth was something I considered a top priority, my ultimate dream. I've spent the past two years in a state of nervous defensiveness around all topics TLC for my district. I invested so much time in planning and writing the grant with the rest of the TLC team. I knew launching the program would be one of the most important steps, and one that I had the least amount of control over. I'm so thrilled my district (and other surrounding districts in our consortium) decided on the Diane Sweeney coaching model. This speaks to me. This is what I do. This can help me do it better. This can help me do more things that I never even considered.
I plan my weeks in writing workshop according to the Common Core writing standards, with at least two related standards guiding each week's minilessons and writings. As someone with so much curricular freedom, it's always helped me to narrow my focus by aligning to standards and using them as a target goal for student learning and a way of checking up on myself. This helped me grow so much as a teacher from the early years when I was more worried about content instead of skills. Too often, writing classrooms get caught up in trying to cover content. We must cover this many genres and purposes for writing. We must cover these grammar concepts. There's so much to do that it often overwhelms people into only being able to focus their energy on content instead of moving past that into actual student learning and mastery of the content.
Student-Centered Coaching at the Secondary Level provides the questions that will help all teachers reflect on what we're doing in our teaching practice and how it actually helps student mastery of standards and skills (instead of memorization of content). It creates avenues for constant reflection of practice in a safe, non-threatening way. What do I believe about learning? What am I doing in the classroom that reflects those beliefs? What am I doing that actively goes against my beliefs? How do I use student work to evaluate their learning needs and guide my instruction for whole group, small groups, and individuals?
The team my principal has created for this next step in teacher growth also has me excited. Today, I got to spend the day with a total rock star from my building, someone I admire greatly but hardly ever get to work with because she's on the sixth grade team. Sitting at the table with her and my principal, you could feel the electricity. We were filling Post-its and margins with notes and ideas and plans. We have another day of training tomorrow, and I know all three of us are legitimately thrilled to go back and do more of this work, continue these conversations. We can make our excitement contagious. I know it.
I know there will be reluctant people on our staff regarding the new TLC program and the role we all play in it, but if the three of us can carry this enthusiasm back with us, we can create a major shift for student learning in our building. This is PD that works. This is something that can make a difference. This is the dream becoming reality.
I teach 7th and 8th grade English in rural Iowa and hope to reflect, connect, and share with other English teachers. Iowa Council of Teachers of English Executive Board member. Iowa Writing Project superfan. UNI MA:TESS graduate.