Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Time Management

Hi Friend,
The age old teacher question...How are you going home already? For years I said it. And meant it. I would arrive at school around 7 and not leave until close to 6 regularly. How does that compare to the hours you keep at school?

And then I had a baby who refused to drink from a bottle. I knew I was NEVER going to be able to keep the hours I was accustomed to keeping at school again. She needed me to leave on time to feed her. After we got home, I would want to play with her, read to her, make dinner. You know, all of the things that people want to do when they leave work. I would not be able to grade a huge bag of papers. Plus, I didn't want to.

None of us enjoy staying late daily to accomplish our goals at school. We just don't realize that we *could* be mismanaging our time.

After a moment of panic, I made a phone call. I talked my fears out with my bestie. She is a nurse. She admitted to spending hours charting at home after regular working hours. It made me feel better, just knowing I wasn't the only one. That even non-teachers are in the same boat.

We hung up and I made a vow to myself. I would leave no later than four o'clock. That means I would still have over three hours of time to work past my contract time each week, but at least it would be an improvement over 10-20 additional hours a week.

But how?

It has been a couple of years, but here are a few things I changed in my day.

1. I tried to eat in my classroom. By eating in my room and giving myself a few minutes to eat and relax, I was more focused on the tasks I needed to complete. Grading papers is better on a full tummy. I was nicer and more thoughtful in my grading and I got more done.

2. I planned multiple weeks of instruction in at a time. I filled in as much of my plans and made as many copies in advance as I could. By planning in advance, I felt more secure in my daily plans. I was a more consistent instructor because I always knew what was coming up in the next days and weeks. I also spent way less time planning because I had all of my planning materials, teacher guides, standards, and my curriculum map out one time for multiple weeks of planning.

3. I stayed in my room. This one was the hardest. After reflecting, I realized a spent a lot of time out of my room chatting. Having friendly conversations with my school family was important to me, so I was worried about this one. Once I gave my new plan a shot, I found that the conversations I did have with co-workers were more meaningful and of better quality. I think it was because I valued the time I spent visiting more.

4. I used my planning time to collaborate with my team. By working together and talking through issues, I saved lots of time and effort I would have wasted figuring things out alone.

Did I reach my goal? Mostly. A few days I was forced to stay later than 4. I also left at 3:20 at least a couple of days a week.

Another teacher friend of mine noticed how early I was leaving and asked me how I was doing it. I told her my plan and she gave it a try. Guess what? She started leaving on time too! I think the best part about this entire process is knowing that to this day, over two years later, she is still leaving on time.

What do you do to honor your life away from school and leave school on time?


Monday, September 16, 2013

So...You Want to Be an Instructional Coach?

I am not sure if I have said it formally, but I am officially an Instructional Coach. I should probably update my blog information, huh? I am so very excited about this new chapter in my school life.

So, you are considering a career as an Instructional Coach?

Consider this post a gentle reminder to myself. As a new (emphasis on the NEW) Instructional Coach, I may need to reread this. And reread this. And reread this.

Here are a couple of things that you (I) should know:

1. It is not about you
It is about increased student and teacher outcomes. It isn't about your ideas being adopted. Your ideas are the opposite of what you need to push. You should be striving to guide teachers to understand their teaching and how to improve it.

2. It is about you
It is your responsibility to cultivate trust with teachers. Being vulnerable and putting yourself out there are crucial to leading your teachers to take risks. Building a climate of trust and risk-taking may require you to be uncomfortable. Get over it and get to work.

3. More with the listening, less with the talking
I have a teacher friend who says, "Zip it, lock it, put it in your pocket." Nuf said. Allow the teacher to talk. Bring it the conversation back to focus when needed.

4. Use your data
When you are in the beginning, middle, and end of a preconference...look at the data. Refer back to it. Make it easy to manage.

5. Collaboration, Collegiality, and Celebration
This job is all about the relationships. Collaborate often, value your colleagues. Teachers are the key to all success you experience as an instructional coach. Teacher success equals higher student outcomes. Celebrate any and every success!

My question to you is...do you work with an Instructional Coach? Can you tell me more about your experiences?

All the very best,