A great deal of my coaching occurs through my literacy teacher education coursework, a balance between seminars, practicum teaching and online collaboration. We read research and professional literature, learn about effective practices and explore the theory behind them. But since many may not have extensive classroom experience, it can be difficult to truly understand the complexities of literacy teaching. That is why I rely on images and videos of actual classrooms to guide our learning together, something that ALL teachers can benefit from, too.

As a mother of teenagers, I often learn new words that did not exist when I was younger. Did you know that if something ‘slaps’ it’s pretty amazing and if something is ‘cap’, it’s a lie? Neither did I. But recently, I stumbled upon a word that I didn't know existed but already had a place in my heart: listicle. A listicle is any piece of writing that is in list form and is my new favorite genre because I am a list-maker. I have to-do lists for each day of the week on Google Keep and even have a Radar list for things on the horizon. I keep grocery lists, packing lists, memory lists and more. So it made sense to me when I started shifting the way I used Twitter to include lists, too.

The Four Corners activity has been around for quite some time, typically as an activity used with students to foster decision-making and opinion-generating skills, as well as communication and collaboration. Since my coaching philosophy rests on the idea that my design for teacher learning should align with the ultimate vision for student learning in the classroom, I like to engage teachers in activities that can immediately try with their own students. This activity is one of them and I've re-imagined it just a bit for virtual coaching.

If I was forced to choose just one coaching sketchnote as my favorite (but please do not make me choose!), I would have to say that the Play of the Week would make my top 3. I stumbled upon this idea from Pam Hubler on the Shake Up Learning blog. While the post was geared toward students, Pam originally experienced this idea as an instructional coach. I read it, I loved it and I use it. Often. It's the perfect way to focus on what's working, over what's challenging, and re-energize our mindset for learning, something we can always use a bit more of.

When I first started coaching, I considered professional development my nemesis. It took me more hours to plan for a session with teachers than it did to actually facilitate the session. And what seemed to work well with one group of teachers completely flopped with the next. I just couldn’t seem to figure out how to successfully AND efficiently plan for professional learning sessions that actually were effective AND enjoyable for all. Until I started notebooking. If you’re reading this, you already know about my Coaching Sketchnote book and how I use the design thinking process to craft my coaching role and plan professional learning sessions for teachers. And that was a game-changer for me, taking professional learning from my nemesis to hands-down my favorite coaching activity. 

But then things changed. And I seemingly had a new nemesis overnight: virtual professional learning sessions.

Do you know what one of my favorite coaching tools are? Easy buttons. As a fellow coach, I know there are things you find yourself saying over and over again or things you demonstrate over and over again and wish there was a better way. There is! Easy buttons. Easy buttons are handouts, recordings or videos of the things you say, do and demonstrate over and over again to streamline your work and create a collection of on-demand resources for your teachers.

Let’s start with a question: Who is in charge of a coaching cycle? That’s a trick question, right?! Right. A coaching cycle is a cycle of intense collaboration around a shared goal of professional growth or classroom life. It is collegial, non-evaluative and co-constructed every step of the way. Together with teachers, we create a shared vision for our work, engage in co-learning and/or co-teaching and end with collaborative conversations.

But.

There’s one part of the coaching cycle that doesn’t feel nearly as collaborative. In fact, it often removes the coach and the teacher from the equation completely and delivers pre-determined content instead: the observation rubric or checklist. Think about it. We work so hard to connect and collaborate within a coaching cycle, but then often evaluate our shared efforts using an arbitrary document that doesn’t account for our unique coaching contexts. But how does an outside company, curriculum or organization understand our particular coaching partnerships, materials and resources we have, the length of our cycle and more. It doesn’t.

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