I love simplicity. And I love patterns. My mind seems to work in chart form, mentally creating lists, boxes and bullets and categories of thinking. Some might call it a Type A personality, but I called it streamlined and organized. So when I find a coaching tool that is both simple AND patterned, I am all in. 

Let’s talk about sparks. No, I do not mean sparklers, fireworks or something igniting. I mean the opening moves, hooks, writing prompts, provocations or other ways to spark attention, motivation or engagement for both teachers and students. And specifically, let’s talk about sparks to launch book study conversations.

Welcome to 2021! The new year brings a new section of my coaching notebook: For the Coach! You'll find ideas and activities to nurture your own learning and lift your coaching spirits in the process. Watch for regular additions all year long!

It’s safe to say that 2020 has been a complex, challenging, and innovative year. At the beginning of the pandemic, we focused on how we could best support teachers and students as they found themselves in new teaching and learning scenarios. Without warning, we quickly left our traditional coaching positions behind to support teachers wherever and however we were needed. We asked questions like: What do they need? How can we help? What can we do? Then, we curated resources, searched for new tech tools, helped put out instructional fires and in some cases, even returned to the classroom ourselves. We reacted to whatever situation we found ourselves in and tried to make the best of it, never imagining we’d still find ourselves coaching through a global pandemic nine months later.

So much of our work as coaches is about thinking forward, about making instructional change to better support students. We plan for professional learning, we collaborate with teachers in the classroom and we cultivate learning communities to sustain our work. We are constantly setting goals and making professional plans that often add ideas, concepts, practices or strategies to our already full plates. But what if we decided that the best next step for our professional learning was to let go of something instead?

I have had many conversations with fellow literacy coaches on the importance of lifelong learning and the impact it can have on our coaching. In my experience, teachers who embrace a lifelong learning mindset listen, think, act, teach and lead differently. They are enthusiastic learners and look forward to entering the classroom. They embrace professional learning opportunities and have a positive attitude about new ideas and initiatives. They look forward to collaborating with others around instruction and practice and make connections to the classroom. Over time, I have realized while some might be born with this lifelong-learning mindset, it is something that we must consciously embrace and cultivate. Coaching should not only focus on the content and process of teacher learning, but on mindsets for learning as well.

Do you have any hidden delights in your life? Gretchen Rubin, one of my beloved authors and podcasters, recommends that we all find ways to add a few hidden delights to our lives to boost our happiness and well-being. This might be a chocolate treat in a desk drawer, a colorful piece of artwork in your closet or a sticker adhered to the wall in the oddest of places simply to make your smile.

If there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s this: There is never enough time in the day to accomplish all that I hope to do, both personally and professionally. I always feel like I’m trying to beat the clock and I’ll often joke in a professional learning session that the clocks must be broken because they continually move too quickly.

As someone who truly loves designing professional learning, I tend to want to include too much into each of my sessions. It’s such a fine line between planning too much and overwhelming teachers and doing too little and boring them. So, how do you ensure that your sessions focus on what they NEED to know as well as what they WANT to know, but still fit it all in? The FAQ document.

© The Coaching Sketchnote Book with Dr. Stephanie Affinito · THEME BY WATDESIGNEXPRESS