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?

That’s why I love the idea behind this sketchnote. Instead of thinking about how we will change or add to our practices moving forward, Matt Renwick asks us instead to think about what we will let go of. And that can be a powerful shift. In his Choice Literacy article, Matt reminds us it is just as important to acknowledge the practices we choose to let go of as it is those we choose to embrace. I have found his ‘Never Again’ protocol a great way to reflect on the progress of an initiative, celebrate cycles of learning or simply reflect as we celebrate endings and new beginnings. I think you should give it a try too. Here’s how:

Post a large piece of chart paper on the wall during a professional learning session. Or, if you would like (or need!) to go digital, create a Google Jamboard or Padlet wall instead.

Lead a ‘taking stock’ reflective discussion and ask teachers to think about where they are, where they were and where they are headed in relation to their own learning and instruction. Invite teachers to share their successes and the changes they have made to better support teaching and learning in their classrooms.

Stock the tables with colorful post it notes of all shapes and sizes to bring a bit of colorful inspiration to the task (or create them digitally instead). Ask teachers to reflect on the changes they have made, but especially on the previous practices they have abandoned because they no longer suit the needs of students. Teachers might decide to remove public levels from their classroom libraries, abandon piles of worksheets or never again post public behavior charts. Teachers should capture these practices they have chosen to let go of on sticky notes and anonymously adhere them to the chart paper or digital space, browsing those practices others have posted.

End the activity by reading the anonymous sticky notes aloud and celebrate together. Letting go of practices can be just as hard, if not harder, than learning new ones. Acknowledge teachers efforts so this hard work does not go unnoticed. And then celebrate. Because choosing to let go of practices that no longer serve us or our students well might be one of the hardest, but most impactful, things we can do.

What practices might you let go of in your coaching that no longer serve you or your students in 2021?

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