The School Reform Initiative is a powerful resource for coaching and leading and their Compass Points protocol is worth sharing. The original Compass Points activity helps teachers learn about their preferences for working with others and how our collective preferences can impact our learning communities. If you have not yet explored this idea, I highly recommend you do so. It is a great way to get to know a group of people and how that information can support your coaching.But, there are variations on the Compass Points protocol that can also support our work, especially as you introduce new ideas to teachers. I first read about this from the Margin Notes blog and recommend you check out their original post and resources. I like this variation because it offers a simple template to guide individual reflection or even group discussion. Here are the 4 compass points and what they represent:
  • East: What excites you about this idea?
  • West: What worries you about this idea?
  • North: What do you need to know about this idea?
  • South: What is your current stance or opinion toward the idea? What suggestions do you have for moving forward with this idea?
You have a few options for leading teachers through their reflection. You might create a simple 4-square reflection page for teachers to jot their individual thinking on. Or, you might have teachers complete the organizer in small groups. If working with a larger group, you can adhere four large pieces of chart paper labeled with the compass points to the wall and ask teachers to share their anonymous thoughts on sticky notes. And, if you wish to go digital, you could have teachers contribute their ideas to a shared Google Doc or even a Padlet wall with four bookshelves labeled with the compass points.

This is a great activity to spark conversation at the start of a new topic of learning, but don’t stop there. Archive teachers’ initial thinking by saving the reflection forms, keeping the charts posted or saving the digital documents. Revisit these documents later in the learning process for a check-in on how things are going and as a way to reflect on the learning as a whole. Pay close attention to the worries, needs and suggestions squares:
  • Have you successfully addressed teachers’ worries and made strides to combat them?
  • Have you acknowledged what teachers need to feel successful and found ways to provide them?
  • Have you honored teachers’ initial suggestions of where to head next as a learning community?
Taking stock of our progress compared against teachers’ initial reflections ensures that you are responding to their needs and honoring their voices in the learning community.

Regardless of your method, this simple 4-square method is sure to generate thinking and discussion and will certainly inform your future coaching. I imagine you’ll have some ideas for making it your own, too. Share them in the comments below!
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