Teaching Learning Coaching, affectionately known as #TLC2016, was exceedingly the best conference I have ever attended. My experience over this two-day conference was nothing short of extraordinary; at its conclusion, I felt inspired and unstoppable. I could, confidently, go back to my campus and begin to make positive change to benefit our students. The plethora of knowledge and experiences shared by the keynote speakers and presenters, coupled with engaging presentations, discussions, and activities left me in awe: in awe of the amazing opportunity to impact the lives of young people, in awe of the time and energy it takes to research high impact strategies and brain based education, in awe of the magnetic energy which radiated from every person in attendance.
“Every student deserves a great teacher, not by chance but by design.”- Doug Fisher, 2016
I, honestly, could have listened to Doug Fisher speak all day. He really impacted me with the statement above. The influence of an educator is so vast. It was moving for me to be in a room with so many people who yearn to make a difference. In today’s self-centered culture, it is truly refreshing to interact with people who believe in the power of education, positivity, and kindness. I decided, after listening to Doug Fisher, that I was going to make a promise to myself and my students—I vowed to be more intentional, more purposeful in everything that I do. I will ensure that I cultivate a better teacher in myself.
With these thoughts resounding in my mind, I made my way to the first break-out session: “Gaining Clarity: Coaching Teacher Teams to Align Standards, Instruction, and Assessments” with Sonja Alexander. Of all of the breakout sessions, this was the farthest outside of my comfort zone. In my teaching experiences, I have collaborated with other teachers by reviewing lesson plans, creating curriculum guides, and looking at student work. While all of the aforementioned collaboration was worthwhile, Sonja Alexander’s session focused so deeply on the intentionality of aligning standards, instruction, and assessment. Research suggests that deliberately designed formative assessments can double the speed of student learning. Speaking from the perspective of a teacher, my arch nemesis is time. There never seems to be enough time to cover everything in the curriculum. When I heard that common formative assessments could increase the rate of student learning, I was hooked. The rationale for common formative assessments would not shock an educator. Why isn’t every school using common formative assessments, then? Time. Although the use of common formative assessments speeds up student learning, it requires a great deal of teacher collaboration and time. Sonja Alexander helped me realize that time, when spent in the right places, can be one of the best investments we can make.
Jim Knight’s impassioned keynote transcended educational buzz words; I noticed that I was reflecting, again, about what kind of teacher and person I wanted to be. The scope of the topics discussed during the keynote, and subsequently in his breakout session, were so vast—yet intricately woven together. Jim Knight’s keynote and breakout session allowed me to think realistically, without squashing my hope for improvement in the future. Keeping my vow I had made earlier in the day, the Impact Cycle caused me to think about my personal goals, as well as the goals we have for our school. Something that struck me about this session was how our own perceptions and opinions can impact our relationships with children and adults alike. I began thinking about small changes I could make in my practice that would make huge differences in the relationships I have with others. The next day, Sheila Heen confirmed some of the same thoughts I had during Jim Knight’s sessions. Sheila Heen spoke to us about the power of feedback and the complexities of giving and receiving feedback. It is human nature to want to grow, learn, and improve. Feedback is difficult because, in many ways, humans want to be accepted and appreciated in the here and now. One of the greatest takeaways of these sessions is that it is necessary to shift our perspective internally; it is first important to understand ourselves. Then, we can best help others.
The last breakout session of TLC 2016 I attended was “Coaching Strategies for Challenging Clients” with presenter Lindsay Deacon. Let me tell you, Lindsay keeps it real. I really appreciated her stories and authenticity. Teaching and Instructional Coaching are not easy tasks, and the level of difficulty was acknowledged. As I looked around the room, I noticed plenty of people shaking their heads in agreement with some of the situations Lindsay herself has faced. This session equipped the attendees with very helpful strategies for working with a wide variety of adults in the education profession. Just as students come to school at all different levels, adults do as well. I realized that there is never a “one-size fits all” approach to working with other people; it’s best to be equipped with a variety of strategies and the ability to reflect.
I left the Teaching Learning Coaching Conference with new friends, fresh ideas, crisp books, and renewed purpose. Thank you, Corwin and #TLC2016!