Tuesday, May 31, 2016

TLC Year 1 and 2 - What's Worked For Us?

Benton Community - BCTLT is closing out our second year of participation in Iowa's Teacher Leadership and Compensation grant to garner teacher leaders from within Iowa's schools.  Having been one of the first 39 districts in the state of Iowa to implement, we had to build our plane while we were flying.  We now have the opportunity to learn with the many other Iowa districts who are a part of this teacher leadership movement.  Benton Community has had the pleasure of having several districts ask us what has worked for us.  Here is a snapshot of a few foundational pieces of our system.  If you would like more information on any of these tools, please don't hesitate to let me know.

1. Coach Check-In

This coach check-in is a modification from an interaction scale created by Susan Woodruff which can be found here.  We have found that a 5-point interaction scale works best for our district.  Knowing that relationship building is the foundation of great coaching, many of our interactions started off as 1s and 2s for the first few months.  As our coaching interactions increased and our coaching conversations deepened, we experienced more 3s, 4s, and 5s.  Our team utilizes this check-in to ensure we aren't accidentally leaving out any staff members and it helps us be intentional about our interactions with staff.  We also use the comment feature to log what types of interactions we are having and to keep track of the conversation focus taking place.

NA -- Attempt at contact but rejected
--Absent or sick   --Change in schedule    --Did not respond
1. Relationship building 
--Informal conversation    --No relationship with classroom
2.  Focused conversation / observation initiated by instructional coach
--How are things in the classroom?   --Are you having a good year?
--How is a certain initiative going?
3. Focused dialogue / observation redirected or initiated by the teacher
--Could you come and watch this?   --Could you help me with this?
--Modeling / Co-teaching  --Could you find this for me?
4. Reflective conversation regarding instructional practices / observations
--What went well?    --What would you change?    --What steps in the future?  
--Will you plan with me?
5.  Coaching cycle
--Goal setting   --Instructional implementation    --Setting instructional focus  
--Modeling / Co-teaching    --Fill out coaching log

2. Staff Surveys - Every 30 Days (Days 1, 30, 60, 90, 120, 150, and 180)
By happy accident, we started sending out surveys to staff at the beginning of our first year.  About 30 days into the school year we sent out another.  This practice has continued through our two years of implementation.  This not only gives us a great pulse on our district, it also gives us a gauge of interactions with staff and a chance for us to garner feedback from our teachers.  Below are a few of our staple questions each time we survey.

--Are you willing to work with an Instructional Coach?  This question gives us some baseline data on whether or not our staff is open to working with our coaches.  The percentage of staff willing varies depending on the busyness of the school year.  Our trends show an increase in participation in October that lessens around December.  Then, willingness picks up around January and levels off in April.

--If we visit your room, would you like us to drop in or make an appointment?  This question helps us form a plan for observation and drop-ins for classrooms.  Instructional Coaching at Benton Community is optional.  We want teachers to feel comfortable with our presence and know that we are welcome in classrooms, so this question helps us know which classrooms,we can drop by and which ones we need to set up a convenient time to visit.

--How would you rate your interactions with an Instructional Coach?  This question helps us decide whether our coach check-in interactions match our teachers' perspectives of our support.  The response on the survey asks teachers to rate the interactions by the following classifications:
     -No interaction
     -Mostly relationship building
     -Interactions initiated by the Instructional Coach
     -Interactions initiated by the teacher
     -Reflective conversations
     -Meet regularly with an Instructional Coach

--Where will you see your team needing the most support in the near future? This question helps us decide where our staff is as a whole.  Do we need to focus our learning on Priority Standards, Proficiency Scales, Common Formative Assessments, or MTSS planning and support?  Each team's response differs and we can tailor our support to meet each team's needs.

--What additional feedback do you have for #BCTLT?  This open-ended question gives our teachers an opportunity to give us feedback on the successes and challenges of implementing a new system. Our surveys are not anonymous because we need to be able to follow up with teachers.  This can be one of the most impactful questions you ask to get teachers to exercise their voice in utilizing the teacher leadership platform.  We are fortunate that our teachers utilize this question to give us honest, thought-provoking, and growth-minded feedback to help our system benefit to the fullest.

3. Role Definitions

This is a resource that came out of our Model Teacher training before we started implementation of year one back in August of 2014. Something that we thought would take an hour or so took more than a day of discussions and modifications.  We brought this resource to teachers at our first staff in-service and they were able to take more ownership in our system because the role definitions were created by teachers to help them understand our system in its various capacities.

Your stakeholders need to know what is happening in your district.  Your teachers need to see what great things are happening down the hall.  Two ways we were able to share are by participating in Learning Walks and hosting #BCedCamp.  We have shared our journey with teachers in and outside of our district.  By doing so, we have opened the doors to learn from each other and we have had the pleasure of learning with other districts who are leading the way in their teacher leadership journey.  Our Middle School/High School got their feet wet with Learning Walks and they quickly spread throughout our three elementary centers.  This gives teachers an opportunity to visit other classrooms and reflect together during a scheduled time once every one-two months.  This has helped increase the amount of time teachers spend learning from and reflecting with one another.  They've also spent more time opening up their classrooms to share the great things their students are accomplishing.  In addition, on a whim last April, we decided to invite teacher leaders from across Iowa to Benton Community to learn together about the successes and challenges of this system.  We are hosting year of #BCedCamp 2 in June and would love to have you!

Whichever tools or resources you choose on your teacher leadership journey, please know that you must utilize what works best in your district.  What works for us may not especially work for you, and "trial and error" and "risk, fail, and repeat" are your best bets for finding success.  There is no exact fit for any district. You must modify what is working for one district until you find the right fit to meet the needs of your teachers.  Best of luck on implementing teacher leadership! Let me know if I can be of any service to you on this journey.

Find me on Twitter -- @TownsleyAJ

50 Years of Benton Community Schools

50 Years of Benton Community Schools

The Keystone Elementary students and staff celebrated 50 years of Benton Community with interviews of past graduates, teachers, coaches, and parents of Benton Community schools.  Interviewed for this project were Tim Sanderson, Angie Von Ahsen, Kim Fisher, Madison Weekly, Chad Hennings, Eldon and Mary Bridgewater, Jeff Bridgewater, Amy Kaiser, Candi Benesh, Marilyn Schlotterbeck, Lois Wessling, Dee Kulbartz, Jo Prusha, Mary Rita Kromminga, Shannon Feuerbach, Judy Garbers, Hunter Semelroth, Kal Goodchild, Ron Donald, Jan Logan, Jo Morgan, Diane Eckenrod, and Byran Kimm.  Students had a great time hearing about exceptional teachers, favorite lunches and recess games, and advice from former Bobcats.  If one thing rang true throughout these interviews, it is that all of these people are so very proud to be Benton Bobcats.  Please see our video showing clips from these interviews.  We are proud Bobcats and happy to celebrate 50 Years of Benton Community.