Podcast: Challenging Teacher Growth in the Spring Semester - Steve Barkley

Podcast: Challenging Teacher Growth in the Spring Semester

steve barkley ponders out loud, challengin teacher growth in the spring semester

Steve joins Cory Camp on The Coach Replay Show to explore how instructional coaching will be impacted by COVID-19 for the remainder of the school year. They discuss how creating ongoing learning opportunities for educators will be the key to maximize learning for students.

Subscribe to the Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud podcast on iTunes or visit BarkleyPD.com to find new episodes!


Steve [Intro]: 00:00 Hello and welcome to the Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud podcast. For over three decades, I’ve had the opportunity to learn with educators at all levels, both nationally and internationally. I invite you to listen as I explore my thoughts and learning on a variety of topics connected to teaching, learning, and leading with some of the best and brightest educators from around the globe. Thanks for listening in.

Steve: 00:28 Challenging teacher growth in the upcoming spring semester. I was delighted to join Cory Camp on “The Coach Replay Show” to explore coaches, engaging with teachers. We both share our thinking and our experiences in the following.

Cory: 00:50 So today we’re talking about how do we, you know, everybody is, if they’re not already off for winter break, they’re going to be within a couple of hours probably. And they’re going to be hopefully resting and rejuvenating and reenergizing. So when we come back after winter break and come back together and we’re back in our classrooms, whether those are in-person or virtual, how do we make the most of our spring semesters, finish out the school year really strong? How do we maximize that energy that those teachers are coming back with after having the break and really grow our teachers and, and our students?

Steve: 01:37 So I’m going to jump into this with what might seem a little bit strange to the energy piece, but I’ve been I’ve been sharing it with people and I’ve gotten quite a few head nods from it. When Jim Collins wrote the “Good to Great” book, he had a piece in there of an interview with Admiral Stockdale and it it’s been labeled the Stockdale paradox. And Stockdale was a prisoner of war during the during the Vietnam war. Top ranking officer there a long time. And when Collins interviewed him, one of the things you asked him was who are the people that did not do well
with the crisis of being in the prisoner of war camp? And Stockdale’s response was well, that’s easy to answer. It was the optimist.

Steve: 02:36 When I read that the first time, it it like totally threw me because I would have had the opposite belief. But he described the optimists as those people who said “well, we’ll be out by Christmas.” And then Christmas would come and go and they’d say, “okay, well, we’ll be out by Easter.” And then Easter would come and go. And with enough of those repetitions, a piece of depression fit it. So Stockdale described you needed two things. One was an ultimate belief that you will succeed, okay? Combined with a brutal acceptance of the reality of what you’re dealing with. And that connected with me because I had done quite a bit of work with optimism and I – favorite book of it by Alan Loy McGinnis called, “The power of Optimism.” And he describes that that one of the behaviors of optimists is that they aren’t surprised by trouble.

Steve: 03:43 And I thought that really connected back to Stockdale’s issues. And so, as I look back, I think in last spring, when COVID hit, as educators, we said, “oh, okay, well, we can survive this. We’ll get to June, the summer’s going to be here and then fall, we’ll be back in school.” And then fall came and it wasn’t there. And now I’m afraid that that that the vaccine being present may put another group of people into that mode of everything’s going to be here quickly. And I think instead, we need to put those two pieces together. What’s the belief? I believe that I can teach students better next week than I taught them this week. And next month, better than I taught them last month. And next year, better than I taught them this year. I’m going to combine that with the brutal reality that some kids are still having trouble making connections, some kids aren’t having the supports that they need. Those are all the realities I’ll work with, but with all of those issues I can learn and get better. So that’s why to me the whole piece coming out of this is learning.

Cory: 04:58 Yeah. And it’s so funny that you bring that that lens to this conversation because I was just having this exact conversation with my team right before this call. We were talking about how we’ve, you know, we’ve been interacting with some of those folks who are like you know, this is temporary. And I mean, in last spring I was like that. I was like, we’re going to be out for a month or so, but then we’ll come back. Everyone will finish the school year, teachers wholeheartedly believed they were going to finish out the school year, go into summer vacation, having seen their students. And that was a really hard hit when that didn’t happen. And then it was, well, kind of starting back, everything will settle out over summer and we won’t have that remote instruction starting in the school year.

Cory: 05:46 Well, then that didn’t happen. And we continually – we equate it being from Texas to, a place in Texas called Enchanted Rock, where it’s like, you go up the hill and it doesn’t look so bad and then you get to the top of that crest and realize there’s another hill. More to go. And you get to top of that and you’re like, there’s still more. Like, when am I going to hit the peak? I did this and then smooth sailing down. Enchanted Rock is a beautiful place. It’s sounds like a great idea, especially on a nice summary day. And it’s the worst idea ever, especially on a nice summary day. But I mean, yeah, that’s exactly it. And that starts to chip away at our teachers, especially those that makes so much sense about our optimists.

Cory: 06:34 As an optimist, I can definitely see that. And really, I love that you, you know, you take that reality and that belief and make sure that we’re kind of pinning it to that learning. And it really is all about the learning. And that’s been the hard thing that’s been – I know a lot of the coaches I’ve been working with are, you know, their teachers absolutely need their support. And in some cases they’re asking for them, in some cases they’re asking to be left alone. But the support is not at the deeper level that they’ve done in the past. I myself have been doing a lot of micro-coaching and creating a lot of micro-learning content rather than, you know, bigger sessions or more kind of, I’m trying to cover a lot in some time I’m trying to cover just a little bit in as little time as possible so they can grab it and go with it. And it makes me think about, you know, how do we get teachers to get back into that learner mode instead of that survival mode, which is where they’ve been?

Steve: 07:37 I think the key phrase is reflection. I’ve been doing some work for folks in in resilience and I found a COVID continuum that says, there’s this phase of being in fear. And then if you can move out of fear, you move into learning and then with learning, you move into an area they called growth. And as I looked at that, I realized the key to move from fear into learning was reflection. So it’s identifying your emotions, identifying what’s important, identifying what you have control over and what you don’t have control over. And once you’ve done that, you can begin to see your, your way into into growth. I’ve shared my personal example of it was being being quarantined here in Switzerland. The one thing they didn’t close when they quarantine was the forest. And there’s forest everywhere, and everybody’s supposed to be out in the forest. It’s part of the culture.

Steve: 08:49 So I built into my quarantine time, a good 90 minute walk in the woods every day. And when I starteded it, the purpose of my walk was exercise. But I then began to realize that’s my reflection time. And once I could identify how angry I am that I can’t see my grandkids, realizing I don’t have control over that, what do I have control over? So my granddaughter is studying German in middle school for the first time and so am I, so we’re texting each other back and forth in German that we have to translate. I don’t think if it were for the quarantine and I was visiting her the way I usually am, I don’t think we’d be doing that. So I think we’ve actually grown. I know that my work has become much more personalized during the quarantine and I know that I’m going to keep that.

Steve: 09:48 I’m on three or four new projects now and every one of them I’ve built into the beginning of it, a one-on-one interview with each of the participants before I start the program. When I was flying in and doing my workshop, that didn’t happen. Yeah. But that’s a piece I think that is going to have to carry over. So I really think the job of coaches and administrators who are looking to support teachers right now is engaging that teacher in the reflection and getting the teacher to decide that the there’s a piece they could do tomorrow that would make their instruction and their student learning stronger than it was today.

Cory: 10:31 I want to hit on a couple of things that you said. First is as you shared your own practice of reflection being in your walks through the woods, I think that sometimes, as we’re – and I study – that’s the work I do is all about reflection and I’ve studied it a lot. And there are specific methods, some that work better than others depending on what you’re trying to accomplish. There’s a whole cycle of reflection. And so I have the science of reflection down that I used to share, but me as well, I’ve been finding just small moments of reflection. It doesn’t have to be this big thing. You don’t have to have this, go buy a journal and, you know, do a reflective…it’s just making sure that you are taking time to reflect. And it doesn’t have to be sitting alone in a room meditating or something. It can be as you’re doing other things or as your chatting. My sister-in-law and I chat frequently, more frequently when I was in Texas and on the road all the time. But that was my key reflection time was just in conversation with her. I was thinking out loud and we both kind of reflected on our practices as educators and coaches. And so I think that’s really important.

Steve: 11:42 Yeah. Label that as the coach’s role and create that reflection moment for the teacher. I was just working with a district office person today looking at administrators who are doing walk-throughs virtually now and they’re sending teachers notes. And I said, if I could make one suggestion, stop the notes and buzz the teacher. And if you brought the teacher up on Zoom or you grab the phone and call the teacher and you said, “here’s when I was there today. What did you see during that time that pleased you? And what did you see during that time that if you could get it to go up one notch, it’d be cool to get it to go up one notch? Tell me about that thing.” And that 10 minute conversation got a whole lot further than anything you’re going to write up or questions you’re going to send out to that teacher. And that the reflection will live on beyond your 10 minute conversation.

Cory: 12:54 Yeah. If you’re still doing all the heavy lifting, right? And we want to take that off, whatever we can off of our teachers right now, but now’s not the time to do all the reflecting for them or they won’t learn from that, right? It’ll be something – okay, I’ll remember that the next time I do this, hopefully I don’t do it again because I’m not going to be in pandemic teaching next year, right? If we can really, yeah, just those just simple reflective questions just to open up a conversation, doesn’t have to be anything big, informal. This is where, like this year, if I’m able to Zoom through and observe instruction, whether it’s in person or online, I’m trying to record those moments so that they can look back at that and hey, I’m gonna give you a call in 10 minutes, take a look at this video real quick, and then let’s just chat about it. Just to get them to look back, not at the whole lesson, but just to kind of be that great artifact for that reflection. So what other factors do you think to create that space for reflection and start that conversation for us as leaders can we do? What are some crucial things for us to think about?

Steve: 14:07 Well, I’ve been writing about the leaders need to create the environment. And Simon Sinek has a great statement that leaders
aren’t responsible for the results, they’re responsible for the people who are responsible for the results. Now, I like that because that’s where the teacher has to be right now, too. As a teacher, you aren’t responsible for the learning that happens. You’re responsible for the kids who are responsible to make the learning happen. We’ve got to create, you’ve got to create that environment. So the role of the administrator having empathy, of having a a high expectation that the teachers can cause an ever increasing amount of learning to happen. I’ve been big on taking things off teachers’ plates, but recognizing that the reason you took something off the plate is so that more energy could be focused on something that was on the plate. So it’s not just backing off, but it’s having that – again, it’s the reflection time to prioritize that there’s something really important that I want to that I want to make happen for my students and for my learners.

Cory: 15:40 Yeah. And I know one of the things that you kind of talk about in a few of your blogs is the use of pre-conferencing as a way to set up some of those coaching conferences, set up the stage for teacher kind of openness and reflective practice, right?

Steve: 16:01 Yeah. Well, my favorite is the pre-conference is the one that people want to skip when they’re short on time. And so I’m recommending that if you’re short on time, just do the pre-conference, right? Even if you can’t do the observation and you don’t have time for the post-conference, at least do the pre-conference.

Cory: 16:22 Well, and that’s so much more proactive, right? If we think about it.

Steve: 16:28 If we have the pre-conference, the teacher now goes into the lesson with focused consciousness that came out of the pre-conference and you’ve set the stage for a piece that they can actually coach themselves. Now, I’ve been working with some coaches right now working virtually do the pre and the post without doing the observation.

Cory: 16:52 Yes. I’ve been doing a lot of that, too. Yeah.

Steve: 16:56 And then after the lesson is over, now you’re gonna have the post and the observations you’re working from are the teacher’s. So now
you use the post-conference to increase the teacher’s reflection on what happened, even though you didn’t observe it and collect any data.

Steve: 17:15 Thanks for listening. I hope the coming weeks and months provide reflection for your growth and the growth of those whom you are coaching.

Steve [Outro]: 17:26 Thanks again for listening. You can subscribe to Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud on iTunes and Podbean. And please remember to rate and review us on iTunes. I also want to hear what you’re pondering. You can find me on Twitter @stevebarkley, or send me your questions and find my videos and blogs at barkleypd.com.

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