Mindsets influence both conscious and unconscious behaviors we as educators put into practice. In part one of this series, Cory Camp from SIBME Coach Replay joins me to explore how fear of “learning loss” might be replaced with excitement for rejoining our students in a love of learning and being together. How teachers can collaborate as an ecosystem is also examined.
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Steve [Intro]: 00:00 Hello and welcome to the Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud podcast. Instructional coaches and leaders create the environment that supports teachers to continually imagine, grow and achieve. They model an excitement for learning that teachers in turn model for students. This podcast is dedicated to promoting the important aspects of instructional leadership. Thanks for listening.
Steve: 00:28 Mindsets to Explore For the Start of School – Part one. I was invited to join Cory Camp from SIBME Coach rRplay podcast to discuss mindsets that we might explore as we return to school. I always appreciate the way Cory invites and extends my thinking and shares her own. Enjoy
listening, and consider sending me your thoughts and questions.
Cory : 01:01 And welcome to another episode and a whole new season of the SIBME Coach Replay Show. I’m your host Cory Camp, and we’ve taken about a month and a half or so off and here we are back again with one of my favorite guests, Steve Barkley. And I love our topic for today, Steve, because I know a big conversation last year, last semester, and especially as we’ve gotten – I actually just got my kiddo’s state test results in the mail yesterday. And is this idea of, we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us as we come back in to the schools, a lot of folks are going back in person this year. We are returning to normal if there is such a thing and I know you and I are going to talk a little bit about that, but really it is a stressful return I feel, for a lot of our educators.
Cory : 02:00 We’re excited. We can’t wait to get back into our classrooms and be with our students, but we also have this stress of this idea of, the learning loss, the COVID slide, and how do we overcome that? How do we get right into that? And so, as we think about our return into schools and thinking about maybe moving from a problem-focused mindset and reframing the problems, reframing the mindset. You wrote an amazing blog on this, which we’ll make sure folks get access to the full blog, but you got a couple of big ideas around it, four big ideas for thinking about reframing the problem and reframing our mindsets. And so let’s start with this first one, especially around this idea of kind of coming back to school and thinking about the learning loss. So I’ll kind of let you take it from there.
Steve: 02:57 Thanks for having me Cory, it’s always always great to be with you. So a little bit as a jump in here. As soon as we were looking at coming out of COVID, which who knows when that is now, but as soon as that was raised I was sure we didn’t want to go back to normal. And in many ways for me, what COVID did was, it shined a light on strengths that we had and it shined a light on problems. I don’t know to what extent it really created new ones. They just kind of stood out there.
Cory : 03:42 Push them to the forefront, right? Like social-emotional learning –
Steve: 03:50 Yea it was always important.
Cory : 03:50 It was always there. Really shine a light on it.
Steve: 03:53 The inequity in technology and you know, it’s not like that problem didn’t exist, so it kinda shined the light on it. So I really
had been thinking about this. How do we refocus? How do we have have the different mindset? So the first one of the four ideas that I pulled up was focusing on love versus fear. And very interesting, this is the one that triggered me to write the blog. And it came from a friend of mine Adam Fishman, who is leading a group on climate change. And he sent out this this rather lengthy blog that he realized he had to change his mindset and that his mindset had been getting people to hate the bad things about the climate.
Steve: 04:50 And he realized instead, he needed to switch to get people, to focus on the things that they love and they’re going to lose.
Cory : 05:00 Right.
Steve: 05:01 We don’t focus on these things that they love. So it was a lot easier to get energy out of people by focusing on nature, focusing on who are the people that grow the crops and how do we get the crops in that approach rather than the fear approach. And I’m sitting there reading this piece and I’m going, wow, that that’s the issue we’ve got for teachers. If everybody’s putting learning loss in front of the teacher, the last thing I want to do on an opening day of school, when kids are finally back and I’m looking to build all this excitement is to have this picture in my mind of just how far behind are these kids? Are we going to get caught up? And communicating that to the kids.
Steve: 05:45 And so my issue was, let’s fall in love with the fact that we’ve been waiting to have kids here in the room with us. We’re finally here. We’ve been waiting to do all exciting things with kids. We’re tired of all the kids who were on Zoom and not clicking on the camera. So what are all the things and how does that change your mindset if you walk into the school excited about all the things we can do and all the things we can accomplish in moving ahead.
Cory : 06:21 And I think that’s so valuable. And as we think about our role as instructional leaders, we really are the leaders in this reframing. That message comes from us. Our teachers look to us to support and then reinforce and walk the walk. We can’t say, “oh, don’t worry about the learning loss” and then shove data and all kinds of things in front of their face and say, how are we going to fix it? We really do have to come from that place of love over fear.
Steve: 06:52 Where are we and where do we want to go?
Cory : 06:56 Yep.
Steve: 06:56 And let’s go, let’s be excited about going there rather than shining this light backwards. It has pushed me to get teachers thinking
that it’s about speeding things up and not remediating. And the more that I’m focused on loss, on what kids didn’t get last year, the more likely I am to take that remedial approach and that’s not going to put anybody in the right mindset for moving ahead.
Cory : 07:27 And I were just talking backstage about this this big idea around acceleration rather than remediation and the importance of that and the questions that are coming around from that. But I also think there’s something also here in this point, this love versus fear. My nephew and niece are visiting here this afternoon, they’re all outside having pizza for lunch right now. And when they came in, I said, “hey, you guys excited for school to start?” They start a day before my kids do and they’re just a town over. And I was really surprised because my nephew has not necessarily been one for school, was like, “I can’t wait. I’m excited.” And I was like, “are you sick? Are you okay?”
Steve: 08:10 [laughter]
Steve: 08:10 But I think our students are also leaning into that excitement. They’re excited to be in a school to have some space away from their
parents or their siblings.
Cory : 08:20 And, to kind of just move back into the school is now a little bit more exciting for them qnd I think we’ve got to lean-in to that too. Lean-in to the strengths and the things that they’ve learned over the past 20 some months and you know, build upon that. So I definitely love that. So let’s think differently about learning losses that I’m hearing here. What else, because I know that that was just kind of the snowball, that was the tip of the iceberg.
Steve: 08:56 And then, I found an article that said we needed to think about schools as an ecosystem in an acorn. So when I dug into the
ecosystem piece, and this came from as a Sam Chaltain and in my blog, I give all the links to all of their original stuff. And he was talking about seeing an ecosystem rather than an assembly line. And I have always been big on the ecosystem. I’m a big Margaret Wheatley fan and Wheatley always talks about the way a system works as is much more like the way a school system should work. The way a school should work is much more like an ecosystem than it is an assembly line, but it has way too many assembly line pieces in it. And this has always spoken to me because I paid my way through college, on the assembly line.
Steve: 09:51 I worked in the cardboard factory and it was a machine three blocks long. And at one end of the machine, giant rolls of paper were fed in and three blocks away, it spit out piles of cardboard. And my job was to catcher pile and stack it. And one day I saw a piece of cardboard jammed under a belt that I thought it might knock a belt off and I wasn’t running over and shut down the system. And a little while later, very shortly later, a supervisor was screaming and yelling, “what did you do?” And I said, “I thought,” and that’s as far as I got. And he informed me that catchers don’t think they catch. This is your job, this is your piece. And and it dawned on me when I when I began teaching, there was kind of this feeling.
Steve: 10:35 I started my student teaching and I watched the teacher for two days and then I tapped her on the shoulder and she stepped out and I stepped in. It was like, oh my God, I’m back to being a catcher. And so it really hit me now if go back to the learning loss, are we worried about a learning loss because we’re really thinking that a fifth grade teacher can’t take the kids from where they are when they come into our classroom and move ahead? I mean, are we really thinking that she can only handle the assembly line delivery of here’s where kids are supposed to be in order to in order to start your program? I’ve been a big proponent of the only way to serve kids today is as a team and ecosystems are teams. It’s all interconnected. And I think coaches need to dedicate a major chunk of time to building the team relations of the school. And I’ve often said if I were an administrator, when I had my coach partnership meeting with with my coach, that would be one of my expectations, that the sense of team across the school will increase because the work that the coach is doing,
Cory : 11:56 And it’s so interesting because I’ve also always thought that our work should be more of an ecosystem and that was really because I came into education as a special educator and I didn’t feel connected. And I felt like I was – you worry about the boxes on your assembly line, I’ll focus on them on mine. And it doesn’t really work, right? We’re not building boxes. We are growing children, humans who are going to build into our society and grow our society. And so love this idea of thinking about our ecosystem and thinking about the implications of that assembley line. So how do we start to move away from that mindset and into this ecosystem? And I also love what you say about coaches having a secondary focus or maybe maybe a primary focus on the team aspect.
Cory : 12:54 That’s something I’ve been talking a lot with my coaches is yes, your work is one-on-one and when we think about our coaching cycles, we’re typically thinking about that, but then you should also be looking for opportunities to support the collaboration of that one teacher with the rest of their peers and help them peer coach and build their capacity so that way you aren’t having as the coach to be the only instructional support for each teacher as an individual, but you can really maximize your efforts. Create tiered systems of support for your teachers, where they’ve got team support and peer support and coach support. And that’s all aligned with the support from the administrator.
Steve: 13:36 Years ago, I worked with a district designing a mentor program for new teachers, and they were trying to decide how long the mentor program should last. is mentoring a sort of one-year program or an 18 month program? And they finally decided when the new teacher threw open the doors of her classroom and said, “you may all come in.” That was the end of mentoring. And the job of the mentor was to grow the teacher into that level of confidence and professionalism that they could actually enter in to that peer coaching relationship with everyone. And that is that is an ecosystem that needs to be built.
Cory : 14:19 Yeah, absolutely. We do need to focus on our own small part of the environment, but it is serving the larger environment there.
Steve: 14:31 And I have to know how my part fits in.
Steve: 14:34 Right. Exactly.
Steve: 14:35 I’ve always been big on a teacher has to have at least a three-year commitment to kids. A three-year commitment means, you’re engaged with the teachers and the kids the year before you’re working with them. The year you’re working with them, you’re engaged with the other staff who are working with kids. So if I’m teaching freshmen English, I’m working with teachers who are teaching other freshmen courses and then I have to follow up because it’s not until I get engaged with that person next year that I really understand what happened in the year that the kids are with me. If you want to know how successful you were, go talk to next year’s teacher.
Steve: 15:14 That tells you a lot more than any test you gave during the year they were with you.
Cory : 15:19 Absolutely. And reminds me of my friend Amy McNair and she always talks about designing learning experiences rather than lesson
plans, because experiences stick with you. And so if you really want to see if you did a good job, yes, looking at how much did that student retain into the next year, how do they continue to grow? I think that is – I love this idea of this three year commitment piece.
Steve: 15:44 Rhere’s another word you used that I wanted to connect back. You used the term growing and growing really connects you to the term ecosystem, and it really connects you to the term environment. And I just recently found a a quote from Ken Robinson that I that I put into a slide, but he says that teaching is like being a gardener. You can’t force the plants to grow. The best you can do is to create that environment.
Steve: 16:24 As a teacher, I’ve got to create that environment for the kids. So let’s click back. The love part becomes critical and then as a coach, I need to create that environment for the teachers. So that’s another reason I promote the team is that team helps the coach create that environment just the way the teacher would want the kids in the classroom to help create the learning environment you want.
Cory : 16:50 And think for coaches, as we are celebrating the small wins and successes with an individual you might be working with, how are you also shouting that from the rooftops? Building that collective efficacy, connecting them with other people who might benefit then from my small win because they’re struggling to get that same win. I’m a little closer in my mental model to where that teacher is so I might be a better support than maybe a coach. And so just as a instructional leader and as a coach, thinking about how am I connecting the individual systems across the ecosystem together through team learning through multiple means of sharing and communication and collaborating. And I think, I mean, tell me if you think I’m wrong, Steve, I think with all the technology that everyone was kind of forced into learn last year, I think we’ve got quite a few great tools to help people do that.
Steve: 17:54 Absolutely. Increase that whole communication and connected piece and teaming piece.
Cory : 18:01 Absolutely. And I want to go back to what you said about the teacher being committed for kind of the full three years at minimum, because I think that leads us into your next tip for reframing and that’s long-term versus short-term. This is that ACORN conversation which was really interesting to me. I was like, oh, I’ve got to learn more about this ACORN idea.
Steve: 18:28 We’ll pick up exploring the ACORN concept in part two of this podcast series. The link to the blog that Cory mentions concerning reframing the problems is found in the lead-in to this podcast. A big thank you to Cory for sharing her insights around coaches supporting reframing. Remember to consider sending me your thoughts. Thanks for listening.
Steve [Outro]: 19:00 Thank you 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