PSD70 Learning Coach Program

A Parkland School Division Blog Site

Relationships- A Priority in Time

Photo Credit: jenny downing via Compfight

So, over a month has passed since the official beginning of the 2014 school year, and as per usual I have procrastinated about my blog. Not because I have nothing to share, but actually the exact opposite. The last month has been rich with conversations. In the first week I decided that before I left the school in the evening, I would make a list of 5 or 6 people I would have a five – ten minute conversation with the next day.   At the top of the list was the name of the person I believed would least want to have a conversation with me, not because of who I am, (I hope)  but because of my role as LC in the school. I also tried to  make sure that these people were in different teaching areas and parts of the building.  I am sure as you read this, many of you acknowledge that this is a strategy you have used with completing difficult tasks; put the most challenging at the top and get it done. Well,  I am happy to report that this relationship building strategy has merit. I have listened, learned about my colleagues, and have  had coaching and learning conversations. I have even been invited to come and help in  classrooms that were not open to me before. It may not be spring, but it really is never too late to plant seeds of learning, caring and respect.

Reflections and Questions:

On Saturday, June 28th,  Memorial administration and staff, along with family, friends and extended educational and community members,   graduated the Class of 2014. With this  farewell we all helped this group of students end their chapter  of basic,  formal education that began, for most of  them , twelve or thirteen  years ago. As I watched  these  beautifully gowned and handsomely-dressed young women and men, I reflected on and asked  myself several questions. Have we really provided quality learning opportunities for all? Embedded in that question is the next, which is, have we achieved excellence in learning outcomes, and third, will this group of young people reflect in 5 or 10 years and recognize their schooling as having being highly responsive and responsible? Of course, we hope that for all three questions we have  provided some strategies that these learners will be able to use, and also some  reliable outcomes that will support them in their real-world endeavours – whatever they may be. I also know that we, as educators, will continue to work on all three questions.

For these young people to be committed to life-long learning, means that we need to continue to be learners! We as educators need to demonstrate high standards, citizenship and healthy lifestyles. We need to continue to challenge assessment practices and improve them through our own professional learning. We need to show improved results through effective working relationships with parents and other stakeholders. We need to demonstrate leadership, creativity, and the joy in learning and continuous improvement. And we need to continue to work on  realizing this in an environment of mutual trust and caring. I know that I, and my teacher and learning coach colleagues work everyday to promote this  knowledge and awareness.  It’s a heck of a lot of work!  But what a rewarding journey!

Talk-Reach-Throw-Row-Go-Tow; Learning to Lead

I recently re- read, “Not Waving, But Drowning”, by Tony Borash. He is a lead instructional coach for Albemarie County Public Schools which has approximately 1,200 teachers.  He writes about the drowning metaphor, and the “Talk-Reach-Throw-Row-Go-Tow”, Boating Services framework as a concrete way to help teachers who compare their emotional and physical state to sinking under water. His techniques on how to strategically help a call from a teacher, prioritizes options from the lowest risk to the highest.  Also, the words are direct and process organized. I find his process particularly helpful, as often, my first response to teachers is to “rescue” by “pulling them safely” to my shore. ( Which may not be a comfortable shore for them and therefore; often not what teachers need. What follows here is a summary of the strategy by Mr. Borash.


In times of panic, teachers need to be reminded that they can swim.  Coaching with reminders and encouragement without jumping in to act may be the best first response. Ask questions!


For many teachers, talk is not enough, they need a hand.  It is important to keep your hand extended and hope that people grab on.  (Reminder to self- this may take some months or years!) The key is that when a teacher grabs on, you need to be ready to pull.  Be direct.


Mr. Borash suggests that some teachers are so far from shore they need something else to keep afloat. What can I throw them?  Anything that helps them: lesson plans, content/support websites, ready to use learning resources, etc.


Sometimes educators can’t or won’t respond to any of the above strategies. They may see their situation as too difficult, so that they give up, and/or are confrontational.  To help these situations a coach needs a boat to “row” out and help reach the teacher where they are at. This vessel of intervention can by many things.

Go and Tow:

If all else fails, Mr. Borash suggests you need to go in and be the hero. Jump in and bring something with you that will tie you and the teacher together – some focal point that will help you to tow him or her alongside you. In other words, let them know that survival as a team is better than waving, and drowning alone!

Building a Culture that nurtures productive Conflict

Just finished reading this great article by Anthony Armstrong (titled as above)  which embraces an environment that nurtures productive conflict (Williams, K. & Hierck T.. Authentic alignment in a PLC: Moving from compliance to commitment).  It shares the three critical ingredients to creating a safe environment for this growth: shared purpose, norms to to quide the work towards a purpose, and protocols for when those norms are violated. Perhaps a model to use/look at as we continue to push the evelope of the “staus-quo”.

Quote of the day for me:  “If you have learned how to disagree without being disagreeable, then you have discovered the secret of getting along – whether it be business, family relations, or life itself”. – Bernard Meltzer


Tis’ The Season To Be Coaching

So great to have students and staff feel comfortable to share their questions and reflective journeys. Increasingly working with their needs for improved capacity, and goals they are setting for themselves. Many are still uncertain what a “Learning Coach ” is and does, but the trust, relationship, and sharing are growing. YEAH!

To Thine own self be True

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by tonynetone

I remember this phrase from Shakespeare.  Perhaps he too borrowed it from somewhere or somebody, but that it remains must be a testament to the truth it carries. As we reflected today on our area of most professional growth, a continuing theme was that we as a team have a belief, a belief that what we are doing in our schools makes a difference for kids. This being said, we need to continue to be the change that makes a difference for our students. The change we want to see in our students, and the world.  What was reinforced for me this year, was what I know to be true.  No one can tell you to change; no one can make you believe something.  You have to want to – and you have to be willing to step outside of your comfort zone to try new things, and become, I believe, a selfless human being.   This is much easier said than done.  Over the past year I have reflected a lot about change, and have been in numerous conversations with other teachers about change.  What can I, and  what can we do, to make fulfilling, and beneficial changes  to our teaching practice.  Through these conversations I have been inspired by many people who share similar passions.  Educators who are dedicated individuals who want to make a difference; educators who know that we can’t change everything, but we can change and do a lot.  What I know to be true is that we all need to get involved in the discussion. As a Learning Coach I  have another avenue to do just that: discuss, question, challenge myself and others, raise doubt, and face fears. Change is scary for most of us; we fear the unknown.  It is never easy and it always involves work. As educators we know that the work and the effort will make a difference.  However, we often need a reason to move from the “knowing and thinking” to “the doing”.  It was great to be part of some awesome “doing” this year.

Thank you to all my colleagues who shared the journey.

“They say that time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself”. – Andy Warhol

Analee McAllister



It was a week this last Thursday that my colleague Teresa and I returned from our Spring Break trip with 28 students who are studying French and German at Memorial.  We visited France, Switzerland, Austria and Germany. It was an outstanding trip and  and a  testament to “the why” of flexible and inclusive education.  Leaving the borders  and limitations of  classroom learning behind, all students engaged in the challenges of learning and interacting in a foreign language and culture on their own terms. A few days into the trip, I could see the labels and sterotypes of the classroom been shed, as they laughed together , sharing their misadventures and praising each other for their successes. They all had a voice and the learning had many forms:  from using the language to order in a restaurant or buying something in a shop, to reading a map or explaining the history of the area or exploring the local culture.   I was reminded again why I have spents most of my” springs breaks” travelling with students.  For me, this is mentorship, teaching at its best; standing on the sidelines and watching the lesson plan take on a life of its own!   Oh, what fun!


Peeling the Layers of the Onion

This past week has come with a certain amount of trepidation, but has  ultimately been amazing.  Having pondered for some months now, what it would be like to invite myself into the classroom of a colleague,  and dig into the core elements of coaching,  I was humbled by the openness, sincerity and willingness of my colleagues to engage   in professional conversations about how to help their students.  There are numerous issues to be addressed, but for today, at least, the first layer of the onion was sweet!

Getting Started

Two weeks into the school year I am amazed at how much new technology has been “crammed” into my brain.  what is more amazing,perhaps, is that  I am beginning to use the technology as a tool to build relationships and share learning.

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