PSD70 Learning Coach Program

A Parkland School Division Blog Site

Notice .. Find Meaning …. Learn




I don’t know if it is the full moon, continual changing of the weather patterns in Alberta or the onset of upheaval in the classrooms due to Christmas Concert rehearsals.   Tensions are rising, anxiety is in the air, and I am even more in need of the quiet mornings and evenings in my living room with a candle and a beverage of my choosing.  Mindfulness is the buzz right now and I am eager to use it daily…..  In the MIND Up Curriculum I came across a set of statements to think about or journal about, that can be so useful for adults and students alike… no matter what your occupation, age or economic status.

What I noticed …..  Identify/think about/become aware of our perceptions and assumptions, our feelings;  how are our senses responding to our environment and how does all of this impact our reactions to our environment.

What it means ….. How did I feel? Then … How did I react? What did I say or do in response to what I noticed… and why?

What I learned …. About myself ; my perceptions ; my assumptions ; my sensory self ; my quickness to react ; my tolerance to my environment and the people that are in it ??

If we can’t/ don’t/ or won’t learn from our experiences and relationships and interactions …. then how are we going to move forward in life?


In my Learning Coach/IEL role, I am always encouraging teachers to be the detectives in our classrooms, in our hallways, in the playground areas. We look for the patterns, the strengths and areas of growth for our students. We are having formal/informal dialogues and reflecting conversations regarding what the students are telling us/showing us about their strengths and about what they need – through their behaviors or lack of certain behaviors. (What I noticed …) 

How are we adjusting the environment and activities to meet all those needs? In SBST discussions we continue to gather information about the teachers’ and students’ current realities. We study the data, observations, work samples, cum files …and formulate a plan of intervention to move the child forward and a plan of action to tweak the teaching practices to move the teacher forward.     (What it means ….)

Hopefully, before the end of the year we can all see growth and learning in the students, growth and learning in the classroom and school community, growth and learning in all the staff   (What I learned…)

because …. GUESS what ???

There are going to be more full moons, and schedule interruptions and variable weather conditions in our fine province.  Change is forever happening and we just need to continue to be mindful about what we are choosing to NOTICE about ourselves and our teaching; what it MEANS for us and our students and fellow staff members; and what we will choose to LEARN from it all.

Loving the language ….

I came across this pamphlet on DI on the Yukon Education’s website. I love Carol Ann Tomlinson’s language  “ A respectful task honors both commonalities and differences of students but not by treating them alike”.   – more language that pops out at me : multiple and flexible means ….. 

I find that so many teachers are on board with their role and commitment to kids and learning. PSD continues to expand and develop in their commitment and opportunities for learning and growth for all students and the dedicated staff who work with them each and every day.

Here are some other resources that can help us to continue to move forward in  our own personal and professional journeys …to get ourselves and our students to a place where we all can be as effective and successful as possible  – moving from” Yikes ! “ to  “ I will keep trying !” to “ WOW , You won’t believe what my kids/What I  did today !!”   – a good basis for collaborative problem solving teams  …..    a good basis for setting out a learning plan for our more complicated students to move their  learning onward and forward !!!

This was also taken from Yukon Education :

Guiding Principles

  • Learning is a unique interaction between the student and the instructional environment.
  • Passionately seeking authentic information about each child’s unique skills and needs will result in academic/behavioral improvement.
  • All students can learn. When they are not learning, we must find out why.
  • We must focus on understanding & resolving the causes of problems – “why” learning is not occurring.

Loving the words …. unique interaction ……….passionately seeking ………….understanding ….   sounds like PSD to me …….  🙂

Shifting Gears, Ruts, and Getting Unstuck

Yes, it is winter in Alberta and daily we receive students and staff into the school with some tale of the challenges of winter driving: shifting gears to rock a vehicle back and forth  to get out of the snow ruts or snow banks.  This leads me to continue with some thinking  about shifting something else … my perspective.

With the many communication partners I have in my life: teachers, educational assistants, administrators, siblings, stubborn children (no idea where they get that from ), and ageing senior parents, I need to frequently let go of my own views and my perceived ‘obvious’ solutions to ‘their problems’, and open myself up to the possibility of another perspective or equally valid solution and/or  point of view.  That pause and reflection (with mouth firmly closed), helps get me unstuck. It gives me the flow of movement to shift my thinking up or down, to be a functional vehicle of change, for the people around me.

I know that it is not always easy for me or some of the partners in my interactions to not get stuck in a ‘rut’ or rigid path of perspectives (again the stubborn genetics issue); but I am always thrilled when one or both of us are able to see where the other person is coming from – even for a brief period of time – acknowledge the differences, look for the commonalities and move forward not spinning our tires – making the ruts deeper and harder to move out of. 

As a learning coach, I need to remember the cognitive coaching training …listen intently , probe and ask good questions , allow time to process and reflect, not always being the problem solver (with my own pre-conceived shovel and sandbag in tow) to push and/or pull the other person out of their present situation …. rut or not.

Winter may be upon us, the roads may get icy or snowy … but heck, I hear it will be +4 degrees by the weekend!  Maybe I can put my shovel and sand bag away for a day and just let winter be winter… ruts and all.

Hit the Ground Running

Well, it’s like we never left the building.  Most staff have definitely warmed up to the idea of having conversations and reflecting on teaching strategies , student needs , working with strengths … both teachers and students,  and empowering and building on any lagging skills … again both in themselves as teachers and in the students they are working with.

More and more I find that teachers have realized that , yes , the Education system had been developed to “teach academics ” – the reading , ‘riting and ‘rithmetics , but … we as educators, parents, community members or business people, need to develop and enhance the ‘soft skills’ , the emotional/social/work ethic part of the students – and teachers – as well.  Those skills that will make or break their engagement or motivation or passion for learning.  It is difficult to move forward with any learning or any change in our lives if those ‘soft skills’ are under-developed or under-utilized.  What is the student bringing to the classroom ? What are we bringing to the classroom  from our past experiences , our assumptions , our predictions , our biases ?  Build the relationships , get the discussions and reflections going and let the learning begin !!

A wise, grey haired principal shared this PD reflection with me the other day.

“They (the students) are doing work. Just not your work. They are doing what is motivating and engaging for them and are doing what gives them a purpose.”

It will be our jobs as Learning Coaches and as teachers to make our presentation of information, our questioning and invitation for exploring their learning experience to be engaging and/or motivating and/or serving a purpose for them.  We need to be sure that our ‘teaching’ is not just our perception of a ‘motivating, engaging  or purposeful lesson”

In our Learning Coach  PLC group on ‘Engaging Students’ , I look forward to investigating, reflecting and sharing our insights and findings with all of you.

As you enter the second month of the school year , pull up your pants, tighten your laces , zip up your jacket and be as thoroughly as excited as I am,  to ‘Hit the Ground Running’ at Parkland School Division.

The 3 C’s of Teaching

The 3 C’s of Teaching

Choice ……… Chance………..Change……….I cannot for the life of me remember where I got this quote, that I will share with you now.

“You must make a choice to take a chance or your teaching and learning will NEVER change.”

Well, I guess I have really embraced the 3 C’s of teaching this year. I excitedly and whole heartedly made the choice to be a part of the Learning Coach training and then take on the position at my school.  I was definitely taking a chance…that I would be up to the challenge to be out of the classroom (first time in many, many years) and to be able to continually support and effectively assist my teaching peers to plan, reflect and grow to meet the diverse needs of their students and then help those teachers and students to be successful lifelong learners. I continue to learn how to change and hopefully improve my thinking, my learning and teaching approaches; change my perceptions and my expectations from how I would ‘do it’ to how I can help the teachers and students approach their unique situations in a way that enables solution focused discussions and growth.  I have also continued to encounter many other C’s of teaching …. Chaos, Compromise, Communication and way too much Coffee and Chocolate!

All in all, it’s been such a rewarding experience… lots of support from Learning Services , my administration and the teaching staff as well as an incredible opportunity to interact with so many students and unique programs at my school.  My learning curve and my teaching continues to grow in ways that I could not have imagined.

So join me one and all … make the choicetake the chance – and continue to be part of the positive change in the learning and growth of students and teachers at Parkland School Division.

Show and Share and Bottom Lines

Here’s my SHOW   —-

very useful links to these awesome websites ….   tons of resources, research and strategies to try ,for struggling readers and writers.   resources , research and strategies for LD  and ADHD  but good for any student in the class (and the odd teacher too …..)   articles, research , etc. for literacy skills  grades 4 – 12   sign up … it’s free stuff – ready to use …. Need I say more ????


Here’s my SHARE  —- 

  Where do I start …. I am loving the collaboration, the problem solving; delving deeper into the skill development of individual students and group dynamics of a classroom; dialoguing and reflecting with teachers to assist with acknowledging and recognizing our reactions and actions to our students learning process and experiences; searching for motivators , being more flexible in the way we present information and assess student learning, creating  learning opportunities that will engage kids and get them to connect the present information and experiences to their past learning and experiences and then moving them forward in their life-long learning experiences.

It has been very rewarding being part of the solution based discussions in SBST (student based support team) meetings. The Learning Coach model fits so nicely with this process.  The pre-observations and follow through with strategies and resources discussed at our “meeting of the minds” is very beneficial for both students and staff.

I have also enjoyed being part of the Move your Mind initiative at our school this year – Integrating movement with curriculum for Kindergarten to grade 4 students.  Again, the opportunity for staff to observe students in action, in another setting, taking data on the high/middle/low rollers in class and how the instructor’s delivery and execution of the lesson affects their motivation, participation and overall learning is so valuable.  The staff reflection time again is key to the whole process and how it can applied in their classrooms and future teaching lessons and units ; and we at Ecole Broxton Park School are so fortunate to have an administrative TEAM that fully support this.

Lastly, I have been a part of another school initiative ; the FISH project , where we as a staff have identified, the students who we felt were more at risk and would eventually benefit from  being paired up with a staff member for some very anonymous and informal staff connections and attention.

I am definitely blessed to be placed in this position where I have an extremely flexible schedule, work in most of the five amazingly diverse school programs in this building, work with an amazing staff– who for the most part- are familiar with me and are willing to allow me into their classrooms. Don’t even get me started on the wonderful administrative team …. Not bad for a bunch of men………really I am kidding on most days J

And here’s my BOTTOM LINE —   The bottom line for me is … YES teaching has changed and will need to continue to change as long as kids  and society change , which is like ….. forever !!  How I handle that is up to me.  I feel that as long as the majority of teachers whom I work with feel heard ; have realistic and do-able options and choose to use those options; participate in more solution based rather than problem focused discussions ; if all the educators in our building keep the creative and flexible thinking model (being partially ADHD adults is really NOT a bad thing …. Now is it ??); work in an environment where trust and relationships are important and developed regularly …. Well then …. The sky is the limit !!

It will not be all smooth sailing but then …not much in life occurs  without it’s turbulence and the odd barf bag  and life preserver… just in case.  As long as I am willing to LEARN – CHANGE – GROW and come into my job from the perspective that every student and classroom teacher can ‘start where they stand’ and move forward …. I think some incredibly wonderful things will happen for kids and staff… so …hop on board Learning Coaches of PSD 70 …. It’s gonna be one heck of a ride !!!   And yes, keep that barf bag and life preserver close by …. You’re gonna need it … but NOT FOR LONG !

Start Where You Stand

Well the rush of paperwork is almost done…IPPs are in , many SBST meetings have been happening, PTIs are over…Now to just breathe for a few moments.

As I work with staff I continue to see the genuine concern for reaching all the learners in their class. The teachers have identified some students who would benefit from an alternative approach to their learning and are beginning the creative journey of teaching in 2012.

I can definitely see the shift in many teachers from seeing that behaviors and engagement does not exist solely within the child but within the interactions between their environment and the people who interact with them- both at home, in school and in their communities.  The connection between effective learning and teaching and the amount of time we take to reflect, grow and change in our learning and teaching styles and environments continues to be more evident.

The first few weeks of school have been setting the groundwork for the next 8 months of our time here together – identifying where the students are at emotionally, socially, physically and academically.  The staff have reflected on their professional and personal goals with the administration, and discussed their students’ academic and social/emotional goals with the parents at the initial Parent Teacher interviews.

Now we move forward – students and staff – starting where we stand (professionally and personally), working with the tools and experiences we have acquired in the past AND continually tweaking our approaches and understandings of  what we need and what our students need at this moment to be successful and lifelong learners.  Expanding and developing our knowledge and use of technology, Universal Design of Learning, Critical Thinking strategies without losing that connection with kids and that desire and love to see kids  ‘finally get it’ – whether it is multiplying fractions, sharing at centers, or doing the overhand serve in volleyball – three times in a row !!

I love the quote from Napoleon Hill, who said,

“Do not wait; the time will never be ‘just right’. Start where you stand and work with whatever tools you may have at your command, and better tools will be found as you go along.”

Here’s to you … Learning Coaches and Professionals at Parkland School Division…. Take the risk – Start where you stand –  Move forward – Reflect…Learn….Grow  !!!

Coaching Reflections

I am so very thankful  to all the staff who have allowed me into their classrooms to observe their students in action.  Even though it is ‘early in the game’ there are many students who know the ‘game plan’ and fit in nicely as a ‘team’.  There are also those students who will need a few ‘extra practices’ to be able to fully participate ‘in the game.’

The feedback from the teachers has been very positive and the students haven’t been too distracted by this strange – but rather intriguing adult – in the room.  A common concern for many teachers is the diverse spread of abilities and learning levels within your class. “ How can I move the lesson along for  ‘Johnny’ and ‘Linda’ and ‘Sarah’, when ‘Ralph’ and ‘Pete’are still on question 3 ??”  The coaching model gives teachers the opportunity to reflect on their teaching practices, questioning styles, class management, and who doesn’t enjoy bouncing ideas off each other.  The teachers also direct the data collection – what is it that you want me to observe – types of student’s on /off task behaviours , scribing the types of student and teacher questions that occur, etc.  I look forward to doing  some sample lessons, modelling more strategies, or doing some team teaching with staff to more fully engage all the diverse learners in our classes.

The Learning Coaching model is about continual growth…  reflecting, revising, and learning for the students’ sake.  I hope that in my role as Learning Coach I can influence professional thinking, behaviors and practices so that we can ultimately improve student learning .

I look forward to more formal and informal conversations, brainstorming discussions and reflections from the TALENT that is in Ecole Broxton Park School.

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