Being Contagious Makes You and Your School Better

What principal would not want high quality instruction in every classroom of the school EVERY day of the year?  That means even when holidays are coming, testing is nearing, there are only 15 days between one break and another, or the end of the year is in sight.  Every minute is precious learning time!

That is exactly what Angie believed as she noticed that the quality of lesson planning was dipping to an all time low as the second semester of school was beginning.  She resolved to do something about it!

When her coach asked what criteria had been articulated as expectations for high quality lesson planning, there was an extended pause.  Angie immediately recognized the issue.  Her articulated expectations had been about the logistics of lesson planning – do them, address all curricular areas, complete them online every week by Monday at 8:00 a.m.

What she wanted was to return to the standards and expectations for her desired outcome –evidence of regular and consistent high quality lesson planning.  Quickly she developed four measures for her goal that she would address in her faculty meeting scheduled for that very afternoon.

  1. Meets student needs
  2. Aligns with the district scope and sequence
  3. Offers sufficient detail for others to successfully teach it (including me)
  4. Matches what I see when I come into your classroom.

It was in response to the question, “How will you monitor implementation of this best practice strategy?” that Angie got to the crux of her plan. She wanted to ensure there was a balance of tension and support in her follow up behaviors to get what she wanted.  Previously, she had offered no feedback to teachers’ lesson plans.  Reflective feedback was what Angie identified as the means to her end.  She had previously learned there were three options for reflective feedback – ask clarifying questions, offer value potential statements, or ask reflective questions for possibility.  She knew the attributes of the questions were that they were open-ended rather than “Yes/No”, they presumed positive intent, and they promoted the thinking of the other person.

She committed to the accomplishment of a new goal – “owning the skill” of reflective feedback because she believed it would provoke her teachers’ thinking around quality lesson planning.  She also believed it held the greatest potential for stretching her teachers who already went above and beyond the standard.

Toward this end, she collected samples of the exact reflective feedback language she used with teachers on the current week’s lesson plans and brought it to the coaching conversation for discussion and improvement.  Her reflection was that value potential statements were easy for her and that the reflective questions for possibility were where she wanted to focus her attention.  She also noted that she was creating a response pattern of extending a value potential statement as a lead in to a reflective question.  For example,

  • For a strong teacher who goes above and beyond, she asked, “The format of your lesson plans (Today the student will . . .) shows that you are thinking deeply about the lessons you will be teaching.  Knowing you are trying something new, what are the anticipated results of this new format?”
  • Another time she wanted to “hold up the expectation” to give a little nudge.  So she asked, “Knowing your students so well, what differentiation strategies are you thinking you want to try?”  She wanted this to support the teacher in considering important measures for a high quality lesson.
  • For the teacher who submitted incomplete lesson plans, she offered this feedback, “As you compare your lesson plans to the articulated standards and expectations for high quality, what are you thinking will be your next steps to meet these expectations?”  This would help the teacher focus her thinking about next steps.

Angie was energized. “I can’t wait to practice my reflective feedback today!”  Imagine the growth of Angie’s staff AND the contagiousness of her own enthusiasm by leading in such a proactive way!

by Karen Anderson, PCC,
Coaching for Results Global

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Karen Anderson, PCC, M. Ed.

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