Saturday, November 26, 2011

Learning and Coaching

It's been a while since I've taken any sort of grad courses, but my PLP experience last year taught me that some of the best learning isn't always attached to graduate credits. Even though I joined my team in continuing with Year 2 of the PLP program, I decided to kick it up a notch and take one of the courses they offer. In all honesty, I could have taken just about any course offered by PLP, but without the attachment of grad credits I was paying out of pocket. I had to pick one.

I made the decision to take the Connected Coaches course that ran from mid-September through mid-November. I picked this course mostly because I would like to continue to be part of PLP after my part in Year 2 is over, and I thought applying to be a coach would be a great way to do that. I'm also hoping that my district will consider beginning to use coaches to assist teachers, and I thought this course would provide a fabulous foundation should I choose to pursue that track with my teaching career.

Still waiting to see what happens with the first part. I know I have the skills I need should the second part ever come to fruition. Could not believe all of the other benefits I got from this course.

First and foremost, I met an amazing group of people whom I am pleased to call friends and have as part of my PLN. It was very daunting to sit the first evening and listen to the credentials of this group: PLP community leaders, administrators, speakers, school founders... I could go on. They pushed me and my thinking, and I know I got so much more out of this course thanks to the discussions and conversations that I had. It just goes to show how vitally important relationships are, even in an online setting.

Next I learned and practiced skills that I found extremely useful in my classroom. I came into the course with my focus on coaching adults, but as the weeks went on (and let me tell you, 8 weeks was too short!) it became clearer and clearer to me that the skills we were learning are skills that every teacher needs if they are trying to shift his or her classroom. This course really solidified for me that I don't want to be a teacher any more; I don't want to stand up in the front of the classroom and spew knowledge. My students should be the leaders in the classroom, and I should be coaching them and facilitating their attempts to take charge of their own learning. This flip is going to be a long process with 9 and 10 year olds, but the skills I developed to build relationships, listen and answer questions are going to help in this process.

Finally, and this is certainly not all I'm taking away from this course but what I'm focusing on here, I realized how much work I still needed to do on listening. In our fast-paced world I think few of us can really say that we are in the moment when somebody speaks to us. We distracted by many shiny things, including our own desire to have a voice, and often don't truly given attention to the people with whom we are speaking. During this course I learned to slow down and really listen to people, whether that listening be in person or reading posts carefully in online discussions. I got so much from our discussions because I read carefully and thought about what each person said rather than just jumping in to do my own posts. And now in real life I am trying to do the same thing. Each time I'm in a conversation, be it with an adult or a student, I try to focus on that one person, think about what they are saying, and respond as though they are the only thing that matters to me at that moment. Because they should be. Trying is the key word here. I'm not there yet, but I'm definitely getting better.

Having gotten my Master's, my principal's certification and taken 30 additional credits, I have certainly been through my fair share of graduate classes. Honestly, none taught me as much as what I learned during my Connected Coaches course. It just proves the power of learning that can happen when you're participating in something because it's your passion.

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