This student project stemmed from an 8th grade language arts class at Liberty Middle School reading The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. We spent many months discussing how we can "shatter" stereotypes in our society. The video features "Iron Doors" by The Lighthouse and the Whaler. – Ambra Johnson, language arts teacher
by Devin Acklin, Joyce Jung, Justin Locke & Sara Thorsness
The “I Am” wall originally started as a language arts class project for individual students to shatter the stereotypes that they felt have been placed on them. Before starting on the project, we personally felt confused and unenthusiastic towards this prompt, because it seemed awkward projecting our personal struggles in front of teachers and peers.
"Why should I share my life with others?" It seemed invasive and uncomfortable because students aren’t normally prone to sharing their troubles in a public environment.
One day, Ms. Johnson had us all write down ways that we are judged – personal stereotypes – the things that we are NOT – on strips of black and white paper. We moved our desks to a circle, and Ms. Johnson laid out all of the stereotypes (the “I am not…” strips) in the center of the room. We had no idea who wrote what on each piece of paper, but we silently read those words and phrases scattered across the floor:
I AM NOT …. always quiet / boring / just a band nerd / rich / a know-it-all / Muslim / helpless / who you think I am / always happy / racist / sure of myself / an American native / often included / indestructible / easy / afraid to live my dreams / always trying my best / a loser / fake / listening to you scream at me / a Christian / perfect / and so on.
Ms. Johnson asked us to reflect on what was laying on the floor. We could pick any three strips of paper that we could relate to the most, and we had to write about why we connected to those words. We then had to write about how we can shatter these stereotypes or explain some of the ways we can show the world we aren’t these things.
This was a little bit awkward because we aren’t used to teachers asking us to think this deeply about something that is not really “school related,” but after we got comfortable, everyone started writing and didn’t stop until she made us.
Elena Aguilarleads a team of instructional and leadership coaches in the Oakland (CA) Unified School District and is the author of the new book from Jossey-Bass, The Art of Coaching: Effective Strategies for School Transformation. She also writes The Art of Coaching Teachers blog for Education Week Teacher. In this interview with ABPC editor and consultant John Norton, Aguilar talks about her own experiences as a teacher and coach and share her views about how partnering with teachers (and principals) to improve practice can lead to positive whole-school change.
In your introduction to your new book The Art of Coaching (Jossey Bass, 2013), you recall the familiar advice to would-be authors to "write the book you want to read" – and go on to say that "this is the book I wanted to read as a new, struggling coach." How does your book support the new-coach audience? Are there other audiences?
Although it’s been some years since I was a new coach, I remember those days vividly. The domain of coaching seemed huge and nebulous. I sensed there was so much to know and learn, but had no idea how to start or what the specifics were that I should learn. What I attempt to do in my book is deconstruct this domain into manageable and replicable action steps.
The Art of Coaching starts with suggestions on how to get your coaching-self ready for this work—how to reflect on your beliefs, values, and vision. Then it moves into some of ways you can build trust with new "coachees"—how you can get to know them and their contexts. Coaching happens in conversations, so there are a lot of resources in the book to support powerful coaching conversations—how to listen and ask questions, how to ask different kinds of questions for different purposes, how to manage and guide conversations and respond to whatever surfaces.
My book also suggests ways that coaches can organize themselves, strategically plan their coaching, and reflect on their work. I remembered being a new coach and just wanting tools, sentence stems, prompts to use with clients—and I have included many of these in my book. But as a new coach, I also wanted to be inspired and be reminded of the bigger picture for why I was doing what I was doing. I’ve attempted to respond to that need by including inspirational quotes, suggestions for practices that help us reconnect to something bigger, and my own reflective stories about coaching. I hope that this book offers a solid starting point for a new coach working in schools.
I am also convinced that coaches of all levels of experience will find something useful in this book. Coaching is still a relatively new field. There’s so much more to learn and understand and say about coaching and by reading other people’s material and engaging in conversation with each other we’ll dig deeper into the potential in coaching. I hope that this book starts many conversations within the coaching world.
I also believe that administrators will find useful strategies in my book. Principals often use coaching approaches with their teachers, and there are specific areas highlighted for administrators that might be helpful. And I believe that teacher leaders will find resources and tools in the book for developing collaborative practices with colleagues. Teachers are often asked to give each other feedback or mentor each other. I think there are a lot of suggestions in The Art of Coaching for how we can more effectively work with each other in schools. Read More...
by Cathy Gassenheimer Executive Vice President Alabama Best Practices Center A+ Education Partnership
We often hear of the silent majority that remains on the sidelines when important issues are being considered — even those issues that could impact them daily.
Because of that, oftentimes a very vocal minority has inordinate influence on policy because they engage, often daily, advocating tirelessly for their specific issue.
On Wednesday, in Alabama, that vocal minority prevailed — hopefully only temporarily—in their efforts to repeal Alabama’s College- and Career-Ready standards for students in our public schools.
This was their fourth effort to have the standards repealed. Finally, on a voice vote, the Senate Education Committee gave them their way by sending the bill to repeal the standards to the Senate floor.
Repealing our standards means we'll expect less from our students
For years, we have heard business and community leaders -- and many parents -- bemoan Alabama’s public education system. They tell stories of interviewing job candidates who do not possess the necessary skills for today's jobs. And, Alabama colleges and universities report that more than one-third of entering freshmen need remediation.
This scenario isn’t just true in Alabama. It plays out to varying degrees in almost every state of the nation.
That’s why several years ago, governors from more than 45 states decided to move beyond low expectations and minimum requirements and really DO something about their public schools. They agreed to champion the development of higher standards in mathematics and English so that students would be better prepared to achieve in all their schoolwork.
These "Common Core State Standards" were developed by content experts in English and mathematics, and they were specifically designed to help students do more than simply memorize answers. These standards -- which are meant to be helpful guides not mandates from "on high" -- focus not only on getting the right answer, but on students understanding the process needed to reach that answer. Because they have to dig deeper and gain greater skills and knowledge, students (and their teachers) will better grasp the “what” and the “why” as well as the “how.” Read More...