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Partnering for a Successful 2012-2013 School Year

August 20, 2012 | Tags: instructional partners, adult learning, partnership, guest blogger
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We are pleased to share this blog post by Kisha Tolbert-Woods, first posted in the Alabama Instructional Partners Learning Network community space. Kisha is starting her second year as the Instructional Partner at Tarrant Middle and High Schools.

by Kisha Tolbert-Woods

Like many of you, I too, look forward to a fabulous school year. Resources, like Knight’s Unmistakable Impact, Cheliotes and Reilly’s Coaching Conversations, Drago-Severson’s Leading Adult Learning, etc. all provide some form of advice about the importance of effective teaching and learning strategies, skills, techniques, concepts, etc. for adult learners. I have found these resources, along with many others, extremely beneficial and thought provoking -- to the point that anything I do surrounds key principles such as: purpose, voice, and choice.

We’ve all heard teachers talk about how “hard headed” students are. Statements, like…”they don’t listen, they think they know everything, they are disrespectful, etc.” But let’s be honest for a second. We as adults do the SAME things in meetings and PD sessions (gasp)! One commonality that we as adults have in common with our students is…we are all human!

Simple things like talking to your friends (even when you aren’t supposed to) is human nature. Truth be told, if we observed the situation with a magnifying glass, we as adults may actually be worse than the students when it comes to being a listener and learner (don’t shoot the messenger, just calling it like I see it).

I wanted to bring all this up for one simple fact…We as instructional partners must be firm, consistent, yet patient, understanding, and focused. In many cases our administrators, as well as teachers, will hold us to high standards and depend on us in many cases. The goal is to help our colleagues establish parameters for meetings (PD, PLCs, faculty gatherings, etc.) so that we can “coach” and model how one should lead effective teams, meetings, and work groups.

Speaking of that, Matthew Jennings has a great quick read entitled, Leading Effective Meetings, Teams, and Work Groups. This book has great activities, worksheets/forms, guidelines, etc. for those who are leaders of learning.

Two thoughts I'd like to share

As I end this post, I want to share two thoughts that have been on my mind regarding being an instructional partner and preparing for this upcoming school year.

First, I would highly, highly suggest that as IPs we must remember to keep Covey’s time management quadrants in the forefront of our minds.In Covey’s book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, the 3rd habit states, “put first things, first”. He describes this idea in the form of prioritizing tasks based on its importance.

Covey argues that everything that we do on a daily basis can be placed in one of four quadrants (see figure A below):

1.urgent and important;
2. not urgent and important
3.urgent and not important
4.not urgent and not important.

Such prioritizing strategies can definitely be of great benefit to all of us, especially those who are just beginning the journey as an IP in a large school. My motto: “Stay Sane and Prioritize!”

Figure A

The second and final thought I’d like to leave with you surrounds the idea of refraining from climbing the “ladder of inference”. Cathy Gassenheimer  and Jackie Walsh introduced many of us to this idea. It was coined by psychologist Chris Argyris and presented by Peter Senge in his book, The Fifth Discipline Field Book.

I’m not sure about you, but I am definitely guilty of climbing such a ladder! Senge describes the ladder of inference as the thinking process that we go through, usually without realizing it, to get from a fact to a decision or action. The thinking stages can be seen as rungs on a ladder and are shown in Figure 1.

As IPs we must constantly “check ourselves” and refrain from climbing such a ladder. Staying focused on skills, such as active listening, becoming aware of our own body language/gestures, etc. and asking clarifying questions will be imperative to the our journey of “staying off the ladder” of inference.

I don’t know about you, but I am SUPER excited about the upcoming school year. And as a second year IP, I feel even more fabulous knowing that I have a plethora of IP sisters and brothers that I can contact to brainstorm ideas, share resources, and receive the necessary support that we all will so desperately need and want. I want to wish everyone a very happy first day and 2012-2013 school year!
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