Let Me Show You


This has been the best professional week I’ve had in a long time. I had the privilege of hosting three different observations around our district of teachers and students engaged in writing. We’ve been facilitating observations for teachers all year, but this week we extended invitations to principals, district administrators and our union president.

It turns out that some lessons in writing are true in coaching as well. For decades I’ve taught children to “show, not tell” in their writing. This year I’ve found myself doing quite a bit of telling about our new writing resource. Maybe your district is like ours and embarking on something new in literacy. Maybe it calls on teachers to study, prioritize and teach kids to be very independent; it’s challenging. Maybe the people who warm to change slowly or who aren’t perfect at it yet (and think that’s a bad thing) are the loudest voices saying things like, “This isn’t teacher-friendly. This isn’t appropriate for our kids. This is too hard.” Maybe the ones who are finding success are quietly toiling away in their classrooms. Maybe people in leadership hear more of what’s wrong instead of what’s right.

Because I am in these classrooms every single day seeing what’s right, I tell the success stories through pictures, student work, video and narratives. But it’s not enough to tell; we have to show through observations. Educators with concerns and doubts must see the successes live and in person to make an impact.

In this past post I wrote about the importance of norms and look-fors in observations: Better Observations

Keeping in line with what I learned from Diane Sweeney, there is the same intentionality applied to the debrief. We make meaning together of what we’ve seen and heard. In the space of about 30 minutes, we go through four rounds of sharing out. In the first round we share out our notes from our look-fors (pacing, questioning, independent behaviors, transcripts etc.) followed by the second round where what we share evidence of how the learning target was met. The third round is for collecting lingering questions and the fourth round–the one I make sure we don’t skip–is where we make a commitment to what we’ll do with our observational learning in the coming days and weeks.

We are lucky to have at least one teacher in every grade who is willing to host frequent observations. Most of the time the teachers teach, but sometimes when we invite administrators, the teachers ask the coaches to teach. In the fourth round, one observing administrator said, “I will take what I’ve observed and share it with my teachers. I really feel like now that I’ve seen it, I can be a cheerleader for this work.”

As a coach, what are you showing?

Note: The opening image is a picture from Disney’s Animation Studio. We got to take classes where we learned how to draw characters. It was one of my favorite parts of the trip and I surprised myself. Here’s my Genie:



Do You Consider Yourself a Reader?

There is no such thing as a child who hates to read, there are only children who have not found the right book. -Frank Serafini

On spring break we broke up the long stretches of highway with different car activities. Coming out of Bakerfield, California we cranked the clear reception of KUZZ country radio and started sorting songs. We came up with four categories of country music: hookin’ up, breakin’ up, makin’ up and gettin’ messed up.

Take for example, Jake Owen’s Blue Jean Night

Blue eyes and auburn hair
Sittin’ lookin’ pretty by the fire in a lawn chair
New to town, new to me
Her ruby red lips was sipping’ on sweet tea…

Blue Jean Night definitely fits the “hookin’ up” category. While Blake Shelton’s Drink On It goes in the “gettin’ messed up.”

I could use another whiskey
And your Cosmo’s gettin’ low
While we’re trying to figure out
The next place we should go…

So what does this have to do with readers? Well, just like there are some trends in country music, so there are patterns with independent readers who answer a particular question in a particular way. The question is, “Do you consider yourself a reader?” And if the answer is no, they may fit into one of these categories.

Bored Readers

Let’s start with the bored readers. Depending on the variety of books in their classroom or their access to the library, they may not have many books that fit their obscure tastes. Knowing your readers pays off big time here. Here are two students, the texts that got them unbored and how I sold them on these books.

Me: I read this book over my vacation. The False Prince It’s a murder mystery of sorts and has a bit of violence, but every last sentence of every chapter leaves you hanging.
Dre (Grade 5): What do you mean?
Me: Reads last line of chapter. “And that was my first clue about why Conner had taken us. We were all in terrible danger.”
Dre: That’s weird.
Me: Totally. And listen to this from the cover, “Choose to Lie..or Choose to Die.”
Dre: That’s intense.

And another,

Me: I read this book Flora and Ulysses with my daughter. The character Flora reminded me of you.
Thea (Grade 4): Why?
Me: Because you see things in extraordinary ways. Like this girl watches a squirrel get vacuumed up and that’s where the adventures really start. It’s definitely for a mature reader with a quirky sense of humor like you.

Chore Readers

Then there are the chore readers. Often these students have experiences with Accelerated Reader or other reading reward programs. They look at me strangely when I ask, “What do you read for fun?” For fun? Reading? For these students reading is homework. Reading is what you document on a chart and have your mom sign. Reading is a big have-to for kids like Noah.

Me: I have this huge book called The Lego Ideas Book
Noah (Grade 2): About legos? Just stuff about legos?
Me: Yeah. I know how much you create and build so I thought you might enjoy reading this and tell me whether the author really knows what he’s talking about.

Scarred Readers

I hate to use the word scarred, but it’s fitting here. These are kids who know they are in the low group or have been told they struggle with reading. As one teacher put it, “He’s not the brightest crayon in the box, bless his heart.” They may be embarrassed to read at their appropriate level or have little practice with independent reading because their interventions don’t include it.

Me: I’ve noticed you haven’t really gotten into any series yet.
Dayton (Grade 3): Nope
Me: Some kids think these Elephant and Piggie books are for young kids, but I read this one to my teenage boy and he loved it. We Are In a Book!
Dayton: Why?
Me: Because there’s so much humor in these books, if you read them right. Not everyone can read them right. But you do your funny voices and joke so I think you could really get into these books.
Dayton: What do you mean?
Me: Like read this page, not too loud so we don’t disrupt everyone, but do your voices and see how hilarious they are. Elephant is more like me, a rule follower, but Piggie is fun and imaginative. She reminds me more of you.
Dayton reads aloud.

Me: Do you know about these books? Guys Read: Funny Business
Trent (Grade 7): Shrugs.
Me: Well, there’s some language and inappropriate situations in here, so you’ll have to decide if that’s right for you. But there’s also some funny, funny stories.
Trent: Like Family Guy funny?
Me: Maybe. You’ll have to tell me. But the cool part of this book is that each chapter is a different story so you don’t have to read it front to back, you can just jump to the thing you like.
Trent: Like a magazine.
Me: Yeah, kind like that. I have only read three of them, but maybe you could mark some of the really funny ones and we could share them with other kids. I really liked My Parents Give My Bedroom to a Biker by Paul Feig if you want to start there.

Disconnected Readers

The final category are disconnected readers. They often read aloud just fine, but they have no relationship with the text they are reading. They aren’t visualizing or stopping to ask questions. They’ve never gasped or laughed out loud during reading time.

Me: I found a book that is full of feels that I think will really get you playing a movie in your head. The One and Only Ivan
Skyla (Grade 4): Okay…
Me: Plus I know you love animals.
Skyla: It’s about a gorilla (looking at cover).
Me: It’s not just any gorilla, but it’s based on a gorilla that was caged for over twenty years at a shopping mall not far from here. Can you imagine?

When students tell me they don’t consider themselves readers, I’m intrigued to find out if they are bored, scarred or see books as laborious and unplugged from what’s alive in them. Of course whenever you have categories, you have exceptions like we didn’t know what to do with Billy Currington’s “God is great, beer is good, and people are crazy,” but I queue up my stack of books with the intent of giving students a new experience of reading, to meet that book that might make the difference.


Coach to Coach Workshop


Exciting news! I have enjoyed presenting about coaching around the country for the past few years and I’m thrilled to bring it home. On the 14th and 15th of August, 2014 we will be hosting the Coach to Coach Workshop in our hometown of Olympia, Washington for teacher leaders, first-year coaches, experienced coaches and administrators interested in growing their coaching skills and programs.

The cost of the workshop is $285 per person for two days at the Doubletree by Hilton on Olympia’s Percival Landing. Our workshop is in the hotel’s conference rooms and walking distance from many food and fun options. We will post more information about what there is to do and see in Olympia as we approach registration!

Our Schedule

Thursday, August 14th
8:00-8:30 Registration
8:30-11:30 Session One
11:30-1:00 Lunch on your own
1:00-3:30 Session Two

Friday, August 15th
8:00-8:30 Coffee, Tea and Conversation
8:30-11:30 Session Three
11:30-1:00 Lunch on your own
1:00-3:00 Session Four

*3:30-6:00 Great food, beverages and colleagues at Mercato Ristorante.
We have reserved a room at Mercatos to enjoy cocktails, appetizers and/or dinner (on your own) and close-out the conference in style.

Content of the Workshop

Session One:
Defining what coaching is/ is not
Articulating coaching roles
Explaining coaching cycles

Session Two:
Building the coaching toolbox
Practicing the 6 P’s of Coaching
Focusing on Your Great Work

Session Three:
Focusing on Time: A Coach’s Precious Resource
Leading Professional Development Tools
Working with Adult Learners

Session Four:
Recognizing Effectiveness and Setting Goals
Discussing Your Questions
Closing with an Attitude of Gratitude

With a mixture of video, live coaching, readings, cooperative work and high-quality materials, this will be an interactive and engaging experience.

When Can I Register?

Registration opens on May 1st (in 12 days). Leave a comment or question below if you’d like more information before then.


Looking forward to learning together!





Easy Openers


In celebration of National Library Week, we used one of our favorite professional development icebreakers this morning. Here are the easy steps to a successful opener to any meeting. Begin by setting out picture books and novels on tables for colleagues to pass by as they walk in.

1. Ask participants to choose a book that calls to them as they come in to the meeting.
2. Invite them to “date” their book for two minutes looking at the title/cover, reading a passage, skimming or any approach to previewing.
3. Pair participants and give them four minutes to share their book with their partner.
4. If you have more time you can repeat steps two and three for another round.
5. Call everyone back together and ask volunteers to reflect on how they chose their book, what they learned or how they might use it.

One of our coaches chose Perfect Square by Michael Hall. Do you know this book? It’s great for adults and kids. Perfect Square Link Perfect Square called to her because the shapes are “just so” and she appreciated the message of the book that perfect squares can become anything. Another coach chose Zombie Makers by Rebecca Johnson Zombie Maker Link because he felt a little “undead” at the end of his work week. Sharing out about Duck! Rabbit! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal Duck! Rabbit! Link, the coach said, “It called to me because the duck-rabbit illusion is so much like coaching. We can be looking at the exact same thing–like standards for example–and see something completely different.”

Here are titles of the assortment I chose to put out on the tables:

17 Things I’m Not Allowed To Do Anymore (and) 11 Experiments That Failed-Jenny Offill
Exclamation Mark-Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Dead End in Norvelt-Jack Gantos
Food-Ifeoma Onyerulu
Holes-Louis Sachar
How to Survive Anything-Rachel Buchholz
How to Teach a Slug to Read-Susan Pearson
The Invisible Boy-Trudy Ludwig
If…-Sarah Perry
If You’re Riding a Horse and It Dies, Get Off-Jim Grant and Char Forsten
Ish-Peter Reynolds
Pictures of Hollis Woods-Patricia Reilly Giff
Ralph Tells a Story-Abby Hanlon
The Story of The Little Piggy Who Couldn’t Say No-Sabine Ludwig
Thank You Notes-Jimmy Fallon

What are some easy openers that you enjoy using?


How Much Time?


“How much time should a coach spend working with teachers?” is a question I’m asked. In my experience there is a relationship between the more time spent with teachers collaborating in the classroom and satisfaction in coaching work. When coaches spend a low percentage of their time working directly with teachers in their classrooms, it’s often because they are bogged down with coordinating assessments, writing curriculum, taking bus or recess duty, leading professional development and other projects that keep them out of classrooms. While these tasks can be part of meaningful work, if working with teachers is the exception not the rule, expected changes in instruction won’t happen.

Years ago when I read this article:

it was just in time for my practice. I’d done an analysis of how I was spending my time with the color coding I used on my calendar and found that about 31% of my time was working directly with teachers. Reading guiding principle #2 in particular, I saw that if I could increase my time to closer to 50% I’d be a teacher-oriented coach. With that explicit goal in mind, over the next year I increased both the number of teachers I worked with and the amount of time I spent in coaching cycles. That shift helped me see how our district’s coaching work could be sustainable over time. Currently I’m averaging about 55% of my time prebriefing, observing, transcribing, co-teaching, debriefing and looking at student work on site with teachers. When four hours of my day are in-the-moment teaching and learning with my colleagues and the other time is spent planning, reading research, rewriting units and lessons, organizing adult professional development and all the many tasks of coaching work, it feels like the right balance.

How is your time divided? What is sustainable for you?



I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.
E. B. White

I’ve been working on The Joy Diet by Martha Beck for a few months now. Not a chapter a week and not every day, but with a consistency that’s worked for me. Nothing and Truth were the first menu items that I wrote about in these posts:

Do Nothing Post

Moment of Truth Post

The third step is Desire. Martha Beck writes, “Menu Item #3 requires that, each day, you identify, articulate and explore at least one thing you really want.” Easy, right? Not so much. At least for me.

As a mother, wife, friend and coach, I spend a lot of my time anticipating others’ wants and needs. While it’s a great gift to bring to a relationship, I sometimes forget to anticipate my own desires. Within the chapter on Desire, Martha helps her readers explore “desire-defining.”

“Possibly because of our discomfort with desire in general, most people are at least somewhat confused about how to distinguish their true desires from unhealthy impulses.” She offers a t-chart of false desires vs. true desires. For example, false desires may feel like grasping and withholding while true desires feel like releasing and generosity. So eating all of that dark chocolate in the drawer is probably a false desire for me. The after-effects of true desires are increasing inner peace, while false desires will be marked by a sense of hollowness and increasing despair.

“What is it that I want?” are six little words I’ve been asking myself lately. At Trader Joe’s yesterday I realized my answer was micro greens on my tacos. Delicious. Later it was to rest for ten minutes before starting dinner. Heavenly. This morning I realized it was a patterned shirt with bright aquamarine colors and telling the truth when someone asked me how my day was. Then I dug into a pint of Ben and Jerry’s Core Ice Cream (thank you, Sean). Do you know about this stuff?

Ben and Jerry Core Ice Cream Indulgence

The jury is out on whether this is a false desire or true desire for me. I mean, Karamel Sutra? Come on…

I’m reminded that no one put an anti-desire squad in my head and this work of determining my true desires on a daily basis is my own. My assignment on my spring vacation is to consider “What is it that I want?”

What is it that YOU want?

I look forward to working on new blog posts via pen and paper the next 12 days and taking a break from media. Check back after April 15th for new Coach to Coach posts.