10 August 2018

Educational Coaching: A Partnership for Problem Solving - Personal Reflections Part 1

I discovered this book in one of the multitude of educational e-mails that trickle/flood into my in-box. I'd received some negative feedback about professional development sessions last school year, so I was keen to explore some other options. I asked a colleague if she would be willing to bring it back from the US for me. She agreed, and so the book was ordered and delivered. Sadly, it nearly didn't make it, when luggage got lost/damaged in transit. Happily, it did arrive, somewhat battered, but still readable. I process new content better when I write about it, so here comes another series of "Book Reflections". 

Chapter 1: Coaching 101

This chapter asks and answers three questions: What is educational coaching, how does it differ from other forms of professional development, and what qualities do coaches need?

The author gives the following definition of educational coaching: "Educational coaches partner with teachers for job-embedded professional learning that enhances teachers' understanding of students, the curriculum, and pedagogy for the purpose of solving problems that impede teacher success and pursuing interests that enhance teacher success. (p.6)"

As I read that definition, it boosted my confidence, as it reminded me that my role isn't to be the "expert" but more to support exploration of a variety of ways of meeting the needs of teachers and students.

While I like to participate in educational conferences and similar events, I also know that I learn best by "doing". The coaching model outlined in this book will help me help teachers learn by doing, and by enhancing what they already do well.

The question of the qualities coaches need is answered using the acronym CAT. Those three initials stand for
Acceptance, and
These qualities of a coach fit beautifully in the relational model that is at the foundation of education at East-West International School. Just as students learn best in the context of good relationships, so too do teachers. Building those relationships isn't something that comes easily for me, but it is something that I want to excel in. Therefore I'm going to be taking the advice of one of my other summer reading books, and making the effort necessary to change people's perceptions so they know that I am for them, and that we are learning together. Listening and asking questions and then listening some more are going to be key to the success or failure (but I'm not interested in failing) of my forays into coaching.

Just before the end of the chapter, the author draws a comparison between educational coaching and sports coaching. She likens educational coaching to "developmental coaching" where the goal is to help individuals grow - it tends to be more supportive and softer. I know that's the kind of coach I want to be.

That's it for this chapter. Stay tuned for more reflections in the coming days/weeks.

25 July 2018

Summer Reading #2 - Kindness

Kindness: Change Your Life and Make the World a Kinder Place by [Hasson, Gill]The second book that I read this summer was definitely written for adults, but still easy to read and practical.

This book had two sections. The first part was "Being Kind to Others" and the second part was "Being Kind to Yourself". A lot of what was in this book was not new to me, but it's a topic that's worth revisiting every now and again. With chapters in Part 1 like "Go Out of Your Way to Make a Difference" and "Be Kind When Others are Rude and Inconsiderate", I definitely picked up a few tips to help me with my goal of being more relational and having teachers see me as a good communicator.

The second part is something that I've always struggled with. The perfectionist in me finds it pretty easy to be down on myself when I stuff up, so these three chapters: "Don't Be So Hard on Yourself; Be Kind", "Kindness When Your Life is Really Difficult", and "Feel Good About Yourself, were definitely worth reading (and probably rereading as well). This year I need to not only work on being kinder to others, but I'm going to start being kinder to myself, initially by keeping work to work hours (even if still means 12 hours from when I leave home to when I arrive home, including a 30 minute walk in the mornings).

So am I happy with the purchases I made in Singapore's Changi Airport? Definitely!

I'm going to finish this post with a quote from the back cover of the book:
"One small act of kindness can change a person's life, and that person might even be you."

Summer Reading # 1 - You Are AweSome

An important part of being a teacher is being a lifelong learner. Another part is finding good resources to use with students. The first book I read this summer, picked up in the bookshop in Singapore Airport fits both those categories, as well as being encouraging for me personally.

You Are Awesome: Find Your Confidence and Dare to be Brilliant at (Almost) Anything: The Number One Bestseller by [Syed, Matthew]

Our secondary principal takes great delight in telling me that I'm awesome, so when I spotted this book in the airport bookshop I thought it would be worth reading, even more so when I read the back cover. 


It's not as impossible as you might imagine.
If you're the kind of person who thinks ...

* I need a special type of brain to do maths
* You're either good at sport or you're not
* I don't have a musical bone in my body

... then I've written this book for you, to challenge the beliefs that hold you back. Whatever you want to be good at, the right mindset can help you achieve your dream.

I KNOW you can do it. How? I wasn't born sporty, but I'm a two-time Olympian.
You know how else I know?


This book absolutely lived up to it's cover. It was easy to read, and packed with practical tips. One of the key points raised in this book is the importance of having a growth mindset, rather than a fixed mindset. Wonder where I've heard that before - oh that's right - IPC Brainwave. Another important point was that we need to make small changes consistently. Lots of small changes end up with GIANT results. 

So where to from here. My goal for this semester is to improve teachers' perceptions of my interpersonal communication skills. Wow! That might sound like something I've got no control over, and to some extent it is. I can't control other people's perceptions. However what I can do is change my mindset (that I've always struggled with the interpersonal stuff for the last 30 years) to a more positive one, and make those marginal steps that will result in better relationships with staff and students.

The other thing that I've got going for me is that I don't have to make those changes in my own strength. I know God wants me to be relating well to the people I work with, because that's how they get to see Him. So one of those "marginal gains" for me is going to be spending the time when I'm walking to work talking to and listening to Him. The time is already there - I just need to use it effectively. Who says you can't walk and pray at the same time. I just need to be somewhat aware of the traffic, because it won't help anyone if I get knocked down by a speeding car or moto!

17 September 2017

Share Your World - 17 September 2017

I haven't done one of these for a while, but this one was challenging. The beauty of this challenge is that there are no right or wrong answers.

Would you want $200,000 right now or $250,000 in a year? It’s safe to assume all money is tax free.
Interesting question. $200,000 right now would be very useful, not because I necessarily need it, but because it would be put to good use now, and who knows what might happen in a year.

Is it more important to love or be loved?
I think both are important. It's hard to love others if you aren't experiencing love yourself. On the flip side, when you love others then you are likely to receive a little love in return. Let's get out there and love people, even if they don't love us in return, because it's the right thing to do.

List things that represent abundance to you.
God's love, His peace, cash in the wallet, food on the table, and warm dry bed, and friends to spend time with.

What inspired you this past week?  Feel free to use a quote, a photo, a story, or even a combination. 
The children I see every school morning inspire me. They are so eager to learn, and to have fun learning. They come up to me and tell me there stories, and are full of questions. Yep, I'd have to say the children inspire me.

Feel free to Share Your World in the comments. All comments are moderated, and only genuine comments will be posted. Want to know more about this challenge. Check out Share Your World on Cee's Challenges.

A Holiday Project

I just discovered that it's almost two months since I posted. Life has been busy. Before school officially started I kept busy getting my office sorted (still in progress) and getting things ready for teachers. I also interviewed new students, and did my best to get things moving for the new library set up. That is still a work in progress, but we are getting there. The new teachers all arrived and have settled in to their classes, as have the returning teachers. We implemented a new "house" system and on Friday had our first "house" competition. That was primarily a secondary school event, but the elementary students did wear their house colours and wrist bands.

One of the projects I hoped to do over the summer break, but just did not get to, was reorganising our elementary teacher resource room. This week I have a whole week with no students in the school, so I thought it would be a good time to get this job done. The photos will help you understand why it's a "no students around" job.

The one on the left gives you an idea of the starting point. If you look closely you will see that there is quite a bit of order to it, but there is also quite a bit of chaos and stuff in boxes that are not very clearly labelled.

At the end of last year, I talked to teachers about what they would find useful in the resource room, and one thing I discovered was that most of them went to the library looking for non-fiction books for students to use for research instead of this room. I therefore decided that the non-fiction books will go back to the library, and our levelled reading resources (which teachers are using regularly) are being moved up to this room. There were also quite a lot of resources still in either the elementary library or the secondary library which were not getting used (most likely because teachers didn't know they existed or the treasure they contained). Those resources were all brought up to the Resource Room area on Friday, and I did a little work on sorting them out on Friday afternoon. Here's what they looked like when I left on Friday about 6pm. This is in a corridor that will eventually lead to classrooms in the centre building. 

Once I finished getting most of those sorted on Saturday, it was time to start moving stuff around. First I emptied a couple of bookshelves, one in the resource room and one in this corridor. Then I went to find someone to help me move the shelves. Our maintenance man was very helpful. Not only did he help me move the two shelves that were ready to move and one of the tables out to an area that is better lit, he also helped me move stuff from one shelf to another so we could move two more bookcases. Finally he went and found another very helpful young man to bring one more shelf up from the library. Thanks guys.

Already the room is looking better. I started work organising, sorting and shelving the books, and made quite a bit of progress. I've still got a long way to go, but I'm happy with the start that I've made. Hopefully by the end of the week, I'll have all the resources sorted and the room set up in a way that will make it easy for teachers to find the materials they need (or identify what we need to get if it isn't there). Here's what is waiting for me to go back to tomorrow! Levelled readers are sorted, and as I work I'm checking for damaged books and ones that need to be replaced.

One thing I really want to do is to make sure this room does not collect "junk". I will be asking teachers to only put things back in this room that they will definitely use them again. I'm fairly confident there are people out there who could use some of the materials that I'm not putting back. The challenge will be to find those people quickly as we get the school ready for our next accreditation visit.

The photos below, and the top left one in the photo on the left, show what I still have to sort out. As you can see there is a lot of "stuff" there as well as some very useful resources. Check back at the end of the week to see the progress!

So, am I going to have a holiday? Yes, I've already had one evening out with friends at a big shopping mall. We had dinner, and then went to see "Renegade". Good movie. We also did a bit of shopping. Today I'm enjoying a day at home, until it's time to go to church. I'm also looking forward to doing a little sewing tomorrow and having lunch with a friend who lives and works on the other side of town.

25 July 2017

Back to "normal"

With the start of a new school year fast approaching I thought I'd do a quick review of my "summer" holidays. When I last wrote I'd just finished moving into my new office although there was still a bit of setting up and unpacking of boxes to do.

On 22nd June I flew out of Phnom Penh and into Singapore, where I spent the night in an airport hotel before catching a somewhat crowded daytime flight to Brisbane. Thankfully the person in front of me didn't put their seat back for the entire flight so I was able to get some computer work done (attendance book completed and several hours work on a new bilingual mathematics dictionary). On arrival in Brisbane I cleared immigration and customs with a minimum of fuss and was met by my special friend, who took be back to my "home away from home". We enjoyed catching up and then I eventually found my winter pyjamas and enjoyed snuggling under blankets for the first time.

Saturday to Tuesday morning I was in Brisbane, getting settled back into Australia and doing the first of many jobs on the "to do" list. On Sunday evening I worked out how to use Google Maps on my phone so I didn't get lost going across town (did you know Google Maps has a directions feature that is just like a navigation system in your car - a lovely lady gives you the directions necessary to get to your location and you don't have to touch your phone during the whole journey). On Monday I went to visit Gerard at ITC Publications, who provided me with a very generous gift for our school. More of that in a later post. Followed a different route on the way home, including some tunnels, and somehow managed to leave the lights on! Next morning I had a flat battery. Fortunately my friend's son was home so I was able to take his car to my first appointment, and then he jump started mine when I was ready to leave for Toowoomba.

The trip to Toowoomba ended up being via the scenic route (via Rosewood, Grandchester, Laidley, Gatton, and Helidon) due to a nasty 3-vehicle accident on the Warrego Highway, but I arrived in plenty of time for my next appointment. I then spent Tuesday to Sunday in Toowoomba completing more tasks on my "to do" list (medical appointments, house inspection, and catching up with friends and supporters). That week I also finished off the on-line IPC (International Primary Curriculum) course that I was doing for school. Sunday morning I shared briefly in the service at South Toowoomba Baptist and then after a light lunch with my hosts, headed back to Brisbane.

On Tuesday 4th July I took the bus and two trains to Brisbane Airport and caught my flight down to Coffs Harbour. That flight took me on a trip down memory lane as the plane was very similar to those I used to fly in when I lived in Roma. The next nine days, staying with my Mum, were my "holiday" when I took time to make and colour a jigsaw, do lots of walking, spot whales and dolphins, make some cards, have a haircut, do some shopping, visited two churches, caught up with a few more people, and enjoy watching TV with Mum. My sister came to visit for a few days at the end as well, which was good, since I didn't get to see her last year.

On Thursday 13th July, Mum and I loaded up the car and drove to Brisbane, making a stop at the Macadamia Castle for a yummy lunch. It was a slower than usual trip due to the Woolgoolga to Ballina Highway Upgrade that is in progress. Mum dropped me off at my "home away from home" and headed across town to visit friends. On Saturday 15th July I spent most of the day at Chandler Aquatic Centre doing my AustSwim Teacher of Towards Competitive Strokes, including an hour or so in the heated outdoor pool! Thankfully it was a beautiful Brisbane winter's day and the heated water was quite pleasant, just a bit chilly getting out into the wind. On Sunday I attended the church that my family attended 35 years ago, and where the friends I stay with still attend.

From Monday to Friday I enjoyed slow starts to the day, and spent up to 2 and a half hours each day at Dunlop Park Memorial Swimming Pool, where I managed to complete the requisite 10 hours of observations I needed for my AustSwim course. I also worked reading the book from the course and completing the theory exams. I've still got quite a bit of reading and four on-line assessments to do before that is fully complete, but hopefully I can do that this week. I also had the fun of packing my suitcase for the return trip to Phnom Penh. With 15+ kg of donated resources for teachers, it was tight, but I ended up checking in with 29.8kg! Phew!

Saturday morning was a very early start (4.45am), leaving "home" at 5.30am to get to the airport. Thankfully this time my friend's husband was able to drive me so the trip that took 1.5 hours by public transport when I flew to Coffs Harbour took us just 25 minutes. Check-in ended up taking a little longer than anticipated because I was on the return leg of my journey (which the check-in person was a little concerned over - thankfully I already had a visa through to September and they let me on the flight). Airlines don't like people flying on one-way tickets lest the passenger is not allowed into the country they are flying to. Once through security and border control I did heaps of walking to make sure I got my steps up. A one hour stop over in Singapore and then in to Phnom Penh in the early evening (although for me it was more like 8.45pm).

Yes, I had a great summer, but I'm very happy to be home in Phnom Penh and getting back into my usual routines.

14 June 2017

Share your world - Double whammy - June 5 and 12 questions.

What’s your strongest sense?

I'm not sure I have one, but probably go with smell. I'm very sensitive to perfumes, even picking up with kids uniforms are washed or ironed with strongly perfumed products.

Which of Snow White’s 7 dwarfs describes you best? (Doc, Happy, Bashful, Sleepy, Sneezy, Grumpy, Dopey)

Depends on the day - sometimes I'm definitely Grumpy, but most of the time I try to be Happy.

If you could be one age for the rest of your life, what age would that be?

I'm enjoyed my late 40s and early 50s, so maybe 50 is a great age to be, settled in a great job, and at peace that I am where God wants me to be.

List of Jobs You Think You Might Enjoy: Even if you aren’t thinking about a career change, it can be fun to think of other jobs you might enjoy.  [Remember:  This is SYW where even your dreams can become reality.]

I might enjoy being a principal or deputy principal. I'm hoping I'll enjoy being an elementary coordinator (primary Grades 2-5) which I guess is a bit like a "deputy". I think I'd also enjoy being a full-time librarian, especially working a school library.

What do you do when you’re not working? If you are retired, what do you that is not part of your regular daytime routine?

Study, Facebook, play Scrabble, read books, occasionally watch a movie and do some cross-stitch, make some cards, and go for walks.

What would you do if you won the lottery?

Pay off the rest of the mortgage, invest some in my superannuation for the future, and establish some scholarships for the children of our Khmer staff at our school. They know the value of a good education, but find the fees are a struggle.

What makes you laugh the most?

A funny movie or a good book. Sometimes my students - especially when I muck around with them.

What is your biggest pet peeve with modern technology?

The pace of change. What I bought 3 years ago is out of date, and at times incredibly slow. I do have a second peeve with technology and that is the way that it impacts on face-to-face relationship time. I so often see people together at a restaurant/coffee shop and they aren't even communicating because they're playing with their devices. The same goes for parents who give kids devices all the time rather than spending time doing non-technology things with their kids.

Optional Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?

I'm grateful that the end of the school year went well, and I'm looking forward to heading to Australia for some cool weather and time with family and friends.