Fortunately….Unfortunately Journey of Instructional Coaching and Education

Fortunately, I have been lucky and blessed to call myself an Instructional Coach for an amazing middle school

Unfortunately, not everyone knows what exactly “instructional coach” means including myself.

Fortunately, through small steps and big lunges we have begun to define what instructional coaching encompasses.

Unfortunately, we have developed various definitions of what it means and what we can do.

Fortunately, at our building we have had an administrative team that has supported and backed us in increasing teacher voice and teacher agency

Unfortunately, not enough have felt the power of their voices to engage in the support services sitting in their hallways

Fortunately, a few brave educators have opened up their doors, their minds, and their students to a world outside of their “safety” zone where things are quite peaceful and incognito

Unfortunately, it is not as many as we had hoped for

Fortunately, the journey we have begun to travel has no linear path in front of us as we are a volunteer system

Unfortunately, due to the standardization of education which goes beyond tests, we have had to sit through and be trained in systems that focus on what they think educators need and not what educators really need

Fortunately, we have worked within the system to take the bits and pieces that could work and fought to stay away from the wrong directions that head down a path that would lead to a checklist system of beautiful paperwork and data that prove nothing but distrust for the professionals in the field of education

Unfortunately, the pressure to conform to systems of mediocrity and big money machines creep closer and closer to what we know is working and will continue to work

Fortunately, the conversation about developing a vision, the future of pbl, and integrating deeper learning is going to bring us to a new place of learning for our learners and educators that the community will be blown away by the development of skills and tools

Unfortunately, we will have to battle the mindset of the community that are experts and graduates of a school system industrialized for robotic, like minded people for factories as well as educational programs that did not prepare educators for this type of learning and culture

Fortunately, this change will move beyond the notion of career and college readiness and focus on the now and developing lifelong learners who will take their learning abilities to do what they need to do in life to define their own success

Unfortunately, changing culture and mindset is a not an overnight trip

Fortunately, we are in this for the long haul and plan on changing not only education, but society to take us into the future where we will be prepared to tackle whatever challenge comes our way

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Culture of Revision

Most schools have the same philosophy or culture whether they readily admit it or not. This culture is the mindset of “one and done”. This transaction of turn in the assignment, teachers stamps a grade, points go into a gradebook, and the transaction complete.

Schools need to shift away from this to a culture of revision. By shifting the culture we can start to move away from the goals being on assigments to learning.

Issues to making this shift

1. Time

2.Student Case Load

3. Adjusting rubrics

Time is always a monster. We must look at how we use our class time, what the goals for year are for the class, and then begin to structure how we teach and deliver. We start in small doses and gradually shift the flow over time. Student case load is another problem. When tackling 150+ kids it is tough to manage. Schools need to look at how to structure teams and teachers so caseloads are 100 or less. Rubrics need to change how they are used. They should be used as formative instead of always being summative.


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026: Weekly Dose of Caffeine 10.31.14 Podcast for Newsletter


This is a new experiment. I am creating a podcast to go along with the newsletter.

Check out the newsletter here:

If you want the backstory and reasons for what I chose watch the video or the listen to the podcast.

If you like it please review on iTunes, like on YouTube, and let me know your thoughts.


Follow this podcast on iTunes and please feedback and ratings.

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Proximity <=> Creativity and Collaboration

Proximity does not equal more creativity and collaboration.


The key is to be near the right people

So, the question that needs to be asked, “Are you allowed to put yourself near the right people?” Or are you forced to work with certain people that do not push you to the next level? This is a question that needs to get asked more. Many times we are told who we will work with and who we will collaborate with and not given the choice to connect with those that can make us stronger.

What if in education we could choose who was in our department or if we could select our teams? Many say that is not fair as the good educators would group themselves and then education would not be fair for students. I would like to push back and say then perhaps that exposes some educators to the fact that they cannot behind others. Perhaps it would ignite change because they would be working with people that they are comfortable with…….I mean we tell students all the time that life is not fair. Many of us see the headaches of forced groups and the beauty of work when students can choose partners.



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Instead of asking “What more can educators do?” we should ask,



“What do we need to eliminate or stop doing?”

It feels like this year more than any other year educators have been placed under a burden of stress and mandates like no other year. I don’t think there is anything “new” being added in the sense of new policy or reform. Rather, I think it is just a culmination of year after year of one more thing being added for us to do, expect, figure out, deal with, etc.

As an instructional coach I have felt frustrated in myself the last few weeks in struggling to come up with possible answers and solutions to the needs of teachers. I have been reading, researching, and looking for answers. What I find is the same old conjured up ideas that sound great in theory land, but hold no practicality to a school of my size and a staff so diverse and large.

And then it hit me and a huge burden was lifted off my shoulders and has me moving in a different direction.


That is the problem. We live in a society where we expect answers. We expect someone else to solve our problems for us.

What I need to do is start asking questions. This mindset had me visit a book that BLEW MY MIND! I read the book

A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas

A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas

This book has radically changed how I think through the obstacles of life. This whole notion of asking questions and how to properly think through the questions is a game changer. As an educator we need to implement this into our teaching. In life, we can start to question the world and be okay with not always having the answers. Our society places pressures on finding answers quickly, but this book demonstrates a whole new perspective and can really help move everything in the proper direction. One of the best books I have read this year. So far, it is my favorite read of 2014. A MUST READ! Read more More info →
Buy from Amazon Kindle
Buy from Amazon
and it helped me to reshift my mindset

What I realized is that I was not asking the right questions. So that is what I am doing. Besides asking, “Why are we doing ______? I took a different approach of asking,  “What should we stop doing?”

What is it that we are doing that is really not needed or making the impact we want? This is so important. Some things that we work on in life we hope convert to daily habits and just become par for the course. I get that and it makes sense. However, in education how many times have we implemented new policy, new PD, new reform, but we never really measure if it is working or no longer working? When do we pull the plug on something that is not working?

A lot of this goes to the much bigger picture of multitasking. How much research is there that shows multitasking does not work? Just recently Clay Shirky wrote a magnificent piece about this topic in regards to banning tech in his classroom. It makes sense, but here we are trying to multitask so many ideas, reform, policies, etc. because administrators and people in charge have to show and prove that they are making change. This is not a blame game. Rather, this is an eye opener. We pressure students to multitask all day long in often boring classroom scenarios, teachers are being pressured to multitask all the requirements of teaching, admin are multitasking their duties as a leader, sitting in meetings, and dealing with the top down agendas. Folks at top are being pressured to show that tax payer money and ideas are working and the tide continues all the way to the top and is seen in all aspects of life. I am not here to point fingers, but to demonstrate that this multitask problem is everywhere and not just in education, but in our daily life.

So, take a breather and ask, “What should we stop doing?”

When we take time to pause and ask this question and take it a step further to then ask why we are doing what we are doing, we finally start to have real conversation. We had this moment just last week. Working with instuctional coaches in our buiding and our budling admin we started to question and figure out why we were asking teachers to do _____ and ______ and ______? As we vented, talked, and debated we started to see that perhaps we should change our school goals. Our admin is amazing in that they listen. They do take collaboration serious and we can have open honest conversation. This is not easy and not something that everyone likes to do, but it is necessary.

Because of those questions and conversations we made a change in our approach to project based learning. The end result is yet to be determined, but the goal is to provide a narrower focus on goals that will elevate the quality of learning taking place and providing more time to really analyze and refine our ideas and projects.

This example is a small step, but a very important one. We need to continue to ask these questions. More is not always better. The education world tends to think more is better, but at what point does the base of greatness collapse? The system is not broken, it just need tweaks and in order to do that we must ask better questions and question those questions.

Like Warren Berger states in his book “Moreover, if you can’t figure out what you should stop doing, it might be an early warning sign that you don’t what your strategy is.”

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How do you handle your To-Do List?

IMG_1321 IMG_1322

I  was doing some back reading of my files that I have stored all over the place and came across this link The Best To-Do List

How do you handle your To-Do list?

How do you handle getting organized.

What has been working?

I shared in a previous newsletter my use of Wunderlist (be sure to subscribe to the newsletter)

I continue to work to use more electronic to do lists. I am working on my paper lists that seem to just grow and grow and grow to the point of absurdity, feel overwhelmed, and then just scrap the whole list to write it again.

I am now on a plan where I chart the whole week and each day focus on three items to complete. Anything else is just bonus productivity. This seems to be working WHEN I do it. It takes time to develop new habits.


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#ITEC14 – 2014 Fall Conference Registration is Open

I am so excited for ITEC this year. If you have not attended ITEC in years past, this year would be a good year to attend. Check out the keynote names. Anytime you can join a Leslie Fisher session you have to go because she always has the latest and greatest tools and ideas. I look forward to this conference every year. Check out the information below and if you are attending let me know so we can connect over coffee and chat!
 ITEC 2014 Fall Conference Registration is Open
ITEC is pleased to announce that registration is open for this year’s conference. Along with the two day conference, there are Sunday Workshops and a Sunday evening event with Tuesday keynote Peter Reynolds.

Monday October 13, 2014 

Adam Bellow, Founder and President of eduTecher and eduClipper
Tuesday October 14, 2014
Peter Reynolds, NY Times best-selling author and illustrator, creativity advocate, and founder of FableVision, an award-winning educational multimedia development company co-located at the Boston Children’s Museum.
Featured Speakers
Leslie Fisher, Technology Enthusiast and Director of Fisher Technologies Inc.
Jim SillGoogle Certified Teacher, ADE, Final Cut Pro Trainer, International Professional Developer and former video production teacher in Visallia, CA.
Featured Iowa Educators
New to ITEC 2014, we asked some of the best reviewed session presenters last year to come back with even more offerings. We are inviting speakers in the following areas of content
  • Teacher:  Aaron Maurer
  • Technology Coach / Integrationist: Devin Schoening
  • AEA Representative: Jonathan Wylie
  • Tech Coordinator:  Brian Abeling
  • Administrator: Jimmy Casas and Matt Degner
This year ITEC is going Paperless. We will be using SCHED for our conference schedule. It is available here.
ITEC annually seeks nominations for excellence in four categories: Educator, Administrator, Local and State Technology Leadership. If you know of someone worthy of an award, nominate themhere.
Sunday Evening Event
This year we have an event even kids will enjoy! Peter Reynolds, our Tuesday keynote speaker, will be doing a short Sunday evening event. He will be reading and illustrating a children’s book and then will do a book signing. ITEC will have a total of 200 copies of Peter’s books “The Dot”, “Ish”, “Sky Color”, “The North Star”, “Full Steam Ahead”, and “The Smallest Gift of Christmas” available for purchase. Join us in the foyer of outside the grand ballroom of the Iowa Events Center at 6:00 pm on Sunday October 12 for this special event. Students are not only invited but encouraged to attend.
Corporate Sponsors
ITEC would like to thank our corporate sponsors without whom, this conference would not be possible

Lightspeed Technologies


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We Can Always Choose To Be Mad And Angry But….

what good will that really do you, your family, your work, and for the people around you?

Think about it – we only have a set amount of days here on Earth. We don’t need to waste the precious moments we have being upset about things we cannot change.

Instead of being mad, focus on how you can take the situation or issue and flip it to be a positive or at least helpful to you and what you are working on.

When you get upset, then you attract others who feel the same. This just fuels the fire of negative energy. Next thing you know people are backing out of the room because they cannot handle the negative vibe being created.

Even worse is when you are angry and upset you continue to find everything else being bad.

Flip the mindset. Flip towards being proactive. Make something out of nothing.

When we cast a positive light on things we can actually put forth quality effort on the tasks at hand. We can feel good about what we are doing. Other people with positive mindsets flock around you which just fuel the passion to do good.

This is not always easy and there are times I need to heed my own advice, but it sure is something to chew on. Speaking of chewing, if you think of a cookie you can focus on the butter mixed into the batter or the delicious taste of a chocolate chip cookie and be thankful you have a glass a milk nearby!



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3 Key Components to a Powerhouse Staff and School

School is underway. The first few days are so critical in establishing norms, setting the culture of the building for learning, ensuring safety, and developing a routine for the rest of the  school year. These ideas are nothing short of new, but as we move into our second week of school I realized that we are off to one of the best starts to the school year yet. I had to stop and ask, “Why?”

Here is what I came up with as the reasons for a great start which permeates to a culture of deeper learning and a place students want to be. I am proud to say that our building has the components to make these ideas happen.

1. Losing the fear of failure – As we move to a project based learning model of learning as it fits into the scope of deeper learning we have learned that we have to overcome our fear of mistakes and failure. Many of us will tell others that we are not afraid of failing, but then we never venture too far out of our comfort zones.

Last year many teachers took the plunge to try new things. Some worked and some failed. Some made small mistakes while others made big mistakes. In the end you could feel the pulse of the building change. Learning looked different. Learning was more integrated, more immersive, and more powerful. We still had teachers not make much change, but that is to be expected. When change happens, not everyone is going to embrace it with loving arms. It takes time and we have to keep working to move beyond our comfort zones.

This year we have more teachers really revving their engines. We spent a great amount of in service developing high quality projects. Teachers were collaborating, modifying ideas, critiquing in a good way their ideas, really working hard to develop a learning opportunity that would be both meaningful and impactful. I felt that despite the usual pre school year jitters more teachers than ever before were ready to rock and roll and let things take their course.

This mindset leads to the second key point of

2. Leaving your ego behind – As educators we have to do things we sometimes don’t want to do. There is the paperwork, meetings, and all the other jargon that comes with the job. But, there is another element that I want to address. It is doing things that make us uncomfortable……. in a good way.

This summer we had some teachers really step up to the plate and organize a great kickoff to our school year. They organized a flash mob dance routine to be done by our staff during our all school(1100 kids) assembly where we cover rules for the building. Instead of drilling them forever on rules and expectations we cut it short and a few minutes into the assembly the music pumped through the speakers and most of the staff headed to the dance floor to dance. We had to embarrass ourselves. Some were grooving. People like me tried their best, but smiled and enjoyed the moment. It was a good visual for kids to realize that we have to go for it. We have to try new things. We have to once again move outside of our comfort zones. Instead of threats we started the year off with some fun. Teachers were giving up free time to laugh together, learn how to do the dance and in the end make a fool of themselves. What was more important than the actual dance moves was the amount of staff who danced. It was a powerful visual to students that we are all in this together.

From there we had teachers dressing up in costume and doing a variety of kick off activities to emphasize teamwork, respect, treating others fairly, and developing the pride in what we do all day every day. It was awesome! It was so good to see a great start to the year and done in a way to let students know what we are about how learning will take place this year.

This whole idea leads me to my third point

3. Teacher Need to Be Leaders – The most important element to a successful staff and school are teacher leaders. I am not talking about appointed positions. I am not talking about those one or two people who take on so many leadership roles. I am talking about all teachers stepping up to be leaders when it is their time to shine.

What I want to refer to is the whole staff. This year we have already witnessed new faces step up and lead in their own capacities. Schools and staff need more of this. Every single educator has the skills and abilities to lead when it is their turn to go. Often we just wait for one or two people to step up. Don’t wait. Make things happen. Schools need more educators to step up and lead. I firmly believe that once more educators step up to lead then it is just a trickle down effect and next thing you know it is okay and the norm to step up and take control from time to time. I love how teachers stepped up and organized the flash mob. They made it happen. I love it how another teacher dressed up as a pirate to kick things off. What will happen next? I don’t know, but I cannot wait to see who the next person is to rise to the occasion.

It is not about being better than someone else, but being different and ourselves so that the school has a culture of learning and the freedom to explore paths to discover who we are and what we want to be. We have to lead by examples and strive to challenge ourselves so we are not stuck in a rut.

I hope your school year is off to a great start as well.



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Coffeechug Minimalism Challenge Day 3: Ebay Items

Today turns out to be a decent day for declutter. I had some items sell on ebay yesterday so those will be the items I will be using for this particular day. The last two days I have had seven items sell out of 12 so that is great news. I am not able to use them all for today because I am only mailing five of the items. The other two I have not received payment yet and therefore will still be holding onto. What I find interesting with Ebay is that items that I was thinking of just tossing make money.

Here is a rundown of what I sold along with the cost.

LEGO Darth Vader TIE Fighter – Sold for $21.00

Screen Shot 2014-07-30 at 7.19.07 AM

I am a huge LEGO fan. I have more LEGO than you could possibly imagine between my house and my classroom. This is one build that has sat on top of my book shelf for years. It is the first LEGO set I have ever sold. It is one of those that I never wanted to play with or allow the kids to mess with in fear of breaking, but what that amounted to was it just sitting all the time. I posted it online just to see what would happen. It was great that it sold. I was not expecting $21.00, but I will gladly take it. Now I just need to figure out how to mail the darn thing without falling apart.

Collection of Hot Wheels and Micro Machines – Sold for $33.99

Screen Shot 2014-07-30 at 7.22.22 AM

I cannot believe this one. I was expecting maybe 5-7 bucks, but almost $34! Are you kidding me? Perhaps there is a gem in this lot that I know nothing about.

My parents were gracious enough a few months back to bring me a box of stuff from my childhood. As I continue to work to declutter they deciliter by bringing crap to my house. In this box was a ton of worthless stuff, but in there were these cars. I played for days with the Micro Machines one summer with my friend James. Do you remember the commercial of the Micro Machine guy who spoke a million miles per hour? He was a legend for one summer

It is tough to get rid of the nostalgia of toys. I distinctly remember playing with these in the basement and having this whole work all created and setup. We would play in James basement as well which was a place we did not hang out much. Those memories are strong and I realize I don’t need the toys to keep the memories.

Plus, these are just one less small thing for me to step on and drop the F bomb in front of my kids. I already have LEGO and a million other toys in my house.

Flip Video Camera – 8gb/120 minutes – Sold for $46

Screen Shot 2014-07-30 at 7.31.23 AM

My house is loaded with tech devices. I am always wanting the latest greatest gadget and because of that I have a ton of old electronics. Part of me wants to take these things apart and use them in my makerspace to create new builds. However, when I know I can get some money back to help take care of my own personal bills I need to sell. The flip camera was all the craze in education and life for a few years. It ended when phones produced better quality and were even easier to use. Flip cameras are great because there is one button and it did one thing – record.

Because I go nowhere without my phone I was not going to drag this around in my pocket also. It has sat in a drawer for years. It was time to let it go and move on to the hands of someone who would use it. I just with I could have taken it apart and used that camera for a fish tank project in my classroom. And that is the problem with my mind. I can always find a reason to keep something for a new idea.

Western Digital 1 TB Internal Hard Drive – Sold for $73.45

Screen Shot 2014-07-30 at 7.35.59 AM

Why do I have a new, never opened hard drive in my office? Exactly! You see I had this great idea that I was going to build a computer from scratch. I still plan to do it one day. However, I order this part, stripped down an old computer tower and never moved any further. It is one of those many projects that I started, but never completed. Not because I did not want to, was not capable, or anything like that. It is just that my brain moves from one idea to the next to the next and I don’t always complete a thought or project. I still have the rest of the computer components sitting down in a bin somewhere. Perhaps I should dig that out when I venture to closet of chaos.

Hunger Games Trilogy Books – First Edition Scholastic Press – Sold for 22.50

Screen Shot 2014-07-30 at 7.39.20 AM

The hardest items to sell and get rid of are my books. I own thousands. They are the epitome of who I am. I love to read. I have slowly morphed from being super anal with my books where I had to buy each book I read and keep them in pristine condition. I would stop reading them if the jackets were bent or any books showed wear and tear. Overtime I have come to love our public library and don’t buy as many as I once did.

It is time for me to eliminate some books that I know I simply won’t read. I have been a book reviewer for years so I have so many books of so many types all over. Additionally, I have kept these books thinking my kids would one day read them, but I now realize that will never happen. Anything that I like or suggest the kids automatically go opposite. I am using some reverse psychology here and selling books so that they can discover them for themselves. Not sure if it will work, but I am going to give it a try.

Last, the books I am selling will go towards funding school supplies to a school in a remote village in Africa. I am developing a book charity project so some of the books that I know might bring in money I am selling to jumpstart the funds. Hunger Games were the first to go.

And that my friend is how it is done. With all these items I think I easily crushed the 30 item mark. Technically, I could group all the Micro Machines as one to really challenge myself so that is what I will do. I will count them as one, but the books as three, and everything else as one bringing today to a total of 7 and bringing in almost $187. Not too shabby!

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