In This Issue:
Quotes of the Week
“Coaches need to recognize and manage their own emotions, recognize and manage the emotions of others, and be able to build relationships across lines of difference,”
Elena Aguilar (see item #1)
“We can’t separate a teacher’s instructional practices, ability to build relationships with kids, or ability to design lessons from what he or she believes, because every action people take emerges from a belief.”
Elena Aguilar (ibid.)
“In any collaboration there are times for open discussion of ideas and times when someone, regardless of whether he or she is a leader, needs to cut through the confusion and clearly articulate the path forward,”
Francesca Gino (see item #2)
“My research suggests that all too often when others are talking, we’re getting ready to speak instead of listening. As a result we get into conflicts that could be avoided, miss opportunities to advance the conversation, alienate the people who haven’t been heard, and diminish our teams’ effectiveness.”
Francesca Gino (ibid.)
“Although bias itself is devilishly hard to eliminate, it is not as difficult to interrupt.”
Joan Williams and Sky Mihaylo (see item #3)
“Real change is most likely to happen when we have a series of experiments; you have internal evidence that it works.”
Douglas Reeves (quoted in item #4)
1. Elena Aguilar on Effective Instructional Coaching Programs
(Originally titled “You Can’t Have a Coaching Culture Without Structure”)
In this Educational Leadership article, consultant/author Elena Aguilar (Bright Morning) shares what some instructional coaches have said to her about their work:
– I don’t really know what I’m supposed to do as a coach.
– I want to coach, but I don’t have time to meet with teachers.
– Teachers won’t meet with me.
– I don’t know if my coaching is making a difference. Maybe I should go back to the classroom.
Statements like these, along with a principal borrowing coaches to cover classes or organize testing materials, are signs that a school doesn’t have an organized strategy and culture. Aguilar believes there are ten prerequisites for coaching to have a positive impact on teaching and learning:
• Articulate a definition and vision. Here’s one school’s statement: “Coaching supports teachers to improve their instructional practices, implement a new curriculum, develop trusting relationships with colleagues, refine their reflective capacities, build their emotional resilience, and improve student outcomes.” In this school, coaching is for everyone; it’s not a remedial “fix” of underperforming teachers.
• Integrate with other professional learning. Coaching should be aligned with two other parts of an overall PD plan: whole-staff sessions and teacher teams focused on student work. Together these three should address individual, small-group, and schoolwide areas for growth.
• Choose a coaching model. Some possibilities: instructional coaching, which focuses on behavioral practices; cognitive coaching, which works on educators’ thinking; and transformational coaching (Aguilar’s model), which promotes individual, team, and schoolwide change. “We can’t separate a teacher’s instructional practices, ability to build relationships with kids, or ability to design lessons from what he or she believes,” she says, “because every action people take emerges from a belief.”
• Set program goals. These might include measurable improvements in teachers’ evaluations, data on teachers’ positive experiences with coaches, and evidence that coaching is helping to retain effective teachers.
• Hire the right coaches. Content-area expertise is not enough, says Aguilar; social-emotional intelligence is essential to making a difference. “Coaches need to recognize and manage their own emotions, recognize and manage the emotions of others, and be able to build relationships across lines of difference,” she says. Hiring committees should look for these six dispositions: compassion; curiosity; trust in the coaching process; humility and mutuality; appreciation; and a learner orientation.
• Build the coaching relationship. Psychological safety is a starting point; the teacher must trust that the coach will suspend judgment, maintain unconditional positive regard, see the teacher’s potential, and maintain confidentiality.
• Understand how coaching works. Everyone needs to know exactly how an effective coaching relationship proceeds:
– A teacher recognizes what needs improvement and agrees to coaching.
– The coach gets to know the teacher’s core values, purpose, and experiences.
– The two decide on a focus and set goals – for example, using on-the-spot assessments three times a week, or improving relationships with African-American female students.
– The coach and teacher plan lessons, practice specific strategies, analyze student work, find resources, and discuss lesson observations.
– After 8-12 weeks, the coach guides the teacher to reflect on progress and recalibrate goals.
– Frequent face-to-face conversations about all this are the heart of the coaching relationship.
“When conversation strategies are strong,” says Aguilar, “a 15-minute coaching session can be transformative.”
• Protect confidential communication. “A breach in confidentiality can deal a death blow to a coaching relationship,” she says. The firewall between the coach and the teacher’s evaluator must be clear from Day One. When a principal asks how a teacher is doing, the coach should give a reminder of the protocol and encourage the principal to visit the teacher’s classroom.
• Evaluate coaches’ impact. Aguilar says this is the weakest link in many districts. In her consulting, she uses three rubrics – the coaching context; coaching as a practice; and coaching conversations – as well as outcome goals. Working with the Oakland Unified School District, she measured improvements in: teacher performance, job satisfaction, retention, and attendance; student reading and use of academic discourse; and the number of office referrals and suspensions of black and Latino males. The data showed coaches’ positive impact.
• Organize training and support. “Coaches may be among the least professionally trained educators working in schools,” says Aguilar. It’s essential that a “master coach” who is proficient at modeling the skillset and working with adult learners conducts weekly training on the key coaching behaviors: listening, facilitating conversations, managing their own judgments and emotions, planning for coaching conversations, and responding to teachers’ emotions. In addition, coaches need support on conducting effective PD, managing group dynamics, and showing up “as a humble, confident team leader.”
“You Can’t Have a Coaching Culture Without Structure” by Elena Aguilar in Educational Leadership, November 2019 (Vol. 77, #3, pp. 22-28), https://bit.ly/36AxQD6
2. Overcoming Psychological Barriers to Collaboration
“In all too many organizations, efforts to promote and sustain collaboration fall short,” says Francesca Gino (Harvard Business School) in this article in Harvard Business Review. In her research on organizations in which people work together successfully, Gino has noticed these common attitudes:
– Respect for colleagues’ contributions;
– Openness to experimenting with others’ ideas;
– Sensitivity to how one’s actions affect colleagues’ work and mission outcomes.
“Yet these attitudes are rare,” she says. In the small number of organizations that have cracked the code of collaboration, Gino has identified specific training techniques that help people know when it’s time to listen and explore others’ ideas, when it’s time to express their own, and when it’s time to critique ideas and select the best ones:
• Teaching people to listen, not talk. “My research suggests that all too often when others are talking, we’re getting ready to speak instead of listening,” says Gino. “As a result we get into conflicts that could be avoided, miss opportunities to advance the conversation, alienate the people who haven’t been heard, and diminish our teams’ effectiveness.” There are four ways to counteract this common tendency:
– Ask expansive questions. What…? and How…? prompts get people sharing more information, reflecting on the situation, and feeling heard.
– Focus on the listener, not yourself. Active listeners reflect back important emotions.
– Engage in self-checks. Prompt colleagues to reflect on whether they’re really tuned in to others’ words, body language, and emotions.
– Become comfortable with silence. This helps elicit the ideas of those who are less vocal or need more time to think.
These can be challenging for people who love the sound of their own voice and dominate discussions; dealing with them is an important leadership challenge.
• Teaching people to practice empathy. We may think that people who disagree with us are uncaring or not very bright; to counteract this tendency, groups need to be led to expand their thinking about colleagues, get inside their heads, and assume the best. Another trick is to look for what’s not being said and tune in on ambivalence – for example: “I noticed your voice was somewhat tentative, as if you were feeling uncertain about your idea. What are some of the strengths and weaknesses you see in it?”
• Getting people more comfortable with critical feedback. Here are techniques to get past the widespread aversion to criticism:
– Openly discuss the aversion to feedback, including not wanting to hurt others’ feelings.
– Make feedback straightforward, specific about what worked and what didn’t, and focused on the impact of the behavior on you and others.
– Give feedback on feedback: is it direct, specific, and results-oriented?
– Practice “Yes, and…” piggybacking on others’ ideas, accepting them and adding more.
– Provide live coaching – real-time feedback to reach the aspirational techniques.
• Teaching people to lead and follow. Leaders sometimes need to step back, accept ideas from others, and delegate; seeing these moments takes self-awareness and judgment.
• Speaking with clarity and avoiding abstractions. “In any collaboration there are times for open discussion of ideas and times when someone, regardless of whether he or she is a leader, needs to cut through the confusion and clearly articulate the path forward,” says Gino. At moments like this, it’s especially important that the language is direct and precise.
• Teaching people to have win-win interactions. Imagine two children who both want an orange arguing over how to divide it up and eventually cutting it in half. But what if one wanted the juice and the other wanted the peel for a muffin recipe? If they had explored each others’ unspoken interests, both could have gotten all that they wanted – the full peel and the juice of the whole orange. This example of win-win negotiation drives home the importance of probing for hidden information and needs, clearly expressing one’s own interests and desires, asking good questions, and listening carefully.
Gino believes these six techniques complement each other and are interdependent. “Leaders who are frustrated by a lack of collaboration can start by asking themselves a simple question,” she concludes: “What have they done to encourage it today? It is only by regularly owning their own mistakes, listening actively and supportively to people’s ideas, and being respectful but direct when challenging others’ views and behavior that they can encourage lasting collaboration.”
“Cracking the Code of Sustained Collaboration: Six Tools for Training People to Work Together Better” by Francesca Gino in Harvard Business Review, November-December 2019 (Vol. 97, #6, pp. 72-81), https://hbr.org/2019/11/cracking-the-code-of-sustained-collaboration; Gino can be reached at email@example.com.
3. Pushing Back on Workplace Bias Against Women and People of Color
“Although bias itself is devilishly hard to eliminate, it is not as difficult to interrupt,” say Joan Williams and Sky Mihaylo (University of California Hastings College of the Law) in this Harvard Business Review article. The first step is understanding four ways bias plays out in the workplace:
– Some groups have to prove themselves more than others.
– A narrower range of behavior is accepted from some groups than from others.
– Women with young children see their commitment and competence questioned, or face disapproval for being too “career-focused.”
– Disadvantaged groups may be pitted against each other because they have different strategies for assimilating, or refusing to do so.
It takes leadership and an organizational strategy to interrupt these tendencies, say Williams and Mihaylo. Their suggestions:
Picking your people
• Insist on a diverse pool. There’s lots of research evidence that a person’s perceived group (for example, Jamal versus Greg) affects who gets interviewed – and, on the positive side, that having more than one woman or person of color among the finalists significantly boosts diversity.
• Establish and implement objective criteria. Vague definitions of “culture fit” allow for implicit biases about shared backgrounds and interests, so it’s important to have a job-specific rubric.
• Limit referral hiring. “If your organization is homogeneous, hiring from within or from employees’ social networks will only perpetuate that,” say Williams and Mihaylo.
• Structure interviews. Every candidate should be asked the same questions and rated immediately so fair comparisons can be made on their suitability for the job.
• Ask skills-based questions. For example, candidates might be asked to solve a problem or complete a task they’re likely to encounter on the job.
Managing day to day
• Rotate workplace “housework” and don’t ask for volunteers. This is because studies show that women do 20 percent more of certain tasks than white male counterparts – arranging for lunch, cleaning up after a meeting, finding a place to meet, preparing a PowerPoint, calming down an upset person, doing undervalued work.
• Mindfully assign people to high-value projects. Again, this is because studies have found that these more often go to white males.
• Acknowledge the importance of lower-profile contributions. “‘Diversity’ hires may lag behind their majority-member peers because they’re doing extra stuff that doesn’t get them extra credit,” say Williams and Mihaylo.
• Speak up to double standards, stereotyping, and negative behaviors. This is especially important with ‘manterruption’ (the tendency of men to interrupt far more than women) and ‘bropriating’ and ‘whipeating’ (majority-group members taking, or being given, credit for ideas that women and people of color originally offered).
• Invite quiet people to weigh in. “Women, people of Asian descent, and first-generation professionals report being brought up with a ‘modesty mandate’ that can lead them to hold back their thoughts or speak in a tentative, deferential way,” say William and Mihaylo. This is best countered by drawing out those individuals – “Camilla, you have expertise with this; what are we missing?”
• Schedule meetings inclusively. Holding substantive discussions at a golf course, club, or concert may give an artificial advantage to people who frequent those settings, while working to the disadvantage of others.
• Equalize access proactively. This is to counteract the fact that some people are more aggressive asking for managers’ time, and managers’ tendency to give more time to like-minded subordinates.
Developing your team
• Clarify evaluation criteria. The focus should be on actual performance, not intangibles that might disadvantage certain groups.
• Separate performance from potential and personality from skill sets. “In-groups tend to be judged on their potential and given the benefit of the doubt, whereas out-groups have to show they’ve nailed it,” say Williams and Mihaylo.
• Level the playing field on self-promotion. The “modesty mandate” disadvantages some employees, but this can be counteracted by a clear mandate for everyone to be honest and assertive in self-assessments and statements of accomplishments.
• Explain how training, promotion, and compensation will be handled. The more explicit this is, the harder it is for the rules to be bent for in-group members.
“How the Best Bosses Interrupt Bias on Their Teams: Strategies to Foster Equity and Inclusion” by Joan Williams and Sky Mihaylo in Harvard Business Review, November-December 2019 (Vol. 97, #6, pp. 151-155), https://bit.ly/2pFpwS3; the authors can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
4. Advice to New Principals
In this Education Week article, Madeline Will compiles some do’s and don’ts for principals from teachers she interviewed:
• Get the lay of the land before making changes. A teacher remembered the negative effect when a newly arrived principal abruptly required teachers to hand in their lesson plans at the beginning of every week. It’s important to listen to teachers, observe the school’s culture, and see what’s already working well. Sometimes principals are ordered to implement district programs that provoke teacher resistance. In that case, says California teacher Laura Bradley, the best approach is to say, “This is what we’re being told we need to do, but first, let’s identify what we’re already doing that matches this initiative.”
• Build relationships and tap the wisdom of veteran teachers. “If teachers are going to be asked to do new things and take risks and be innovative,” says Connecticut teacher David Bosso, “there has to be a level of trust, and that trust can only be developed in a culture where relationships are nurtured.” A new initiative might not be something teachers would have identified, but they’re more likely to get on board if there was a lot of listening and dialogue and the principal identifies a clear area of need.
• Be out and about. The worst dynamic is principals issuing orders from their offices and not pitching in and working as hard as teachers. School leaders need to be in classrooms, corridors, cafeteria, playground, and out front at entry and dismissal time, getting to know students and seeing first-hand what colleagues are dealing with – and what they’re doing well.
• Pilot initiatives with willing volunteers. Respected teachers who try out new materials and pedagogies and work out the bugs have much more credibility than company reps. “Real change is most likely to happen when we have a series of experiments,” says author/consultant Douglas Reeves; “you have internal evidence that it works.”
“4 Things Principals Can Do (and 4 Things They Shouldn’t) to Build Relationships with Teachers” by Madeline Will in Education Week, October 15, 2019, https://bit.ly/2CdXcca
5. Advice-Giving 101
In this New York Times article, Anna Goldfarb explores the risks involved when we give advice to friends and colleagues. They might reject our ideas, or if they take our advice, things might turn out badly. “Advice is a gift, albeit one bundled with inherent power dynamics,” says Goldfarb. “That ‘I know your situation best and here’s what you should do’ attitude is what can make advice-giving so fraught.” People may reject excellent suggestions just because they don’t like the feeling of being controlled by another person.
Goldfarb reports three factors that researchers believe affect whether or not advice will be taken and acted on:
– If the advice was costly to obtain and the task is challenging (for example, a legal opinion on a tricky issue);
– If the advice-giver is more experienced and expresses strong confidence in the suggestion (for example, a doctor’s diagnosis and treatment plan);
– If the person receiving the advice is hell-bent on what to do (for example, sticking with a loser boyfriend).
These provide some general guidelines for caring friends and concerned co-workers, but what about situations with less clarity? Goldfarb has compiled suggestions from a variety of experts.
• Make sure you’re being asked for advice. “It may seem obvious,” says Dr. Leigh Tost (University of Southern California), “but it’s surprising how often people can overlook the need to consider what the decision maker wants and why.” Sometimes people just want to feel heard and understood. A good probe, suggests Texas marriage and family therapist Melody Li, is something like, “Would you be willing to hear some of my ideas, or is now not a good time?”
• Clarify the problem. “What do you want to know specifically that I can help you with?” asks author Austin Kleon. This prevents burdening the person with irrelevant information. It’s also a good idea to paraphrase what the person says to confirm you’re hearing it correctly.
• Consider expertise. It’s possible that you’re not the best person to advise on a particular issue, and the most helpful thing is to point the person to a better counselor. “The key is to put your loved one’s needs and interests front and center,” says Tost.
• If advice seems in order, start with an affirming statement. This might include praising the person for confronting the problem and reaching out.
• Share experience. It’s helpful to say, “I’ve been there and here’s what I did. It worked for me, and maybe it will work for you.” Or you might recommend a book or other source of wisdom. Experts also suggest avoiding the word advice. Offering suggestions or ideas feels less manipulative and more collaborative.
• Look for positive body language. When advice resonates, a person’s eyes and mouth soften, shoulders lower, breath is exhaled.
• Ask about takeaways. Life coach Dee Marshall asks clients what tidbit resonated with them the most and tells them to disregard anything she suggested that wasn’t a good fit.
• Agree on next steps. This might include asking if the person wants you to check in after a few days. The goal is for both of you to leave the conversation feeling empowered.
“Giving Advice That People Want to Take” by Anna Goldfarb in The New York Times, October 21, 2019, https://nyti.ms/34w9icU
6. Should Students Read Books by Morally Reprehensible Authors?
In this New York Times article, Emma Goldberg reports on the dilemma of teachers in the #MeToo era assigning work by authors who have been accused of harassment and abuse. “The issue is especially thorny in high school and college classrooms,” says Goldberg, “where young people can form deep attachments to the writers and artists whose works help shape their worldviews.” An example: high-school students on the Navajo reservation in Arizona loved The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. Their teacher, herself a survivor of abuse, was distraught when she learned a year ago that the author had been accused of sexual harassment and admitted that he’d “harmed other people.” But the teacher decided not to tell her students. “They thought it was the coolest thing in the world to have that role model,” she said; “why take that away from them?”
Emily Gowen, a literature instructor at Boston University, took a different approach. She assigned a short story by Junot Díaz, telling students that he was accused of misconduct and cleared after an investigation by M.I.T., where he teaches. Reading the story alongside a New Yorker article about child sexual abuse produced an “unbelievably provocative discussion” with her students, says Gowen. “I wanted them to feel entitled to question the syllabus, which is this thing students take for granted as neutral even though it’s actually loaded. I wanted them to know that art is nuanced and complex, and in any artist’s life there is going to be something objectionable, but that’s not an excuse to close ourselves off from engaging with the art.”
By contrast, Amy Hungerford, dean of humanities at Yale University, cut the work of David Foster Wallace from the curriculum after stories surfaced of his abusive behavior toward women. “There’s always more to read than you can ever read,” says Hungerford, “and when you’re thinking about the opportunity costs on a syllabus, that can certainly be a consideration.”
Clare Hayes-Brady, a professor of American literature at University College Dublin, made a different decision, continuing to teach Wallace’s work with full disclosure of accusations against him. “Shakespeare abandoned his family,” she says. “Norman Mailer stabbed his wife. We don’t love the people we love because they’re morally virtuous.” But she allowed students who found Wallace’s work especially “triggering” to skip the class discussion of his work, or decline to read it.
Vinny Ramos-Niaves, a student at Ball State University, was initially skeptical about reading the work of Sherman Alexie, but changed her mind after a discussion that stretched into the evening. “The more we talked about him,” she said, “the more I realized that the whole question of cancelling books written by people who aren’t great is an important conversation to have. We wouldn’t be able to have that conversation without understanding what the work was.”
“Suitable for the Classroom? #MeToo Spurs a Rethinking” by Emma Goldberg in The New York Times, October 8, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/07/us/metoo-schools.html
7. Books by and About Latinx People
In this School Library Journal feature, Katy Hershberger lists new books with Latinx creators and characters (see the link below for detailed descriptions of each book):
– Luca’s Bridge/El Puente de Luca by Mariana Llanos, illustrated by Anna López Real (Penny Candy, 2019), grades 1-4
– My Papi Has a Motorcycle by Isabel Quintero, illustrated by Zeke Peña (Penguin/ Kokila, 2019), grades K-2
– ¡Vamos! Let’s Go to the Market by Raul the Third, (HMH/Versify, 2019), grades K-2
– One Is a Piñata: A Book of Numbers by Roseanne Greenfield Thong, illustrated by John Parra (Chronicle, 2019), Preschool-grade 1
– The Piñata That the Farm Maiden Hung by Samantha Vamos, illustrated by Sebastià Serra (Charlesbridge, 2019), grades K-2
– The Other Half of Happy by Rebecca Balcàrcel (Chronicle, 2019), grades 4-7
– Each Tiny Spark by Pablo Cartaya (Penguin/Kokila, 2019), grades 4-7
– Beast Rider by María Elena Fontanot de Rhoads and Tony Johnston (Abrams/Amulet 2019), grades 4-7
– Sal and Gabi Break the Universe by Carlos Hernandez (Disney-Hyperion, 2019), grades 4-8
– Silver Meadows Summer by Emma Otheguy (Knopf, 2019), grades 4-6
– Strange Birds: A Field Guide to Ruffling Feathers by Celia Pérez (Penguin/Kokila, 2019), grades 4-7
– Red Panda and Moon Bear by Jarod Roselló (Top Shelf Productions, 2019), grades 4-6
– The Moon Within by Aida Salazar (Scholastic, 2019), grades 4-8[Nonfiction and young adult books next week]
“Literatura Latinx: Books for All Ages in Honor of Hispanic Heritage Month” by Katy Hershberger in School Library Journal, October 2019 (Vol. 65, #9, pp. 50-51),
8. Short Items:
a. Tracing a troubling family history close to home – This Washington Post story https://wapo.st/2NfPEfp describes how former U.S. Education Secretary John King and his family visited the place where his ancestors were enslaved – only 25 miles from their home in Maryland.
“Two Families – One Black, One White – Shared a Harrowing History. Then They Met” by Ian Shapira in The Washington Post, October 23, 2019
b. A graphic comparison of how immigrants fare in the U.S. – This New York Times article by Emily Badger https://nyti.ms/2JOuQt6 compares the economic trajectories of immigrants from different countries with native-born Americans.
“Children of Poor Immigrants Do Better Than Natives” by Emily Badger in The New York Times, October 29, 2019
c. Women: A Century of Change – The full issue of this month’s National Geographichttps://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2019/11/ is devoted to the progress and continuing challenges of women around the world.
“Women: A Century of Change” in National Geographic, November 2019
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