elena aguilar

Core Values Exercise

As I read Chapter 3 of The Art of Coaching, I came across the section on core values and beliefs. As humans, most of our actions stem from our core values. Aguilar provides an activity to complete to figure out one’s core values on her website, so I decided to give it a try. It was harder than I thought it would be!

The first step is to get ahold of a copy of the list of core values. This list can be printed, but I chose to save the PDF file and then use the Snipping Tool on my computer to mark up the document. Once a copy has been obtained, the first step is to circle the ten values you find most important. I used a highlighting pen for this part:


I chose to highlight choice, creativity, fun, goals, imagination, making a difference, passion, personal growth, positive attitude, and trust as my 10 choices.

From the list of ten, you must then narrow the results down to just five. If you thought getting ten originally was hard, getting rid of five options is even harder. I found that it wasn’t too hard to narrow mine, as I felt some of the options were similar. I ended up with this:


For this part I crossed off fun, goals, imagination, choice, and trust.

The final step of this activity is to cross off two more items, and end up with three left. These three items are most likely your core values, which you use almost subconsciously to guide your decisions in your life. Here’s my final worksheet image:


I finally decided to cross off Making a Difference and passion. This left me with creativity, personal growth, and positive attitude as my core values.

Of course, I’m not finished just yet. With the completed worksheet in hand, there were also some reflection questions to answer:

1. Notice the feelings that come up when you read your short list. How does your energy shift?

Looking at my final three values, it seems as though these are the values I’ve been leaning toward most of this school year after being exposed to some amazing people and events. I feel like “Yes! Let’s get started and tackle some amazing things together! Let’s learn new things and grow!” It is a feeling that I love, and what makes me love my work the most.

2. Consider how the actions you take reflect your core values. Are there values that show up more often in your actions at work? At home? In social circles? With family? Do you ever notice a discrepancy between what you consider to be a “value” and actions that you take?

If I think about it, personal growth shows up most in my work life because I’m so into using Twitter to discover new ideas and books. I always strive to learn more and build connections. I feel like some of my work bleeds into my personal life, as it simply adds to the happiness I experience from my personal hobbies and interests. Creativity is often found when I work with children or am playing Minecraft. There are also the random times that I randomly make up songs or words, just because I can. It drives my fiance crazy sometimes, but she’s used to it by this point. Positive attitude is everywhere. I try to definitely be positive at work, but I usually am at home. I try to keep myself calm and stress-free, and I will often avoid situations that would upset this balance too much.

3. Write your three core values on a piece of paper and post them somewhere prominent. Reflect on them for a week or two. See if they still feel like “core” values.

Done. They are posted above my desk here at home, as that is where I spend the majority of my week days learning and growing.

4. Reflect on them every year. Are they the same? Have they changed? Do you think these would have been your core values 10 years ago?

Ten years ago I was 20 and still in college. During the summer of 2007 I would have been assisting with daycare and helping my mom. I was working toward my teaching degree at the time, and nearing the end of my time as an undergrad student. December 2008 was not so far away. I know that creativity would probably have still been a core value, as it has always been a part of me, and what has always helped me to be different as a teacher. I would guess that positive attitude might still be there, but it may not be. I do know that personal growth probably would not have. I was not too interested in doing anything to grow or push myself to really do better. At the time, I think I was just trying to survive college.

As to where my values might be in a year or even ten, who knows? Guess that’s why we look back and reflect!

Want to try the activity for yourself? You’ll need the directions here and you’ll need the list of core values as well.

What is Coaching?

It has taken me some time to sit down and write this post. I have quickly discovered that The Art of Coaching is not a book to be taken lightly at all. I read Chapter 2 yesterday, only to realize that I needed time to let the reading soak in and the ideas marinate. The text has been on my mind and I feel as though I can finally start writing my reflection.

If you are a coach, people have to know your purpose and the reason you are there. Each coach can have a different purpose, and if your staff do not know where you fall, they’ll utilize you as they have done in the past. This means you might end up doing a lot of things that your coaching position isn’t supposed to do. Coaches are meant to be empowering to the staff that they serve, not the exact opposite. A coach’s job isn’t meant to “fix” people. A coach can assist someone often, but unless that person wants to learn and be coached, then the coaching itself is useless.

Coaches should create a vision statement for themselves. This vision will talk about what you want to do as a coach, your “big picture”, and your goals for working with staff. Like a philosophy of learning, this statement will help guide you in your practice. And if you find the vision changes as the year goes by? Then change the vision to match! Don’t be stuck in a vision that no longer suits your goals or purpose.

One thing I didn’t realize was that coaching had different models, and these models affected how staff developed and thrived. There are directive, facilitative, and transformational. If we were to assign numbers to these, directive would be a 1, facilitative a 2, and transformative a 3.

A directive coach is only providing instructions and telling someone how to do something. They share knowledge and provide resources. As an ITRT, this is where most of my work has fallen the majority of the time. I realize now that I am not very effective (yet!), and that realizing where I am as a coach is going to push me toward being a better one. The point of reading this book was to help me grow in my position, after all.

I know that changing my style of coaching will take time and that since this is considered an art, that it can’t be learned all at once. I can, however, start moving toward becoming more facilitative in my coaching as I learn what it means to be transformational. As a facilitative coach I would help them to learn new ways of thinking through many different processes. I work more with where the staff member is and build on what they already have. Instead of only sharing expert knowledge, I am instead helping them to build their own skills and reflection that will work within the walls of their classroom.

Transformational coaching will be harder to reach, but it’s not impossible. It takes the other two and goes a step further to work on changing one’s state of being. According to Aguilar, it’s not often a model that has been found in schools. One of the things that transformational coaching does is “explore language, nonverbal communication, and emotions, and how these affect relationships, performance, and results.” (pg 26) It also works to get to the “why” of causes and their occurrences.

Yes, this is going to be a long road for me, but I hope to come to the end of this journey even better at being an ITRT than before. The material is harder, but that’s okay. I’ll get there one step at a time. If you are reading this post, and are also reading this book, please consider joining me on my journey. I would love to have some others to discuss this book with so that I can see multiple viewpoints!

Traditional PD is the PITS!

If you remember that lovable cartoon from the 80’s called Rainbow Brite, you’re more than familiar with a place called The Pits. Rainbow and friends live in Rainbow Land, but there’s a part of the land that’s dark, gloomy, and void of color. This place, aptly called The Pits, is where nemesis Murky Dismal and his henchman Lurky live. Their goal is to steal Rainbow’s color belt and the color from Rainbow Land as well.

This is what was on my mind as I read through the first chapter in The Art of Coaching. I found myself nodding along and highlighting quite a few points (yes, I started marking in my books finally!). I also started sharing these points on Facebook and Twitter with colleagues, and it started some interesting discussions with them. I really could discuss the downfalls of PD for quite some time, and it was nice to take a look at yet another perspective on the topic.

The thing is, if we know traditional PD is so bad, then why in the world are we still doing it? Why are we letting ourselves muck through the junk that it provides, knowing that it does the teachers and students no real good? The teachers who really latch on to the PD topic will continue to research and learn the tool or method. Those teachers will make a difference because they are spending countless hours to learn outside of the PD session/s and work toward fluency. However, those teachers are very few in number, so the difference isn’t widely felt.

Sometimes those in charge decide that there will be one initial PD session at the beginning of the year, and then one or two more follow ups at a later time. We think this is better, but it’s really not because those teachers are still only skimming the surface, and not delving deeper. They will only go deeper if they do so on their own, or if they have the support of a coach to guide them throughout the year.

I believe this is part of the reason that George Couros mentioned in his book that districts should choose 3 tools that they are going to focus on. This gives districts and schools the chance to have their ITRTs or other coaches really work on those tools with staff so that they are able to do more than just manipulate the tool.

It is great to introduce more tools to educators so that they know what is out there. However, I think I am going to start making it clear at those sessions that unless the educator is consistently learning the ins and outs of the tool, whether alone or with ITRT help, it will not be very beneficial to them. It might be hard to hear, but it is the truth. You can’t learn everything there is to know about a tool or method from a simple session, whether it’s an hour or three.

BackgroundsTextures for Quotes (7)

One PD session isn’t enough to know everything.

Knowing all of this about traditional PD, what do we do about it? For me, it’s changing the way I work with teachers and how I coach them. I need to work more closely with them and have them select a tool that they would like to work on I know I will have my Fluco Toolbox posts, which will help teachers discover what is out there. They are meant to be “fly-by” posts to introduce a tool, but they are not meant to teach about the tool itself. However, if a teacher sees something they like featured on the toolbox, then I can help them delve deeper into the tool, or they can do so on their own.

Beyond that, there’s got to be a way to get administration to see that traditional PD is not the way to go. Sure, you can do your opening days PD sessions, but unless you do something all year long on those particular topics, your teachers are just wasting their time. First of all, they don’t want to be there because they’d rather be setting up their rooms and preparing first lessons. Second of all, they are taking in so much information at once that they don’t have any time to really process it all. Third, the sessions are one size fits all.

My suggestion would be to pick the tools/methods that will be focused on for the year. Then do the opening days PD sessions, unless a different method can be devised. However, then your coaches need to work consistently throughout the year on those tools/methods with teachers. Otherwise, it’s worthless and a waste of teachers’ time. It’s also a good idea to stick with certain tools for more than just a year instead of constantly changing things on teachers. That’s really frustrating.  I am only speaking of the edtech tools though, and not the literacy or math skills stuff… that’s a whole other ball game.

I’m definitely into this book so far though and can’t wait to see what other ideas it produces!

My Current EduReading List

There are plenty of books I need to read, and I have quite a few of them. These books have been recommended to me over time, and I’ve picked them up. So far, they’ve spent a lot of time on my shelf as I work my way through the school year. Reading is a passion of mine, but I usually only read before bed. This, of course, is under the cover of darkness, curled up in my bed with my Kindle. Reading helps me relax my brain and fall asleep more easily. Obviously this is not the ideal time to read any kind of reference material. Plus, I like to have physical copies of my reference books. This allows me to easily locate information or make any kind of marks I want. I’m not someone who marks up her books, but I do paste QR codes in them from time to time. The codes link to blog posts that I’ve written on that chapter or topic.

Most of the books listed work for anyone in education. Usually I find ways to link them to edtech or my own leadership in the field. There is always room to grow and room to learn.

Here are the books that are currently on my list to read and tackle. I’ve provided links to them on Amazon as well for easy purchase:

  1. The Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros: I actually started this in the fall and participated in half of #IMMOOC before I got busy with other things. I am going to finish the rest of this book first!
  2. Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess: I started this book, and then I switched out of the classroom and into the technology specialist position, so I never finished it because I was learning the ropes of a new job at the time. I need to revisit it now that I am more comfortable in my position. Goal is before summer, as I get to see both Burgess and Couros speak at Copenhaver Institute!
  3. What Connected Educators Do Differently by Todd Whitaker: If you know me well enough, you know I love promoting being a connected educator and growing one’s PLN via social networks, such as Twitter, which is my main playground.
  4. The Art of Coaching by Elena Aguilar: All I know is that this is a must for me in my coaching position and that it will help me assist my teachers better. I’ve had multiple folks tell me to read it before next school year begins.
  5. Digital Leadership by Eric Sheninger: I have a copy of this book somewhere, but I can’t seem to find it right now. It may be at school. I want to create technological change in my schools, or at least see where I can begin.
  6. Lead Like a Pirate by Shelly Burgess: I’m in a unique leadership position as an ITRT and I want to see what new ideas this book will have to help me improve my leadership among my teachers. I think it’s geared toward admin, but I will find out. I want to be a better leader.

I have a lot to tackle, and I hope to jump back in soon. What’s on your current edureading list? Share in the comments section!












EdtechRVA Recap: Dynamic Coaching Model

Sad to say, but this will be the final Edtech RVA recap that I post for this series. Previously I’ve written about Getting Interactive with Google AppsBite-Sized Professional Development, and Plotting, Programming, & Printing in the ELA Classroom. The day was certainly a fun one though, and I did learn quite a lot from folks. This is definitely something I want to keep attending in the future, and I do encourage others to give it a try as well, especially if you’re in the Richmond area!

The final session that I attended was Dynamic Coaching Models: Helping Teachers Navigate Uncharted Technology Waters. This session was presented by Rebecca Fox and Althea Hudson. Both ladies can be found on Twitter- @foxteaches and @altheadespina. Be sure to give them a follow and check out their work!

The ideas in this session really support the work presented in the Bite-Sized Professional Development session, so if you weren’t sure about Bite-Sized PD before, attending this session would help to persuade you to change the ways of professional development in your own district.

Does this sound familiar? You attend PD as required by your district. Nothing is differentiated so folks who are new to the topic and folks who are very familiar with the topic are all thrown together. You had no say in the topic that was presented, and you were often given an overload of information. By the time you made it back to your school, all of your notes couldn’t help you remember everything you learned on the topic, and there was never any kind of follow-up to make sure that you were implementing correctly.

One of the few benefits to this kind of professional development is that everyone is up to date on the tool or topic, and the same information is pushed out to everyone at the same time. Great!

However, the cons outweigh the benefits. Because everyone got the same information, there wasn’t any differentiation. Sounds great to the folks on top, but if one looks more closely, those who already knew a lot about the topic were bored, and not paying close attention.They were just warm bodies filling seats. Those who were able to keep up found things okay, and remembered most of what they learned. Then there was the group that couldn’t keep up, got frustrated, and basically tossed aside everything once the training was over, never to be used again.

This is not the kind of professional development that is ever going to be successful or worth the money spent, if any was spent. Fox and Hudson presented the case for discarding this type of professional development. It was time for a change, they argued. Change would allow teachers to develop a growth mindset, take risks and try new things, build teacher confidence, and meet teachers’ needs.

One book that was pushed as a “must read” was Elena Aguilar’s Art of Coaching. This book doesn’t pertain only to edtech, but to any teacher, instructor, or coach who finds themselves working with teachers. I have this book, but have not had time to read it. This is certainly not the first time it’s been recommended to me, either. This book is meant to help coaches grow, self-reflect on their current work, and to help them embrace change.

After reading the book, coaches can then work on changing how they design professional development and trainings for their teachers. Once coaches begin to move in this direction though, they still have a lot of work ahead of them. They need to get administration to buy in to this different method. They’ll also need to seek teacher buy in, as well as teacher feedback on the topics they feel need covered to best support their teaching. Administration will also need to hold their staff accountable. Coaches will need to make sure they know what’s going on in the building with their staff, and adjust accordingly.

From this point forward, it’s up to all parties- teachers, administration, and coaches to keep each other posted and communicate needs and wants and any issues that may arise. By using different methods, districts can work to make professional development worthwhile and meaningful to their staff.

That’s it for EdtechRVA folks. The next recap round will come after March 25. I’m excited to attend my very first edcamp in Yorktown, VA. I hope to learn a lot of new ideas and make new connections with folks. If you liked this round of recaps, stay tuned for future ones!