Congratulations! It's the beginning of the school year. Perhaps you are entering your third or fourth year as a Tech Coach, or perhaps you are getting ready to walk into a brand new school for the first time. No matter what the scenario, it's always an exciting time of year and a very stressful one.
When entering the first week, or even the first day it's important to have a few things in mind. Your job as a Tech Coach is always a bit shaky when it comes to relationships with your teachers and administrators and it's important that you start the year off on the best foot.
When thinking about my own first day of school I started thinking about advice I have been given. In years past, I tried to meet each department on the first day. I thought it was my duty to stand up and give a killer presentation that would WOW them and make them love me. I wanted to prove to them that I was worthy of being their Coach. None of this worked. This year, instead of starting off with a fancy tech demo, my plan is to go in and say hello and ask them about their hopes for this year. My plan is to let them lead the conversation. Here is the reason why.
When you are in a Coaching role, it's never about you. It's always about them and their goals. If you walk in and force a presentation you are simply doing it to show off.
Listen, Listen, Listen
At the start of the year, it’s easy to want to jump into staff and faculty meetings and impress your staff with tech-heavy presentations. After all, you spent the summer trying to come up with the best way for teachers to learn about you and all that you can bring to their classroom. However, this might not be the best thing to start the year off with.
When thinking about the first ten minutes of the school year, teachers are extremely busy and burdened with all that goes into opening up a fully functioning learning environment with very little time that another tech demo is simply another tech demo.
Instead of dazzling them with gizmos and gadgets, perhaps try another direction with your opening speech.
The most important thing you can do as a tech coach in any situation is to sit back, ask questions, and listen. I often start with two questions:
- What was exciting about last year that you would like to emulate?
- What frustrations did you have that you are looking to avoid this year?
In these two questions, you have the basis for a very good first 1:1 conversation with teachers, or the meat of a first email that you can then personalize for that teacher. If you can get in front of teachers in a group and ask those two questions, you have a strong possibility that a good percentage of them will respond to your emails because they know you are listening to them and that you are interested in learning about their needs.
Relationship trumps all and catapults or denies your ability to affect change for those you support!
— 𝓚𝓲𝓽𝓽𝔂 𝓣𝓻𝓲𝓹𝓹 🌺 (@Kitty_Tripp) August 19, 2018
Communicate Your Intentions For Supporting Their Goals
Once you have a conversation going that revolves around their needs, or the needs of their departments, it’s important for you to continuously express your goals and how they are aligned to the goals of the district, building, and department.
Your goals are not to bring amazing tech into their classrooms and rock their world. Your goals should be to support the needs of the teachers that “just happens to be” through the lens of technology integration. If this philosophy is switched around, it might be difficult to get teachers excited. In general, teachers aren’t looking for that “one more thing” that they have to learn at the beginning of the year. Instead, they are often excited by the ability to take one or more things off their plate so that they can have a great start to the school year with their students.
Recently, I went to Twitter to corespond with some of my Tech Coach mentors and here is the advice they gave me to share with you.
Avoid mentioning tools… ask what the teacher wants students to do, which skills students should use/practice, and how they want students to work together. Once those questions are answered, the learning process becomes clear. Once the process is clear, then think about tools.
— Kerry Gallagher (@KerryHawk02) August 19, 2018
What’s the one thing in your classroom that you do and oftennwonder why?
— Jon Smith (@theipodteacher) August 19, 2018
I always start by asking about their goals for student learning, and also asking what that currently looks like in their classroom. That helps identify strategies/tools that will impact student learning. I think it's also important to discuss "how will we know we are successful?"
— Sadie Lewis (@sadieclorinda) August 19, 2018
"I don't want to change how you teach, but I am interested in how things go sideways for us all." If I have their trust, we discuss how lesson plans go sideways. If you don't have their trust -yet- you can share how you have blown it in a lesson & recovered something meaningful.
— Penny Christensen (@Pen63) August 19, 2018
I love asking them their favorite thing to teach. Either favorite unit or subject. Then what they dread. Always leads to not only me understanding them better but starts convos on how we could connect the 2 or make the dread more like the love.
— Amanda Dykes (@amandacdykes) August 19, 2018
It’s so difficult! You’ve gotta have the relationship first, that’s for sure. One thing that often works is starting from a lesson or activity that the teacher is not excited about and helping them reboot it.
— Jake Miller (@JakeMillerTech) August 19, 2018
What do you want your students to do/show you?
— Erin (@TechCoach_Erin) August 19, 2018
What’s a (Digital) tool you feel comfortable using and how do you think it impacts student learning?
— Nancy Carroll (@ncarroll24) August 19, 2018
Showcase Your Resources not your Tech Skills
Right before leaving I always have something up my sleeve that can solve a particular problem for them. In many cases, this MUST be content specific. It doesn’t make any sense to showcase something general that is abstract. I often start with some type of spreadsheet, video, or slides trick that makes them say “how do you do that? I've been looking for something like that!”
This is generally when you take out your calendar and ask “When are you available … Let’s work together!”
Download our FREE Google Slides Template to Share with your Teachers
One of my favorite tools to showcase is a handy Google Slides Tri-fold Brochure template. This template downloads directly into the teacher's Drives and gives them a nice template for doing just about any type of brochure or story-based project.
How to use the template
One day a teacher showed me a project they were working on in Social Studies class. This teacher had the students take a piece of paper and fold it into three sections. From there, they would design a brochure template that included graphs, and pictures (that the kids had to either cut out or draw) and while this was a great project, in the end, I asked the teacher “What do the students do with the project when you are finished with it?” Sadly the teacher said “well, I guess they throw it out”
Does this sound like a project that your teachers might do throughout the year? Instead of having your students create a paper-based project that just gets thrown out, perhaps you can take that same project and call it “Step 1” of a multistep project.
By using this FREE downloadable Google Slides template, teachers can then have their students create a paper-based brochure without the confines of technology. THEN, the teacher can give out the Slides template through the magic of Google Classroom. Students can then use the paper-based template to create a digital version using all of the great features found in slides such as charts, diagrams, image masks, and of course, VIDEO.
Download your copy today and let us know how YOUR teachers are using this fantastic template.
Good Luck This School Year
As the school year gets underway, it’s important to remember that while you may be the only coach in your building or school district, you are not alone as a tech coach in the Eduverse. There are several resources you can turn to for help, guidance, and free resources.
One of the places you can turn to is our Instructional Technology Coaching podcast called Ask the Tech Coach. Each week, Nick Amaral and I bring you a half hour show that focuses on what it’s like to be a tech coach and how we face some off of the challenges that you may be facing yourself.
We are always looking for great tech coaches as yourself to grow our PLN and I hope you take a moment to join by filling out our form below.