ICs spend their days supporting the growth of educators, but who does the same for them? Stephanie Affinito, Staff Associate in the literacy department at the University at Albany in New York, believes that coaches can guide their own learning through her four-step processes built on self-reflection.
nstructional coaches are constantly leading the learning of others: we create yearly visions for our work, offer professional development on chosen topics, partner with teachers in the classroom, and curate resources and materials to support teacher learning over time. We don't just focus on the content of learning; we support teachers' mindsets so they, too, feel supported and energized.
As coaches, we're often left to our own devices when it comes to our professional learning, which means that it can get swept behind the myriad of other roles and responsibilities we prioritize. However, to lead well, we have to remain lifelong learners ourselves, by growing, stretching, and changing as professionals.
I'm here to share a 4-step process to help you create a personalized learning plan for yourself. Grab a few quiet minutes, your favorite beverage, and a notebook—now, let's get started!
1) Audit your coaching
The first step in creating a personalized learning plan for yourself is to reflect on your coaching—you must look back at where you've been to move forward. Think back on the most memorable moments of the year and their impact on your work as a coach. Then, audit your coaching calendar and look back through the pages while asking yourself the following:
- Where did I spend the majority of my coaching time?
- What went well and felt particularly successful?
- What didn't feel quite right?
- Do I have any data to support these reflections, like teacher surveys or student assessment results?
Now that you've weighed up your life as a coach so far, it's time to think about your ideal coaching life.
2) Turn a challenge into a goal
The challenges you're facing right now offer you a unique window into your next area of professional growth. Close your eyes—really visualize your ideal coaching life in your mind—and think through the following:
- How would you spend the majority of your time?
- How would you feel as you progressed through the day?
- What challenges do you currently face in bringing that vision to life?
- Where do you feel stuck in moving forward?
Here's the thing: there's no one right way to choose a goal for yourself. Only you know what your coaching needs and what your heart wants. You can explore coaching standards for ideas, like ISTE's Standards for Coaches or the ILA's levels of coaching activities, but the bottom line is that we're all ready to learn something: we just need to name what it is!
3) Create a plan
Once you've chosen a goal, it's time to create your plan to accomplish it. I like to follow a simple what-where-how plan for my learning. To try this out yourself, take a moment to recreate these questions in your notebook and make a quick plan:
- What do I need to do to reach my goal? Curate a set of resources to support your learning as you might for your teachers. List the resources and materials you’ll need to turn your goal into a reality.
- Where can I find mentors to reach my goal? While we may be in charge of our own learning, that doesn’t mean we have to go it alone. Do a quick search and list the organizations and social media accounts you might follow to bring inspiration your way.
- How will I accomplish the goal I set for myself? Think about your end goal, the product of your accomplishment. Detail the end product, outcome, or deliverable that will signal you’ve accomplished your goal, but be open to new ideas based on where your learning takes you.
Nearly there! Now it's time to plan mini-wins and the checkpoints along your journey.
4) Use checkpoints to measure your progress
Since you're leading your own learning, you'll have to schedule check-points along the way to ensure you're putting your needs first. Plan your goals in weekly increments based on what you want to accomplish and then schedule time on your calendar to achieve those cumulative actions over time.
I like to think of my goals in monthly chunks of time, so I chart out my weekly tasks over four weeks. So, if my goal were to plan more effective and engaging professional development for teachers, I might chart out the following:
- Week 1: Read a few articles on adult learning and best practices around professional development.
- Week 2: Watch a YouTube video on how to create compelling slide show presentations.
- Week 3: Register for a free workshop to learn something new and take notes on what facilitated and hindered my learning.
- Week 4: Create a Google Survey to ask teachers what they most want to explore as their next unit of study.
Make sure to keep track of your learning by noting down what you've learned from your weekly accomplishments.
I know what you're thinking, "Stephanie, that was a lot to take in, but I'm feeling ready and energized to put my plan into action." Or something like that, I hope! 😁
Once you've reached your ultimate goal, take some time to reflect on what aspects of your coaching improved, what you're learning about coaching pedagogy, and how this will impact your future practice. Most importantly, celebrate your well-deserved accomplishments and share them with fellow coaches, as you're sure to inspire others with your personalized goals too.
About our Guest Blogger
Stephanie Affinito is a Staff Associate in the Department of Literacy Teaching and Learning at the University at Albany in New York. She has a deep love of literacy coaching and supporting teachers' learning through technology. Stephanie creates spaces for authentic teacher learning that build expertise, spark professional curiosity, and foster intentional reflection to re-imagine teaching and learning for students.
Additionally, she presents regularly at state and national conferences on literacy coaching, teacher collaboration, and supporting teachers' reading, writing, and learning through innovative technology.
Be sure to check out her recently published book with Heinemann Publishing, Literacy Coaching: Teaching and Learning with Digital Tools and Technology.