Tag Archives: ASCD

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Three Growth Mindset Lessons from My Journey as an Instructional Coach

The following post was my share about growth mindset as an ASCD Leader at ASCD L2L in Arlington, VA on July 23rd, 2015.

I am Kenny McKee, and I am a 2014 ASCD Emerging Leader. I want to share 3 lessons I’ve learned on my  growth mindset journey from when I shifted from being a classroom teacher to a high school literacy coach in my district. I hope that regardless of your position, that these leadership lessons will resonate with you.

Lesson 1:  You can’t do it alone.

Before the instructional coaching program in my district expanded, little progress in literacy had occurred at the high school level. Although I had success in my classroom, influencing instructional change at such a vast  level intimidated me.  My first “a-ha” was I couldn’t do it alone, which as someone who occasionally suffers from “perfectionism” was very hard. I reached out to others in my position, scoured professional literature, and found an amazing online community of coaches on Twitter.   I learned that I must  truly partner with teachers because the top-down approach our district had used in the past had made little impact. And in that process, I learned from the teachers I worked with as well.  If you are open to learning from everyone you work with, I believe that you’ll find that there are many people who will go on the growth journey with you. And you need them.

Lesson 2. The rhetoric of “best practices” can stifle growth.

The approach to literacy our district had used before emphasized a fixed “right way”  that was actually holding back progress. The content-area teachers had vast, and often untapped, knowledge of how experts read, write, and think in their disciplines. Rather than the prescriptive “one-size-fits-all” approach previously dictated to teachers, we focused on what mattered most, students’ learning, and that led to subtle shifts in culture and instruction. School-based, cross-content literacy teams began to influence both what forms of instruction would impact all disciplines and how literacy looked different in math, English, history, and the other domains.You see, I think that sometimes the phrase “Best Practice” can become the epitome of a fixed mindset, as it implies that things cannot get better. It also implies that what is best is the same for all students, subjects, and classroom contexts is the same which is simply not true. Focus on “better” to continually improve — not “best”.

11800158_10207057608060066_8002370731518309674_n (Photo Credit: Thanks to 2015 ASCD Emerging Leader, Michael Matera (@mrmatera), for the great photo.)

Lesson 3. Change can’t occur without conflict.

Those literacy teams’  ideas  and new district leadership collaborated to create an instructional framework that asked that students read, write, move, speak, and think in each class every day. The framework would empower teachers with the autonomy in how those activities would happen.  This work was not easy. Some teachers did not want to take up the challenge of diversifying their instruction — even if they had control over how they would do it. I had been rather naive, believing that my politeness, professionalism, and a supportive stance would avert all conflict. Because of that anger, I had to personally grow by finding ways to  become more resilient and navigating conflicts that emerged.  I have learned that any time your position yourself as a leader, whether formally or informally, you are inviting conflict, and sometimes that can result in greater solitude. So, it’s important to effectively communicate with all stakeholders, especially the naysayers.  If you do, you’ll find that there are many people willing to take the journey with you.

Blogging for ASCD

If my blog has seemed a little quiet lately, I have been contributing some posts for ASCD as part of my involvement in their Emerging Leaders program. As part of our program, each Emerging Leader participates in a coaching cohort around a specific topic. I am participating in the Writing for ASCD group. I’m really excited about having this opportunity to grow as a writer.

I have written three pieces for ASCD recently.

My first blog post was written on ASCD EDge, a social network for members. If you are interested in writing a blog post with ASCD, any educator can join EDge.  I tied my post to the Educational Leadership theme for September, “Motivation Matters.”  So far, “Four Reading Motivators for Teenage Boys” has been my most viewed blog post yet!  If you want to share your ideas with other people, ASCD EDge has great potential for reaching a wide audience.

I also had the opportunity to write for the Eight Questions series. ASCD asks each Emerging Leader to answer the same questions in order for members of the ASCD community to learn about our experiences and stances on education. Check out “Eight Questions for Emerging Leader Kenneth McKee.”

ASCD is leading the Educator Professional Development and Learning theme for Connected Educators month, and I was fortunate enough to be able to write a post for the ASCD In Service blog on PLCs. My post, “In it for the Long Haul: Four Strategies for Beginning a Virtual PLC,” explores how educators can establish sustained virtual groups who will help them grow professionally and meet the needs of students.

I will continue to update occasionally to share what I am writing for ASCD, in addition to all of the topics I regularly explore here on my blog.

Please let me know what you think of my posts. Also, please leave links for any blogs that you’ve written that you’d like to share. I learn so much from reading other people’s blogs, and I’m always looking for new ones.

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The Day I Became an ASCD Emerging Leader

It was Friday, May 16th.

That day, I was demonstrating close reading strategies I learned from the professional book Falling in Love with Close Reading. The teacher and I specifically created lessons on how to read closely for word choice. We introduced the lesson using a popular 2013 Super Bowl commercial and an article about the Nigerian girls who had recently been kidnapped. Overall, the lesson went well, but we struggled with keeping all of the students engaged. It was “Prom Day” — anyone who has taught high school knows exactly what that energy is like. After reflecting on the lesson together, I went back to to the media center (my “office” at each of my schools), debriefed with the media specialist on the Tech Bytes training we offered on the previous day, and I began checking my e-mail.

I saw an e-mail from ASCD.

Here is the funny part. You know how you sometimes just skim an e-mail when you are rushing through things. That is exactly what I did (bad literacy coach, I know!). I thought it said that I wasn’t chosen. I had applied the year before, and I did not get selected then. I closed the e-mail (but, thankfully, did not delete it.)

Later on, I re-opened it to get a better sense of its contents. That is when I saw the word Congratulations! I literally jumped out of my seat. I hugged my friend, the media specialist, and when, she asked me why, I told her that I had just received fantastic news (ASCD asked us to keep our selections confidential until the official ASCD press release). If you are unfamiliar with the ASCD Emerging Leaders program, you can learn more about it here.

It all happened on a normal day.

For the next several minutes I thought about what a great opportunity was ahead of me. I will be attending the ASCD L2L (Leader to Leader) conference later this month. I am most excited about the opportunities I will have to network with ASCD leaders, including the 2014 Class of ASCD Emerging Leaders. Already several former and new ASCD Emerging Leaders have contacted me. In my mind, I keep envisioning a “Community of 45.” Lately, I’ve been listening to the ASCD Whole Child Podcast, and I have heard frequent host Sean Slade discussing the concept of the classroom as a “Community of 30,” meaning that all students have a voice and important role in the learning in the community. I hope that each member of our 2014 Emerging Leaders group will share his or her voice, knowledge, and skills to contribute to the enhancement of our group as whole. I believe that together we are better.

So, back to the day that I became an ASCD Emerging Leader.

Did I go into the next class even better, knowing that I was an “ASCD Emerging Leader”? Well, let’s just say the last class of the day on “Prom Day” is no one’s shining moment. However, lots of learning occurred. My colleague and I probably learned more than that particular group of students.  But, we planned together for how to move learning forward on Monday.  We implemented new strategies  to foster student accountability, and we selected new engaging narrative texts based upon students’ feedback.

You see, I believe collaboration is the key to getting better, and I can’t wait to collaborate with the team of Emerging Leaders when I get to ASCD L2L.