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Reflections on teaching, literacy, coaching, and practice.

11.04.20Welcoming Darryl Williams, Our New Co-Managing Director

We’ve been sitting on some pretty exciting news for the past few weeks here at TLAC Towers. The amazing and incredible Darryl Williams has become my Co-Managing Director on the Teach Like a Champion Team, and he and I will lead the organization together going forward.

Honestly, I couldn’t be more excited. Over the past four years I’ve come to rely deeply on Darryl’s insight and wisdom on almost every topic. He’s a true partner and this change merely formalizes that. (I know that Erica Woolway who continues as the most outstanding of Chief Academic Officers agrees).

Among other things Darryl leads our leadership and school consulting work, where we work directly with schools to identify their learning goals and use a variety of tools to help achieve them. Under Darryl’s leadership this part of our work is growing rapidly and his experience leading schools in a wide variety of settings and special talent for helping schools understand themselves and see concrete steps on the path forward has led to rave reviews. Pretty much everyone who works with him is clamoring for more.

His becoming co-managing Director is in part a reflection of the rising importance of that work–the transformation he’s brought about in the schools he works with, the rates at which we learn from those relationships and funnel that wisdom back into our other work, etc. As a result it’s our intention to expand that work and for the rest of this blog post I’m going to let Darryl introduce himself a bit more and talk about the work we’ve been doing and hope to do more of.

-Doug

Darryl Williams

I’m grateful for the opportunity to co-lead our amazing team of trainers, analysts, content developers, curriculum writers. Sharing all that we’re learning from leaders and teachers across the world has never felt more important, so we’re excited that our growth allows us to expand the number of partnerships we can offer.

Before I offer a bit more about our expanded initiatives, I wanted to share a bit of framing for why we continue to be inspired to study the most important work in the world – teaching!

We study teaching because we believe that it is the foundation of a more just, equitable, and inclusive society. Our goal has always been to support schools in making their classrooms radically better for students, especially for children in communities where a lack of access to exceptional teachers and quality curriculum continues to widen opportunity gaps. We also recognize that the current school year may well prove to be the most consequential for a generation of students who’ve had their learning disrupted by the Coronavirus pandemic. In light of these facts, our resolve to study teaching and share our learning with the broader education community has never been greater.

In our current partnerships, we have the honor of working alongside some of the country’s most talented educators, helping them study how the ideas, practices and approaches they’ve prioritized are being implemented within their respective organizations. While TLAC techniques, our love of Practice (outlined in Practice Perfect), our Reading Reconsidered Curriculum and trainings, and now our work on remote learning are some of the tools we use to help schools achieve success, our partnership work isn’t so much about helping schools get better at implementing TLAC as it is about helping them identify and achieve their educational vision and goals.  We help them find and replicate bright spots, address areas of opportunity, and strengthen existing capacity to impact learning. It is through this work that we better understand how our techniques, content and resources support schools in delivering on the promise they make to families.

With that in mind, here are some of the initiatives, tailored to an online world, that we’re excited to offer schools that are inspired to become the best version of themselves.

Virtual Collaboratives:

At the conclusion of our workshops, or more recently, after our online webinars, we’re often asked, “What kind of follow-up support are you providing to schools?” One of the primary ways we support schools and organizations is through our virtual collaboratives. We believe in the power of connecting leadership talent within and across organizations to facilitate learning, promote the sharing of best practices and to help find solutions for common areas of opportunity. Our current Memphis collaborative, for instance, has brought instructional leaders across eight different schools and networks together to study how to improve student engagement across their classrooms and develop their teachers’ capacity to effectively Check for Understanding within a lesson. Our thoughts and ideas about remote teaching (https://teachlikeachampion.com/blog/darryl-williams-framework-for-online-lessons/) and the importance of planning Means of Participation (https://teachlikeachampion.com/blog/how-memphis-rise-helps-teachers-build-vibrant-online-culture/) are directly shaped by the insights and experiences of leaders within the collaborative. More importantly, the collaborative provides a venue for humble, smart and like-minded leaders to study and inform each other’s work on behalf of their students and families.

In a virtual collaborative, we typically meet 2-4 times in the Fall and another 2-4 times in the Spring. Each school or organization provides framing/context for their strategic priorities and any additional data/information that helps the collaborative better understand their needs and how we might spend our time supporting their efforts. We then spend several sessions helping schools study their progress towards their strategic priorities by analyzing lesson plans, studying student work, observing classroom instruction and reviewing coaching/lesson preparation meetings. The sessions conclude with a planning meeting so the host school has a clear plan of action to implement and participating schools can capture ideas and insights they plan to take back with them to their respective campuses/organizations.  Again, what leaders find most impactful about this work, is that it’s grounded in their individual needs and informed by practitioners who are aligned in their efforts to provide students the exceptional education they deserve.

The Facilitator Preparation Cycle: A Train the Trainer Program for Online Teaching

Evidence on professional development suggests that teacher training works best when embedded in the culture and systems of a school or network. There, it can be fostered by an intentional and supportive culture, connected to systems of observation and feedback, and extended by further professional development.

The purpose of the Facilitator Preparation Cycle is to increase the quality of online teaching in large districts and organizations by preparing a select group of trainers to deliver, adapt and support the Teach Like Champion Team’s online workshop content within their own schools and networks.

The Teach Like Champion online workshop content uses video of online classrooms to help teachers:

  1. Master six Means of Participation–inclusive and engaging procedures that ensure active student participation and dynamic online classes.
  2. Understand and unlock synergies between synchronous and asynchronous modes of instruction.

Over the course of the training cycle, facilitators will work alongside Teach Like a Champion team members studying webinar content, reflecting on critical facilitation moves, practicing facilitation of the webinar, and preparing ongoing support for their district/organization.

At the conclusion of this experience, facilitators will be licensed to facilitate trainings within their respective organizations using content and video from our online workshop.  

Video Infrastructure Support

Studying video of teaching and leadership is the core of what we do. Organizations have access to more video now than ever, so we’re looking forward to helping them build a video infrastructure that allows for capturing, storing and disseminating footage for the purpose of accelerating talent development across the organization.

One of the primary barriers to using video to drive development is a simple, but often overlooked challenge – logistics for access and dissemination. Even when video has been captured, it typically gets lost in a sea of folders or, even more characteristically, the video gets stored but isn’t easily identifiable because there are no standard naming conventions for the footage. For partners seeking to use video as a tool to drive talent development, we help secure reliable cloud storage for recorded online lessons, coaching clips, and other video they’d like archive for future use. Additionally, our team works with partners to build video folders and albums designed to maximize ease of use and accessibility, so you know where to find clips for use in your coaching conversations or PD sessions.

A custom Vimeo site designed to track important video data, organized in groups and albums to maximize efficient access and use.

Over the years, we’ve learned that leveraging video for talent development requires an efficient system for coding, storing, and accessing video. As part of our support, we create customized coding that tracks the most important attributes for all your videos, tracking up to 20 important demographic data fields about recorded lessons and video clips. For instructional leaders planning professional development or teacher leaders looking for a “bright spot” clip to share at their upcoming PLC, locating and sharing those clips must be a practical and efficient endeavor.

Custom tools for tracking all of your raw video and final video clips. Proper tracking of video is the first step in using it to drive change in your organization.

At the request of partners, our team will create high quality versions of all clips approved for training, coaching and the sharing of best practices (“bright spots”). This process will include the creation of title screens, captions, transitions, and other video enhancements. All approved clips will be coded with specific information and added to the Clip List for partners with links to the videos on Vimeo or the specified storage platform.

Our video editors have creatively enhanced hundreds of videos. In the example above, we captured a teacher’s work in Nearpod and spliced it into the recorded lesson to provide a better experience for the viewer.

Video Study

As part of our existing partnerships, we offer a series of Video Review Meetings (VRMs) that help schools/organizations study bright spots so they can understand the conditions that allow them to exist. This is demonstrated in our partnership work in Memphis where our study of teachers like Jasmine Howard (https://teachlikeachampion.com/blog/freedom-preps-jasmine-howard-checks-understanding/) helped her network replicate practices that she routinely used to achieve amazing results with her students. Now, all teachers within their secondary Math departments can study and replicate these effective practices with video examples to guide their implementation. And the benefit to us – we learn a little bit more about how techniques like Check for Understanding are used and adapted in high performing classrooms like Jasmine’s!

We’ve supported partners in using video study for a variety of purposes: to calibrate on instructional priorities; plan feedback for teachers; prepare clips for professional development or practice labs; diagnose areas of opportunity and to develop the capacity of emerging leaders within an organization. We hope to share what we’ve learned about studying teaching and learning via video alongside new partners who are seeking to accelerate their progress towards on key initiatives and priorities.

We believe this work with schools using our combined insights to build “radically better” schools is powerful and are excited to announced an increased capacity to work with schools this year. If you’d like to learn more about our virtual collaboratives or supports for video study, please contact tlac@uncommonschools.org.

In the meantime I’m grateful for the opportunity to co-lead our amazing team of trainers, analysts, content developers, curriculum writers. Sharing all that we’re learning from leaders and teachers across the world has never felt more important, so we’re excited that our growth allows us to expand the number of partnerships we can offer.

Thanks for all your well-wishes as I step into my new, senior role on the TLAC Team.

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