When you think about education, instruction, or curriculum, what comes to mind? Is fun and joy part of your perception or goals? Is levity, connection, and celebration part of your curriculum and teaching goals?
If it’s not, you need to listen to Episode 93 of the Time for Teachership podcast. On it, we hear from Chris Chappotin, Assistant Superintendent for Boyd ISD in Texas, and Alisen Adcock, a middle school principal in the same district.
Together we discuss what curriculum design looks like on a three-year plan and how important fun and joy is to the process! We also chatted about developing a culture of coaching for continuous growth and improvement.
Three Years of Change
In his role as an Assistant Superintendent, Chris has to keep an eye out on the big picture, the big goals. And in his district, that revolves around curriculum instruction and coaching. They’re currently in the third year of a plan that centered on creating engaging learning. Specific focus areas included:
- Year 1: Clear and consistent learning standards
- Year 2: Effective assessment that aligned with standards
- Year 3: Meaningful curriculum through instructional best practices
Culture of Coaching
Addressing curriculum is a massive undertaking for any district or school because it requires growth and change. For that reason, a culture of coaching is essential to success.
Instead of a traditional coaching model where some people are the mentors, some the mentees, a culture of coaching involves everyone. Coaching happens across all levels from teachers up to superintendents—it’s not for a select few.
Alisen and Chris spoke to two essential aspects of a culture of coaching:
- Using data-driven, evidence-based coaching in order to achieve results. Specific goals in the “from X to Y by when” format is effective in creating actionable goals.
- Normalizing regular check-ins and observations from leadership. Teachers can initially feel that the principal stepping into their class is a punitive measure. But the more it’s normalized in a culture of coaching—the observation is to support and learn—then it will no longer be seen that way.
Bringing Back Joy and Connection
Underlying anything related to curriculum, coaching, or other aspects of teaching and education is this simple reminder from Chris: this work is about people.
It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day tasks and responsibilities, but education is a relational field. Relationships between educators, students, and leaders should be at the forefront of everything we do.
Two ways to prioritize people and relationships:
- Fun: Though it’s not always a priority for many people, fun is an essential piece of education! It’s a way to connect and engage with each other… and keeps students coming to class. Chris is a big fan of singing, rapping, and dancing down the hallways to bring levity into the school.
- Celebration: Change can feel overwhelming at times—there’s so much we want to do! That’s why Alisen advocates for celebrating the small wins along the way. Take time to acknowledge good things as they happen as a way to encourage further growth and change.
Positive change doesn’t just happen—we all need to work at it. As a next step for any educator seeking to grow or move in a specific direction, schedule time for the change you want to make. If it’s bringing more fun and joy into the class, then determine what you’re going to do and add it to the calendar. If it’s connecting with your coach or mentor, make it a priority.
By prioritizing small steps and changes, we can collectively move towards relationship-centered education, built on a culture of coaching, and infused with joy.
Check out the full conversation with Chris Chappotin and Alisen Adcock on episode 93 of the Time for Teachership podcast. You can also connect with Chris on Twitter and Instagram at @chris_chappotin and Alisen on Twitter at @TexanMath1.
- 9:30 (Chris) “It was not, ‘Oh, my know-it-all teaching friend is coaching me, how great.’ It was, ‘We’re all in this together. This is a culture of coaching. As your teacher-leader coach, I am being coached as well.’”
- 16:40 (Chris) “Whether it’s singing songs, rapping in the hallway, high-fiving kids—just being loud and jovial on purpose to infuse fun and excitement in the school experience. I hope that that also helps folks understand that when we are about the business part, that you can know my heart is in the right place. And my heart is that we’re unified and we’re about continuous improvement and we’re about the kids.”
- 20:00 (Chris) “When I feel stressed or squeezed or low in confidence or low in competence as a leader, I tend to retreat into tasks. Because at least, as it pertains to what I’m responsible for, I can mostly control that. Whereas when I’m in a better place … I find it easier to remember that the work is with and through people.”
- 23:05 (Alisen) “For me, it really goes back to data-driven pieces of leadership. For me, whenever we look at actions to take, what can we celebrate along the way?”