This Spring I have been involved in an independent book study based on E. Aguilar’s book, The Art of Coaching Teams (2016). This has been a tremendous resource as I focus on my craft of being a technology integration coach. The book has allowed me to study how to work with teams in a more meaningful way and in a way which welcomes transformation in the classroom. As part of University of Montevallo’s Ed.S. program, we have been asked to reflect on the CoSN Framework (2015) and how that impacts our current role as an education leader. I was struck by the similarities between the Framework and Aguilar’s work. The Framework (2015) outlines ten different indicators. Indicator five focuses on “team building and staffing” (CoSN, 2014, p.8).
I currently have three, kindergarten through fifth grade schools. One of my schools is new to me this year, and as a result, I have spent much time focusing on team building and getting to know the teachers. I asked the literacy and math coach at this school to form a book group to study The Art of Coaching Teams as a way to get to know the coaches but also to learn from their knowledge as they had served this school for many years (Aguilar, 2016). During our book study, we discussed and reflected on one team in particular in order to focus the suggestions and methods Aguilar was recommending. CoSN breaks indicator five down into many different areas, but I will focus on three here as it relates to the work I did with the coaches:
5C - “Manage diverse, cross-functional teams that work and perform well.” (CoSN, 2015, p. 8)
The coaches and I did not create the teams. They were created based on which teachers taught at a grade-level. This grade level, fourth grade, had been working together for varying times. One teacher was a brand new teacher, two teachers were veteran teachers who had taught on this team for several years, and one teacher had recently moved from second grade to fourth grade. Since this team was already established it would be vital for me to know the history. Aguilar recommends reflecting on Indicators of An Effective Team (Aguilar, 2016, p. 6) and Dimensions of a Great Team (Aguilar, 2016, p. 3. Because I was new to this team, I chose to fill this checklist with the coaches to get feedback on where the team has been and where they are wanting to go. It was clear after reflecting on this checklist and talking to the other coaches, I would first have to gain respect from the new team.
5E - “Build an environment of trust through communication and transparency about decisions and how they are made” (CoSN, 2015, p. 8)
My next step would be to gain trust from the fourth grade team as a new member of their learning community. Aguilar describes trust as the confidence we have in another’s character. She goes on to say “character comprises integrity, which includes how honest we are and how aligned our actions are to what we say” (Aguilar, p. 41). I knew it would be important for me to set goals with the team and to be transparent about why those goals were important. The first thing we tried was a coaching cycle with all three instructional coaches and the team. I made sure I told them that I wanted to do some sort of project where we could try a new approach, design thinking. I knew the teachers had new science standards they were anxious about teaching so I used that as a catalyst for our project. I was sure to explain to the team that how we approached this project would be up to them. I introduced a few units that might work for the design thinking process. During our planning time, the coaches and I followed the teachers’ lead but filled in with curriculum knowledge when needed.
Our planning meetings went for several weeks, but the end resulted in a design thinking unit on roller coasters. The teachers had the students create roller coasters from paper while embedding technology tools such as surveys, digital notebooks using Google Slides, and QR codes of videos where the students explained the design cycle.
5H- “Analyze and identify on an ongoing basis individual and team strengths, required areas of growth, and how teams and their members are being deployed and redeployed” (CoSN, 2015, p. 9)
I believe this unit was a success because of the work and focus we did as a team. The teachers felt listened to and respected because we used their strengths as a springboard for the project. Earlier in the year, I had gone into a team meeting with an agenda of teaching a tool I mentioned briefly the meeting before. The team had already taken that tool and used it extensively in the classroom. It was then that I realized I had not honored who this team was; they were self-reliant and took the initiative to adopt a technology tool quickly. They did admit they had a difficult time letting go and being less directive with the students. Because of their honesty and transparency, I was able to decide that the design thinking unit was the perfect fit for their team. The students would be the ones who guided where the project went. Aguilar (2016) says “learning is the primary work of all teams” (p.292). Because the teachers felt their needs were listened to and addressed, their learning was honored. I cannot wait to try this approach again with another team.
Aguilar, E. (2016). The art of coaching teams: building resilient communities that transform schools. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Consortium for School Networking (2015). CoSN's framework of essential skills of the K-12 CTO.
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