Life as an Instructional Coach in a high school with approximately 50 classroom teachers is hectic! Sooooooo how do I keep up with classroom visits, meetings, coaching sessions with teachers, and all the zillions of things that happen during a typical school day?
Many people have asked me this question and, before this school year, I haven’t had a very good answer 🙂 I, like most educators, frequently found myself drowning in stacks of papers, notes from meetings, and manilla file folders that all look the same. Not so this year! My mission over the summer was to find a system of organisation that worked with my crazy schedule but still allowed me the freedom to pop in and out of classrooms without having to drag an iPad, laptop, or notebook with me. Thankfully, I have found that Evernote is something that, so far, is meeting my needs nicely.
I love the fact that I can access it on the web, my iPad, as well as through an app on my phone…. and it automatically updates! Now, I don’t have to carry anything other than the iPhone (that is permanently attached to my person anyway 🙂 )
Not only can I take notes on my classroom visits, I can also upload pictures, even documents by using my phone as a document camera. No more papers to lose! *insert Hallelujah chorus here* The cherry on top of this is… you can annotate on them and the pictures and documents are searchable. How cool is that?!?
As an Instructional Coach, it really makes my day so much more productive!! I can actually enjoy my classroom visits without feeling like the class (and teacher) are staring at me whenever I jot something down on a notepad or type something in on my iPad. I’m only there to visit, not evaluate and I feel like not having to carry something in my hands (besides my phone) really keeps my presence “non-threatening”. Another cool aspect of using Evernote is that I can immediately email my notes to the classroom teacher if they want them. Talk about a wonderful tool for the teacher! They can view their lesson through the eyes of an impartial person or, if I am in there helping the teacher with something specific, they can read my feedback in “real time” as I watched it unfold in the classroom. Here is a screenshot of one of my actual notes from yesterday. I emailed it to the teacher right after class and she used it to write a blog post about her lesson yesterday (I’m so proud of her!) .
Another use I have discovered that enhances my job as an Instructional Coach is that my Principal and I can share notebooks. I am fortunate that I have a Principal that is very committed to changing the culture of our school to enhance instruction. Because of this, we are working within a Professional Learning Team of 13 teachers in which we are developing a “One Page Target” for our school. This is not an easy, or swift, process but we know the time we invest identifying the vision for the way students learn, as well as the way teachers teach, will create a more effective school in the end. So, we try to visit at least 2 classrooms per day and just observe the teaching/ learning process. This is NEVER an evaluation….it’s only a snapshot of a classroom on a given day. No judgements, not ever. This is our personal pact. We record what we see, take photos of things that are cool, and our notebooks are updated automatically. It also keeps us on track with visiting every classroom, and not just some of them. I really love it!
The setup was simple… I simply created a “notebook” in Evernote for every teacher in our school. Then, I created a “stack” called Classroom Visits. I shared the notebooks with my Principal (just a note- you have to share each notebook individually, it won’t let you just share the whole stack at once 😦 ) Here’s what mine looks like:
The only notebooks that my Principal can see are those under the “Classroom Visits” stack (If you were to click the “down” arrow, the list would expand into a notebook for every faculty member but it’s too long to show here). All of my other notebooks, like the “Instructional Coaching” one, are private and only visible to me. You can also use a stylus to handwrite notes in the Penultimate app and it will save to Evernote, but I haven’t tried that yet.
So far, I’m loving the convenience of using Evernote in my job as an Instructional Coach. I am hoping it will help me tame the tornado of papers I am always in the midst of 🙂 Probably my favourite thing is that I feel I am received much better into teachers’ classrooms because I’m not carrying an iPad or clipboard. 🙂