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These KC teachers have professional…
Coaching from BetterLesson unlocks new classroom strategies
May 16, 2018
These KC teachers have professional…
Coaching from BetterLesson unlocks new classroom strategies
May 16, 2018
⏱ 6 min read

Teaching in Kansas City is a great gig. Not only are you shaping the future of the world one student at a time, but you get to do so with incredible mentorship, support and career development opportunities. In this article, we catch up with two Kansas City-area teachers who have made huge strides in the classroom thanks to some bomb one-on-one coaching.

Know any current KC teachers who would benefit from free, personalized coaching? Let them know about BetterLesson's winter coaching (deadline is January 4)! Not yet a teacher? Sign up for Talk to a Teacher for free advice today.

The players?

  • Lauren Michlitsch teaches third grade at University Academy in Kansas City. She is in her third year of teaching and got her start as a TFA Kansas City corps member. 
  • Jessi Anderson, Lauren’s BetterLesson instructional coach, is based in Montana. 
  • Mark Bush is in his second year of teaching high school art at Hogan Preparatory Academy in Kansas City. 
  • Valerie Librizzi, Mark’s coach, lives in New Jersey.

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Though the pairs have never met in person, this group of education buffs meet every other week for thirty minutes over a video conferencing platform to implement new classroom strategies, measure their impact and reflect on their practice.

In addition to virtual meetings, the teachers work collaboratively with coaches to upload “artifacts of practice”—student work samples, classroom videos and written reflections—into BetterLesson’s online professional learning lab.

Personalized coaching

Lauren and Mark are part of a group of Kansas City-area teachers and instructional coaches who want to elevate their teaching practice and improve student outcomes through personalized coaching.

How? By participating in BetterLesson Coaching through a funded opportunity with Kauffman Foundation. When asked why she applied for the opportunity, Lauren explained: 

I chose to participate in BetterLesson because I was interested in refining my practice and intrigued by the idea of individualized support.

Mark said, “As an art teacher, I felt like professional development was geared towards math and English teachers but was not helping me as a teacher.” 

I felt like a personal coach could help me with the problems I faced in the classroom specific to my content. 

When beginning coaching at BetterLesson, Lauren and Mark gave their visions for the classroom:  

Lauren’s vision: To build an engaging classroom community that supports one another and pushes everyone to grow by setting independent goals, meeting high expectations, problem-solving and communicating collaboratively. 

Mark’s vision: To create a better learning environment through consistency of instruction, setting clear boundaries and holding students accountable to my expectations.

Five takeaways for teachers

With these visions in mind, here are the top five things Lauren and Mark gained from working with a BetterLesson coach:

1. Try new classroom strategies with students.

To measure their impact with students, Mark and Lauren are working with their coaches to try out new classroom strategies. 

With Jessi’s help, Lauren created a system for personalized goal-setting with her students and has discovered a pattern of their growth.

Goal-setting has given my students a purpose for what they are doing and a guideline for where they want to go.

"Their goals bring meaning to their everyday work.” The student artifact below shows an example of a goal-setting activity Lauren completed with students and uploaded into her BetterLesson Lab:

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2. Access teaching resources.

The BetterLesson Lab has a curated library of hundreds of classrooms strategies, from ed tech tools to resources about promoting culturally responsive teaching and learning. Mark says, “There are a lot more resources out there than I knew about, and now that I have the proper vocabulary to search for them, it will be a lot easier to find them.” 

I have gained access to a plethora of teaching resources that help me find new ways to lead my class.

With one-on-one coaching in place, Mark could narrow down his resources to find and tailor the right ones for his classroom needs.

3. Develop a culture of learning.

BetterLesson coaching is as much about teaching practice as it is about building up a culture of learning within schools and classrooms. Mark is open with his students about the fact that he’s constantly learning, with the help of his coach. 

“My students like to see that I am still learning, too. The confidence my students have developed in me as their teacher and in themselves as artists has created a safe space in my classroom for students to feel like they can be successful, and the evidence is in their ambitious work and change of attitude.”

4. Promote a "growth mindset."

Both Mark and Lauren have worked to translate their own growth mindsets to their students. 

As a high school art teacher, Mark wants to focus on having students embrace the learning process rather than simply complete art projects for a grade. 

By instilling the ideas of a growth mindset in his students, Mark focuses on distinguishing between the “practice zone” in art class (building skills, making mistakes and failing forward) and the “performance zone” (sharing their best work for a grade). 

Below is an example of a “Do Now” warm-up activity Mark now uses with students to get his class thinking about growth mindset:

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5. Encourage self-guided learning.

One of the benefits of personalized coaching is the ability for educators to drive their own learning based on their individual needs. “Through virtual coaching, I was able to refine my practice in a skill that I chose and was invested in,” says Lauren. “I was provided specific resources to support myself and my students, and was encouraged to increase accountability.”  

Mark adds, “The ability to direct the coaching has been most helpful. When something new comes up in my classroom, we are able to pause less pressing issues and focus on solving the problem at hand.” BetterLesson coaches start with the teacher’s goals and recommend strategies based on the areas of growth in which they’re most interested. Remaining flexible and responsive is key to the process.

Freebies for current—and future—teachers

For current teachers, BetterLesson is partnering with The Kauffman Foundation again for the 2018-19 school year to provide 30 classroom teachers and instructional coaches with a personalized coach. For information about the program and how to apply, check out BetterLesson Coaching. Reach out to Lauren.Latto@betterlesson.com if you have any questions.

For those still considering teaching as a career, check out Talk to a Teacher, TEACH Kansas City’s free program that connects you with an educator in the field to ask any question you have about the profession—from assessing your career options to getting certified.

Contributors: Valerie Librizzi, Jessi Anderson, Mark Bush and Lauren Michlitsch