My work as an educator informs every aspect of my coaching role in RPIA. Being on the content development side, I review teachers’ Monthly Culture Plans, and read the aligned theories of action through the lens of a classroom educator. I’m inspired by RPIA teachers who have developed creative strategies that restore their students’ empowerment, ownership, and/or voice; the most powerful plans are those I can visualize in practice as I read them. Creating Sparkbook Pages from teachers’ plans is not only a way of celebrating their incredible work, it is also a way to make their ideas accessible for other teachers (like myself!) who are eager to find meaningful and realistic strategies to empower our students as leaders.
What excited me most about taking on this role was the opportunity to be creative; I enjoy designing materials, from unit plans to student handouts. My colleagues throughout the years have praised the functionality and aesthetic appeal of my presentations and classroom materials, and I’ve gladly shared them to use as a template. Working as an RPIA Content Coach has given me the space to design materials that “connect the dots” –as RPIA Philly teacher Michael Poggioli has stated– that contextualize teachers’ ideas for implementation in their classrooms.
Michael and I work together as English Language Arts teachers at Memphis Street Academy, and at the beginning of our RPIA teacher-coach partnership we collaborated for my very first Sparkbook page, “Strengths-Based Scoring.” He shared his ideas with me during our November session as he developed his first Monthly Culture Plan, and being familiar with the same question of how to allow students to share their understanding in more unconventional ways, I jumped on the opportunity to collaborate with him. Maintaining control of our environments is both a strength and a hurdle for educators, and Michael was looking to relinquish control of how his students demonstrated mastery of the content in more low-stakes assignments like homework and exit tickets. From that, we created the strategy of offering students a rubric that scored their application of the material and/or skills using art or poetry, rather than the standard paragraph response.
The idea for the Sparkbook Strategy Index was inspired by my work as an educator. I thought about what I would find most useful while working on beginning of year plans, or in a mid-year slump with a particular class, and the answer was a resource that would provide at-a-glance information about each strategy based on key points (aligned theory of action, student grouping, preparation needed). This is also what inspires me as I create templates for strategies in the Sparkbook Pages I’ve developed; I know some teachers really appreciate that visual example to use and adapt to meet their needs!
Lastly, I’ve enjoyed collaborating with RPIA teachers in both the Philly monthly sessions as well as those I’ve connected with in other cohorts via email. Hearing from them both validates their experiences and my own, as I’m able to empathize with them while also facilitating their discovery of new strategies that restore student voice, ownership, and empowerment. One of our shared commitments as a cohort was to “be student-centered” and it was especially important for me to honor that commitment when planning facilitative questions in our sessions. Being an educator has made me a better coach, but more importantly, being a coach has made me a better educator.