books, tech, lessons from a librarian

Category: 6. Content knowledge and professional growth

Peer Coaching: Lessons from Business Leaders

Lessons From Business Leaders: What can educators learn from the private sector about a sustainable peer coaching model?

robert louis stevenson quoteThroughout these past three months I’ve been exploring and practicing the peer coaching model. My professor, Les Foltos, literally wrote the book on the topic. His book, Peer Coaching: Unlocking the Power of Collaboration (http://amzn.to/2g7WiW7) is a valuable introduction and instruction manual for implementing peer coaching on an individual and school-wide basis. All quarter long I’ve alternated between a sense of overwhelming encouragement and challenge as I’ve worked to implement the peer coaching model into my efforts with teachers and fellow librarians in my district, and I’ve personally struggled with doubts through these initial efforts. Is it worth the effort? Am I truly acting as a peer coach or am I falling into comfortable habits of enabling learned helplessness when it comes to technology integration in my colleagues’ teaching? And can I truly succeed in my efforts and sustain true peer coaching relationships with colleagues? Perhaps more importantly, can I extend and sustain the peer coaching model beyond my classroom walls?

My wife works for an aerospace company as a first line manager and often serves as a sounding board when I’m struggling with a concept or issue at work or when I’m just exploring ideas that are new to me. Her undergraduate degree was in elementary education, though she has spent nearly two decades in the business world so our conversations often bridge between the two worlds. I never cease to be amazed at how similar our worlds are (unfortunate salary disparity withstanding) and we often find answers across the divide of public and private sector. With that in mind, I spent the past few weeks exploring the concepts of peer coaching in the world of business with the hope of discovering practical and sustainable practices for maintaining system-wide peer coaching success. What I found was that strong leadership and shared vision are crucial elements to sustained peer coaching success, in business and in education alike, though the idea of a “strong” leader is often misunderstood and “sustainable” is highly dependent on individuals.

Every year Bill Gates commits to reading roughly one book a week. As a librarian, I can’t speak highly enough about how much I value real-world examples of lifelong readers like the Microsoft co-founder. For the past five years Mr. Gates has put out a twice-yearly “Best Books List” (https://www.gatesnotes.com/Books#All). This year’s list was announced yesterday and I was struck by his words regarding one of the books, The Myth of the Strong Leader by Archie Brown.

bill gates quote on leadershipGates: “Brown’s core argument is exactly what his title suggests: despite a worldwide fixation on strength as a positive quality, strong leaders—those who concentrate power and decision-making in their own hands—are not necessarily good leaders. On the contrary, Brown argues that the leaders who make the biggest difference in office, and change millions of lives for the better, are the ones who collaborate, delegate, and negotiate—the ones who recognize that no one person can or should have all the answers.” (Gates, 2016)  

Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman explored a similar idea in their research and shared their findings in the Harvard Business Review article “People Who Think They’re Great Coaches Often Aren’t”. They looked at nearly 4000 business leaders who self-identified as “coaches” and who were willing to self-assess and be openly assessed by their peers. What they found was 24% of coaches had a blind spot when it came to their coaching abilities. They saw themselves as successful, though their level of coaching success was in the bottom third of the rankings. In summary: “if you think you’re a good coach but you actually aren’t, this data suggests you may be a good deal worse than you imagined.” (Zenger and Folkman, 2016)

perception vs reality business leadership characteristics

The common thread that arose again and again was the idea of servant leadership. A timeless concept through relatively uncommon in leadership circles in the Western world, both in education and business alike. “Servant leadership is both a leadership philosophy and set of leadership practices. Traditional leadership generally involves the accumulation and exercise of power by one at the ‘top of the pyramid.’ By comparison, the servant-leader shares power, puts the needs of others first and helps people develop and perform as highly as possible.” Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Servant_leadership

Robert Greenleaf popularized the term “servant leadership” in his 1970 essay, “The Servant as Leader,” and he went on to found what is now the Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership https://www.greenleaf.org/. His work was instrumental in bringing the seemingly oxymoronic idea of a servant leader into the world of business management.

servant leadership guiding principles Bill Gates is often cited as an example of a successful servant leader, both in his time as founder and CEO of Microsoft and subsequently his charitable work with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Howard Schultz, Chairman and CEO of Starbucks, has often shared about the value he places in servant leadership (New York Times 2015 Op-Ed). In announcing his upcoming retirement this week, Schultz shared the timing was right because of my confidence in the strategy, my confidence in the team, and my deep deep respect for Kevin Johnson as a servant leader.”

So what does all of this mean for educators? What lessons can we take from the business world? There is no shortcut to a sustained and successful peer coaching system-wide model. It takes great effort. Be patient. Our efforts today may not come to fruition until far down the road. Small steps now set the path for colleagues to follow. It’s a continual process of honest self-reflection and improvement. Open communication can remove many of the roadblocks to successful peer coaching relationships. Remember the coaches who self-assessed themselves as “great”… If you think you have all of the answers, you don’t.  And it requires strong leadership. Foltos writes: “Changing a school’s culture is something that coaches cannot do on their own…  The school needs formal leaders that are committed to defining and implementing a culture of collaboration focused on continuous improvement of teaching and learning.” (Foltos, 2013, pg. 180).  So there is no silver bullet, but the world of business can provide excellent real-world examples of the value of coaching and collaboration.


Gates, B. (2016, December 5). What makes a great leader? Retrieved from https://www.gatesnotes.com/Books/The-Myth-of-the-Strong-Leader

Crippen, C. (2010). Serve, teach, and lead: It’s all about relationships. InSight: A Journal of Scholarly Teaching, 5, 27-36. Retrieved from http://insightjournal.park.edu/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/2-Serve-Teach-and-Lead-Its-All-About-Relationships.pdf ERIC Number: EJ902861

Foltos, L. (2015, February). Principals boost coaching’s impact. JSD | The Learning Forward Journal, 36(1), 48-51,61. Retrieved from https://learningforward.org/docs/default-source/jsd-february-2015/principals-boost-coaching’s-impact.pdf

Foltos, L. (2013). Sustaining coaching and building capacity. In Peer coaching: Unlocking the power of collaboration.

Friedman, S. (2010, February 23). Honing your skills as a peer coach | Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2010/02/honing-your-skills-as-a-peer-c

Friedman, S. (2015, March 13). How to get your team to coach each other | Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2015/03/how-to-get-your-team-to-coach-each-other.html

Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership. (n.d.). What is servant leadership? Retrieved from https://www.greenleaf.org/what-is-servant-leadership/#

Heskett, J. (2013, May 1). Why isn’t servant leadership more prevalent? Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/hbsworkingknowledge/2013/05/01/why-isnt-servant-leadership-more-prevalent/#314983f94c36

Jewett, P., & MacPhee, D. (2012). Adding Collaborative Peer Coaching to Our Teaching Identities. The Reading Teacher, 66(2), 105-110. doi:10.1002/trtr.01089

Kanter, R. M. (2009, August 12). Change is hardest in the middle | Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2009/08/change-is-hardest-in-the-middl

Mashihi, S., & Nowack, K. (2012, July 17). Clueless part 1: Three necessary conditions for initiating and sustaining successful behavior change. Retrieved from https://www.td.org/Publications/Blogs/Learning-Executive-Blog/2012/07/Clueless-Part-1

Morgan, H. (n.d.). Howard J. Morgan resources. Retrieved from http://www.howardjmorgan.com/coaching.html

Schultz, H. (2015, August 6). Howard Schultz: America deserves a servant leader – The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/06/opinion/america-deserves-a-servant-leader.html

Spears, L. (n.d.). Ten principles of servant leadership | Butler.edu. Retrieved from https://www.butler.edu/volunteer/resources/ten-principles-servant-leadership

Zenger, J., & Folkman, J. (2016, June 23). People who think they’re great coaches often aren’t | Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2016/06/people-who-think-theyre-great-coaches-often-arent

ISTE-Coaching Standards


Standard 2: Teaching, Learning, and Assessment

  1. Coach teachers in and model incorporation of research-based best practices in instructional design when planning technology-enhanced learning experiences

Standard 6: Content Knowledge and Professional Growth

  1. Engage in continuous learning to deepen professional knowledge, skills, and dispositions in organizational change and leadership, project management, and adult learning to improve professional practice
  2. Regularly evaluate and reflect on their professional practice and dispositions to improve and strengthen their ability to effectively model and facilitate technology-enhanced learning experiences

Professional Development: Small Steps & Giant Leaps

space craft

Spaceship: image by Justin Haney

NASA and Mars Exploration

On July 20, 2016, US scientists celebrated the 40th anniversary of reaching the surface of Mars with Viking I.  Forty years later, a new generation of scientists and engineers are up to their elbows in development and planning for an even bigger vision.  NASA has plans to have astronauts orbiting Mars by 2033, with a further goal of astronaut boots on the ground by the end of the 2030s.  In seventeen years, I may be able to turn on my VR device and see what astronauts are seeing when they take those first steps on the Red Planet. In less than twenty years, scientists will (hopefully) have taken the necessary steps to ensure safe passage for humans on a 225 million km voyage.  By the time my kids have graduated from college, astronauts will be be playing Pokemon GO on Mars.  And all because of a mix of careful planning, a willingness to fail, and taking first steps…

Educators & Professional Development: Disconnected

As educators, we know there is hard work to be done if we want our teaching to help our students today and tomorrow reach further heights than ever before.  Like those early NASA scientists, our future success will depend on our work today.  There is a profound need for professional development for the K-12 librarians in my school district, and especially at the K-5 level, as many of our elementary librarians have not pursued a library media endorsement for their teaching certificate.  So how can we improve the quality of our teaching?  What form(s) of professional development will work for a district-wide K-12 librarian team? Is there a particular model of staff learning and instruction that will be effective, sustainable, and promote collaboration?  Teachers are encouraged to be lifelong learners.  Professional development can take on many different forms.  Traditionally the model for many librarians has been to attend whatever trainings are taking place for classroom teachers. In the recent past we’ve successfully lobbied for librarian-specific offerings, but those in-service days are so few and far between that, by necessity, often those sessions act as a general “catch-up” time.  

My goal for this year is to help with the development and implementation of a sustainable and effective K-12 library professional development model for our district’s librarians.  So what does that mean? What would that look like?  First, let’s take a look at what’s not working…


chart retrieved from page 5 of “Teachers Know Best” report at http://www.teachersknowbest.org/  (Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation)

Karen Johnson distills from the Gates Foundation’s findings five things that educators are searching for in their professional development.  “Death by PowerPoint” is all-too-real for many teachers.  Instead, we’re longing for “professional learning opportunities that are: 1) Relevant; 2) Interactive; 3) Delivered by someone who understands their experience; 4) Sustained over time; and 5) Treats teachers like professionals.” (Johnson, 2016) https://www.edsurge.com/news/2016-06-28-5-things-teachers-want-from-pd-and-how-coaching-and-collaboration-can-deliver-them-if-implementation-improves

Professional Development: Path to Success

Think about it…  What if early NASA scientists had sat idly by, watching other countries take the lead…? If they had opted out of exploration and innovation because the risks were too great…?  If they had chosen to stay within their comfort zone and not test the limits of physics and engineering…?  Our astronauts would be like landlocked tourists, crossing the country in RVs with nerdy science bumper stickers, rather than taking those first amazingly red and dusty steps millions of miles away.  A leap of faith is required before we can achieve our goals.  As of yet, there is not a Star Trek transporter that allows for near-instantaneous travel between two ports.  If we want to explore new and distant worlds, we’ve got to do the hard work to get there.  We’ve got to plan, test, collect data, revise, collaborate, innovate.

And so it is for the team of fellow teacher-librarians in my district.  If we want to achieve great things with our teaching, and we want our students and staff to reach even further, it’s time to take the first small steps towards changing our professional development model.  This year I’m committing and looking forward to exploring the development of a librarian-focused EdCamp in the Pacific Northwest region.  I know that organizing and hosting an EdCamp won’t fill all of the gaps in our professional development needs.  Thinking back to NASA’s Mars vision, they didn’t just strap a few astronauts into a rocket and hope for the best.  Instead scientists started with small unmanned probes, monitored, evaluated, adapted.  They collaborated.  They created.  And they’re not satisfied with what they’ve achieved.  I strongly feel that a librarian-focused EdCamp could be an important piece of the professional development puzzle for myself and my teacher-librarian colleagues for years to come, and I’m excited to start this journey.  A few small steps, and then a giant leap into EdCamps!

So What’s an EdCamp?

Kristen Swanson, one of the founders of the EdCamp movement, summarizes the format of the unconference model, a model that is growing exponentially in popularity with educators throughout the nation and beyond.

An EdCamp is…

  • Free: Edcamps should be free to all attendees. This helps ensure that all different types of teachers and educational stakeholders can attend.
  • Non-commercial and with a vendor-free presence: Edcamps should be about learning, not selling. Educators should feel free to express their ideas without being swayed or influenced by sales pitches for educational books or technology.
  • Hosted by any organization or individual: Anyone should be able to host an Edcamp. School districts, educational stakeholders and teams of teachers can host Edcamps.
  • Made up of sessions that are determined on the day of the event: Edcamps should not have pre-scheduled presentations. During the morning of the event, the schedule should be created in conjunction with everyone there. Sessions will be spontaneous, interactive and responsive to participants’ needs.
  • Events where anyone who attends can be a presenter: Anyone who attends an Edcamp should be eligible to present. All teachers and educational stakeholders are professionals worthy of sharing their expertise in a collaborative setting.
  • Reliant on the “law of two feet” which encourages participants to find a session that meets their needs: As anyone can host a session, it is critical that participants are encouraged to actively self-select the best content and sessions. Edcampers should leave sessions that do not meet their needs. This provides a uniquely effective way of “weeding out” sessions that are not based on appropriate research or not delivered in an engaging format.  (Swanson, 2016) http://www.edutopia.org/blog/why-edcamp-kristen-swanson

EdCamps: More Information

The best way to learn more about EdCamps is to attend one.  Here are three upcoming Pacific Northwest EdCamp events that I would encourage you to attend, as well as a link to the national EdCamp Foundation website for even more information.

Tech EdCamp Wenatchee (Wenatchee, WA) 8/16/16  https://sites.google.com/a/wenatcheeschools.org/techedcamp/

EdCamp Lake Stevens (Lake Stevens, WA) 8/25/16  https://sites.google.com/a/lkstevens.wednet.edu/edcamplssd/home

EdCamp Edmonds (Edmonds, WA) 11/19/16  https://sites.google.com/a/edmonds.wednet.edu/edcampedmonds/website-builder

Further EdCamp information:  http://www.edcamp.org/

List of Resources (for further information on EdCamps & Professional Development)


Digital Readiness Project

digital-readiness-project-1I’m excited to share my Digital Readiness Project infographic as well as some of the outcomes of the process thus far.  The following is a report of findings based on conversations with my building administrator and classroom teachers, as well as from readings (w/ an emphasis on Dr. Mike Ribble’s “Nine Elements of Digital Citizenship”) and additional coursework from my M.Ed. program at Seattle Pacific University. Continue reading

Books and Boats and Digital Education Leadership

sailboatOver the course of the past months I’ve talked with countless family and friends about the educational journey I’ve begun.  “How’s it going?” they ask, and I often respond with a dazed look — equal parts excitement and exhaustion.  I’ve come to realize that a successful approach to this program shares a lot of similarities with sailing. Continue reading

Vision and Mission: Create

Many years ago in my undergraduate days at Seattle Pacific University, I was privileged to take part in several classes taught by the late professor of biology, Cynthia Fitch.  A finer teacher I have never met, and her guidance and words have stayed in my heart and mind to this day. Continue reading

Vision and Mission Statement: Intro

I’ve tried my darnedest for the past several months to separate my work vision from my personal life vision, but I’ve found little success in my efforts.  Then recently I had a realization…  As a wise maritime philosopher once said: “I am what I am, and that’s all that I am.”  In the first chapter of Courage to Teach, Parker Palmer writes about this idea: “Good teaching cannot be reduced to technique; good teaching comes from the identity and integrity of the teacher.” (Palmer, 2007, p. 10)  I am a librarian and a teacher.  I am a geek and a nerd.  I am a husband and a father.  And in all of those roles, I find myself guided by three core principles. Continue reading

© 2018 JustinHaney.org

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑