The Foundation for Coaching

While Whetstone has your back when it comes to organizing your coaching notes and providing analytics to help you run data-driven professional development, we can’t make you form a strong relationship with someone else. (We leave that for Match.com.)

Seriously though, you are the one responsible for forming a powerful bond between yourself and the teachers you coach. That’s what good coaching is all about. As coaches we must be able to develop trust with coachees so that we can help them grow as educators and transform the lives of our students. So we’re kicking off our 17-18 school year blog series with a post on how to build and maintain trust in a coaching relationship.

As a company built around the belief that coaching can transform schools, we hold trust in high regard--it’s a necessary foundation for any coaching relationship. It requires constant care and support so we want to help you with both building trust during your initial meeting with a coachee and maintaining and improving that trust throughout the year. Here are some helpful tips and strategies from some of our brilliant partners in the New Orleans education community to help you have a successful school year.

Build trust at first meeting

This sets the foundation and expectations for the relationship.

1. Let the teacher guide the conversation. Vice Principal of Academics at Joseph S. Clark High School, Lindsey Cross:

“Ask the teacher about their strengths, goals and experiences - particularly if it's the first time you two have worked together. It's important that the teacher feel they have a voice and a say in steering the direction of your conversations and their work toward their own professional goals.”

Joseph S. Clark High School in New Orleans’ Treme Neighborhood

Joseph S. Clark High School in New Orleans’ Treme Neighborhood

2. Ask them how they learn best. Instructional Coach for Teach For America, Alicia Dagostino says:

“I begin by asking how they learn best and how they like to receive feedback.”

3. Set expectations together. Chief Academic Officer of Arise Schools in New Orleans, Cari Killian says:

“During the meeting I share what the debrief structure for our observation and feedback meetings will entail...When setting expectations it’s not just about the expectations for the teacher or leader I am working with, it’s also about expectations for me as the coach.”

Maintain and improve trust throughout the year

Our teachers will face stress, failure, and fatigue which can make the coaching relationship more challenging so make sure your relationship is equipped to handle it.

1. Ask for feedback. Cari Killian says:

“In one on one debriefs I ask questions like, “What can I do to support you better?” or “How could I have better supported you in that situation?” I have learned a lot from just asking these questions on ways I could improve my coaching.”

Arise Academy in the 9th Ward of New Orleans

Arise Academy in the 9th Ward of New Orleans

2. Practice with your teacher.

“Practicing techniques or strategies shows trust, it shows investment in the teacher and that we are in this together,” says Allie Rust, former math teacher and current Customer Success Manager at Whetstone.

3. Embrace the tough conversations. Leading Educators’ Leadership Coach, Kelsey Mclachlan says:

“If I don't have the tough conversations with the people I coach, I actually lose trust instead of gaining it. I think if you don't challenge thinking or give adjusting feedback that might be hard, people wonder what else you aren't being honest about.”

4. Follow through. Both Lindsey and Cari stressed the importance of making sure your actions match your words:

Lindsey Cross: “Your visibility in their classroom and in their sphere of work is vital to establishing and maintaining trust. And always give them a glow and a grow... Don't leave the classroom until you have both key ingredients.”

Cari Killian: “My goal is to meet the expectations I set with the teacher/leader in the first meeting and follow through on all the next steps I say I will do as time goes on. If I say I will be observing him/her twice a week, then I work to keep that commitment...I also think that it’s important that when a next step does fall through the cracks and goes unfulfilled, I apologize.”

Start using these strategies to build transformational coaching relationships this year. For more detailed coaching tips, we highly recommend Elena Aguilar’s The Art of Coaching as a resource. Thank you for tuning in to our first blog post of the year.

Have a happy and successful school year.

Sincerely,

The Whetstone Team

Whetstone Selected to DA Magazine's "Readers' Choice Top Products for 2016"

Whetstone Education has been recognized again for making a positive difference in education by K12 leaders who named it to District Administration magazine’s “Readers’ Choice Top Products for 2016.” The winners were compiled from 2,100-plus nominations from the magazine’s readers over the past year. District Administration’s Readers’ Choice Top Products awards program informs superintendents and other senior school district leaders about products their colleagues around the country are using to help their districts excel in a variety of areas.

“It was inspiring to learn about the products being used in today’s schools and classrooms that are helping districts succeed,” says JD Solomon, District Administration’s editorial director. “All of our 2016 honorees should be very proud of this achievement.”

“Whetstone's users -- teachers, principals, district leaders -- have played an integral role in shaping our technology,” says Libby Fischer, CEO of Whetstone Education “Being nominated for this award again underscores the success of these thought partnerships and the incredible work being done by users at Whetstone schools every day.”

To learn more about how Whetstone Education supports teacher growth email sales@whetstoneeducation.org or visit www.whetstoneeducation.com.

About District Administration District Administration provides K12 leaders with critical news and information for school district management through its monthly magazine, website, e-newsletters and the District Administration Leadership Institute Superintendent Summits. For more information, visitwww.DistrictAdministration.com.

About Whetstone Education Whetstone Education was founded in New Orleans in 2011 by educators looking for an efficient, streamlined way to manage teacher evaluation data and feedback. The platform allows school leaders to capture, organize, analyze, and share teacher data in an intuitive interface, making it easy to identify teacher trends, and take action to help teachers grow. www.whetstoneeducation.com

Digital Readiness Checklist

Many of our partners join Whetstone because they are tired of using multiple tools in their observation and coaching process, and want one place to do it all. It’s hard to know if your district is ready to make the transition to an online system. We have created a five question checklist that will help you identify if now is the right time to transition to a digital solution.

Click here to download the Digital Readiness Checklist!

Want to learn more about Whetstone but are short on time?

Want to learn more about Whetstone but you’re short on time? Let us make it easy!

  • Check out our website - It’s a short intro to who we are and why leading schools like Uncommon Schools, YES Prep, KIPP, and Relay GSE all use Whetstone.
  • Request a video demo - We’ll send you a short video tour of Whetstone. No phone call required!
  • Schedule a 30 minute demo - Take a tour of Whetstone to see how the platform can help streamline your observation and coaching process.  
  • Try it for yourself - Like what you see? We will send you a link to the platform so you can see how easy and intuitive it is, and have your co-workers give their input.
  • Ready to say YES to Whetstone? Great! We’ll send you a contract and you’ll be on your way to using the platform this school year!

Find out how you can make the most of your coaching time!

Life Hacks for School Leaders: #5 - Stop Waiting in Line at the Airport

Leave policies at schools can be tough for people who live far from family and friends. Principal Ron Gubitz said that another time it’s tough to be a school leader is when “your friend is getting married and you want to travel on a Friday.” While you may not be able to change your district’s vacation leave policy, there are lots of ways to be more efficient in airports, which translates to more time for you to do literally anything you want.

Step 1: Get TSA Pre-Check. You can save yourself 30-45 minutes (or more) spent in line at the airport by signing up for TSA Pre-Check, putting you on an earlier flight out that may not have been possible otherwise. It costs $85 and is good for 5 years. If you fly 5 times a year, you’ve just given yourself 750 more minutes to play with your kids, plan professional development, talk with students’ parents, or just take a little time to do some reading for pleasure.

Step 2: Check in for your flight online. If you’re not checking a bag, there is absolutely no reason to stand in line to check in at the airline counter. Almost every airline has an app where you can not only check in for your flight, but also get a digital ticket that doesn’t require you to print a paper copy.

Step 3: Gate-check your bags. This other airport hack may sound strange, but it has made the difference in whether or not I’ve caught a plane in time. If you are checking a bag for your flight, you don’t necessarily have to check it before you go through the TSA line. As long as nothing in your bag is prohibited in carry-ons, you can take that big bag through security and then check it at the gate. The gate agent might look at you funny, but you’re far less likely to miss your flight this way, and you’ve successfully avoided standing in a 100-person check-in line.

Connect with Whetstone at the Ed-Fi Summit

Whetstone will be attending the Ed-Fi Summit from Wednesday, Oct. 12 to Friday, Oct. 14 in Austin, TX. As a licensee of Ed-Fi Technology, Whetstone supports the push to “empower educators with the information they need to make better choices for their students.” The Ed-Fi summit is a gathering of companies, organizations, and state and district leaders with an interest in making it easier to share data to give school leaders a complete picture of performance. Organizations that license the Ed-Fi technology can also integrate their data with the Ed-Fi dashboard which helps schools see all their data in one place.

If you are attending the Ed-Fi summit and would like to schedule a meeting with our CEO, please email allison@whetstoneeducation.com  

Life Hacks for School Leaders: #4 - Hire Someone to do a Low-leverage Task

Just because you can assemble furniture, doesn’t mean you have to. As a school leader or teacher, your time is much better spent on high-leverage tasks like analyzing student work to identify misconceptions than on putting together your latest purchase from IKEA. IMAGINE: you’re seated comfortably at your couch, re-writing lesson plans to incorporate new questions to push students to think analytically. Across the room, someone else deftly assembles your new kitchen table.

It’s not a dream! There are a bunch of services and apps out there that solve this problem for you. Taskrabbit is one service available in many cities that gives you your own personal assistant and handyman/woman. Here are the six categories of help they offer:

  1. General Cleaning
  2. General Handyman
  3. Moving Help
  4. Delivery & Shopping
  5. Furniture Assembly
  6. Lift & Shift Furniture

Taskrabbit is competitively priced, so if you have the means, consider it. Don’t want to use Taskrabbit, here are a bunch of alternatives.

Life Hacks for School Leaders: #3 - Get Toilet Paper Delivered to Your Door

I asked principal Ron Gubitz for a list of errands that are hard to get done when you’re a school leader. His first reply to me was “EVERYTHING.” When he finally made a list, I was struck by this one: “Buying ANYTHING from a store ever.” This item struck me because there is such a simple answer: online shopping. You can find ANYTHING online and have it shipped to you in a matter of days. At the Whetstone office, we’ve set up monthly Amazon shipments for staples like printer paper, toilet paper, and La Croix. If you can do it for the office, why not at home? Set up monthly Amazon deliveries for pantry staples like paper towels, aluminum foil, band-aids, and kleenex. Beyond the ease of having these items come right to your door (in two days if you have Amazon Prime!), keeping your cupboards stocked with auto-deliveries will shorten the length of your trips to the store when you absolutely have to go.

Life Hacks for School Leaders: #2 - Your Phone is also a Bank

If you haven’t yet switched to online banking, now is the time. If you are a school leader or teacher, your time is far too valuable to go out of your way to get to the bank and sit in your car waiting for the ATM. And, in 2016, there is almost no reason to go to an ATM! Most major banks now have phone apps that allow you to do pretty much anything you would do at an ATM -- including depositing checks -- from anywhere. Need cash? Get cash back the next time you’re at the grocery store or pharmacy and combine two errands into one. In addition to replacing the ATM with your phone, save yourself even more time by setting up your recurring payments. Just do it. Sending a check to your landlord or mortgage company each month may not seem like a huge lift, but beyond writing the check, it requires you to keep checks, envelopes, and stamps stocked, and remember to send it. Teachers and school leaders have better things to do. If you set up recurring payments through your bank’s online platform (and almost all banks have one), you can pay every bill -- rent, health care, electric, water, etc. -- without even thinking about it. If you estimate that it takes about 5 minutes per bill to read the bill, write the check, address the envelope, and put it in the mail box , then you can give yourself back 20-30 minutes a month (add 30 minutes if you have to go to the store to get envelopes or stamps) to spend with your family or tie up loose ends at work. Why wouldn’t you give yourself this time back?

Whetstone to Attend the Utah Digital Teaching & Learning Bootcamps

Whetstone will be attending the Utah Digital Teaching & Learning Bootcamps from Monday, September 26 to Thursday, September 29. This event supports the Utah Digital Teaching & Learning Grant Program and the goal of leveraging education technology to its full potential in the state. Attending the event are district leaders from across Utah supporting their schools by providing them with digital tools and resources to support their student and teacher-based performance goals. We look forward to meeting these leaders and discussing how Whetstone can support their digital initiatives. If you are attending the bootcamp and want more information, please contact allison@whetstoneeducation.com.

Life Hacks for School Leaders: #1 - Dry Clean at Your Desk

School leaders and teachers are the busiest people I know. They get to school before most businesses open and leave after most close. Rarely do they get to leave campus to run errands on their lunch break, so it’s nearly impossible to make it to the dry cleaners, the bank, the dentist, or even let in the cable guy. Whetstone’s mission is to build technology that makes life easier for instructional leaders. While we haven’t yet created a dry cleaning app (maybe someday!), we’re starting a series of weekly time-saving life hacks for school leaders and teachers to help redirect their time to what matters most: their students and families.

LIFE HACK 1: DRY CLEAN AT YOUR DESK

Most dry cleaners are only open 9am-5pm and rarely on weekends (so convenient!). And, as far as I know, iPhones still can’t do our dry cleaning for us, sadly. But, if you can’t get to the cleaners before it closes, a handheld steamer can get the job done in a pinch. I keep a steamer at the office and use it to dewrinkle when necessary. They’re cheap, portable, and can get you an additional one to two wears out of a suit, which is a lot of time (and money!) saved at the dry cleaners.

CEO, Libby Fischer to Attend the Forbes 30 Under 30 Summit

A member of the Forbes 30 under 30 in Education class of 2016, our CEO, Libby Fischer will be representing Whetstone at the 3rd Annual Forbes 30 Under 30 Summit in Boston, Oct. 16 to 19. Recognized as the "greatest gathering ever of young entrepreneurs and game-changers," this event brings together alumni of the Forbes 30 under 30 recognition with over 5,000 of the brightest in Science and Technology, Finance and Investing, Media and Creativity, and Policy and Social Good.

 

New End-of-the-Year Product Feature Designed for YES Prep Public Schools

We have released a new a feature, developed for YES Prep Public Schools, that streamlines the end-of-the-year process and provides data that helps identify teachers who should be promoted or receive raises. The benefits include:

  • allows the district to set effectiveness thresholds for multiple levels of teachers, in order to auto-generate a suggested “placement” for the following year based on teacher performance metrics.
  • Simplifies end of year HR processes for the district
  • Gives teachers real-time transparency into how they’re tracking toward performance goals
  • Streamlines a process that used to require dozens of spreadsheets
  • Promotes conversation between teachers and their school leaders around support and professional development

This feature will be available to all of Whetstone’s customers, which include over 300 schools and organizations nationwide, in the fall.

Learn more about how this end-of-year feature is helping YES Prep Public Schools!

Why does “norming” matter for teacher evaluations?

One of the most critical components of teacher evaluation is often the most overlooked: norming. From a compliance-based perspective,when teacher evaluations are tied to high stakes outcomes like pay raises, promotions, etc., it is imperative that all evaluators within an organization, whether an entire district or a single school, evaluate teachers with the same expectations and interpretation of the rubric. If one evaluator has a tendency to be generous and another tends to be strict, then the system is completely unfair.

Our CEO, Libby Fischer, explains how schools can ensure their evaluators are normed on EdTechDigest.com

 

WHETSTONE EDUCATION EXPANDS SUPPORT OF KIPP CHARTER SCHOOLS

Whetstone has supported KIPP NOLA with our observation and coaching platform since 2015. We are happy to announce we have partnered with two additional KIPP Networks, KIPP DC and KIPP Bay Area, for the 2016-2017 school year! “Whetstone has a deep respect for the KIPP schools’ commitment to supporting each teacher’s professional growth with frequent observations, feedback, and coaching. We are excited to expand our relationship with KIPP, and the opportunity to now support over 600 of their teachers, coaches, and school leaders," says Libby Fischer, CEO of Whetstone.

Read more about our expanding relationship with KIPP Charter Schools!

“You can find it in the Google Drive”

“You can find it in the Google Drive” is a banned phrase at Whetstone. As a company leader, I’ve made a conscious effort to make Whetstone’s culture flexible -- everybody’s got unlimited paid time off, and we can work from home or leave early pretty much anytime we want to accommodate daycare pickups and dentist appointments. In general, I try not to be a tyrant, but I did make a tyrannical (albeit necessary) move when I placed an absolute BAN on this phrase: “You can find it in the Google Drive.”

If you haven’t already stopped reading, you may be wondering why I’m devoting an entire blog post to something as mundane as a Google Drive. Well, mundane as it may seem, “You can find it in the Google Drive” is a direct contradiction of Whetstone’s company values.

Whetstone-ism #1: Make it easy.

Whetstone has 5 core values, but the one I credit with bringing us the majority of our success is hospitality. Everyone has a different definition of hospitality, but at Whetstone we distill it down to this: “Let me make that easy for you.”

When I think of the best dinner parties I’ve ever attended, what made them great was that the host made me feel like everything was a breeze. I knew exactly where to put my coat, where to get a drink, which person I should talk to because we have “this, this, and that” in common. A great host makes it easy for me to have a good time at their party, and that’s what we want Whetstone to feel like for Whetstone users and team members alike.

So, what does this have to do with a Google Drive? Well, the drive itself isn’t the problem. The problem is the You can find it part of the phrase, “You can find it in the Google Drive.” The problem is sending someone to hunt for something that you could have shared with them directly in a matter of two clicks. When you welcome someone to your home for a dinner party, do you say, “Dinner’s in the fridge; go ahead and heat it up in the microwave when you get hungry”? No. Of course you don’t say that. If the goal of a dinner party is to make your guests happy so that they come back, isn’t it much easier to get that outcome by saying, “Dinner will be served shortly; here’s a beer, come join us in the living room.”

It’s the same with the Google Drive. If I want someone to do something with my document, isn’t it easier to get that outcome by just sending them the document directly?

Whetstone-ism #2: It’s really easy to make it easy for people.

As I write this blog post, I know that I’m going to send it to a team member to copy edit. I could write an email that goes like this:

  • “Hi Allison, my blog post is ready for you to edit. You can find it in the Google Drive.”

OR, I could write an email that goes like this:

  • “Hi Allison, my blog post is ready for you to edit. Here’s a link to the document.”

Whetstone-ism #3: When you make it easy, you get the results that you want.

The difference between these emails is subtle, but important. By taking the extra 5 seconds to link the document, I can:

  • Convey to Allison that I think her time is just as valuable as my time; that we are equally important contributors to Whetstone
  • Get my document edited faster by (i) reducing the amount of time Allison has to spend finding the document and (ii) by giving her a clear action to take -- Click the link. Telling her to go find the document herself in the Google Drive is akin to saying, “Edit the document when you get around to it.”

By simply linking a document, I’ve reiterated to Allison that I value her, and I get the outcome I want -- my edited document -- faster than I would otherwise.

Are you sure this matters?

Libby, seriously? How long does it really take to find something in a Google Drive?

You’re right, it takes about minute to find something in a Google Drive. The time lost searching for a document isn’t what matters; what matters is that, in my experience, “You can find it in the Google Drive” is a bellwether of a company’s culture. I’ve worked at companies where that phrase felt like punishment. It felt like hearing the other person say, “My job is more important than yours” or “Your time is not valuable.” It felt like hearing, “We are not teammates.”

It’s SO easy for office relationships to become strained. Whether it’s peer to peer or manager to subordinate, the stress inherent in a workplace is enough to manage on its own. If you can reduce that stress by taking 5 additional seconds to link a document in an email, why wouldn’t you?

Beyond employee morale, if you’re in the habit of making life easy on your teammates, then you’re probably going to make life easy on your clients. And when you make life easy for your clients, they’re more likely to tell their friends about your product, renew their subscription each year, and pay their invoices on time. What have you got to lose?

Whetstone Hires New Customer Success Manager!

We are excited to share that we are growing our team! We have hired Maria Plotkina as our second Customer Success Manager. Maria comes to us from one of our partners, Firstline Schools in New Orleans, where she was the Talent Coordinator. This means she is already an expert Whetstone user, ready to hit the ground running and support our customers! Maria Plotkina

A little more about Maria! She originally comes from Brooklyn, and is currently getting a Masters in Arts Administration from University of New Orleans. She is also fluent in Russian and an avid reader and artist in her spare time.

If you would like to get in touch with Maria, email maria@whetstoneeducation.com.

Whetstone Wins 1st Place in Propeller Growth Accelerator

Whetstone is happy to announce that we have won the spring 2016 Propeller Growth Accelerator program! The Propeller Growth Accelerator program supports early-stage companies with a focus on water, food access, health and educational equity. For three months, entrepreneurs received support from leaders in the New Orleans community in the form of weekly mentorship, networking opportunities, and access to the Propeller co-working space.

Whetstone was awarded first place in the program through a scoring process in which participating companies voted on each other based on a given set of criteria. This award gives Whetstone the chance to secure funding to help continue our rapid growth.

Thank you to Propeller for the support of Whetstone throughout the Accelerator!