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Regina Kruglyak

HTH 235: Facilitating Adult Learning 2017-18

Introduction:

I work at High Tech High Chula Vista, a school which has invested a big portion of its

history integrating very important design elements into the foundation. I believe it is these

fundamental design principles which have created the sacred systems which allow for critical

adult facilitated learning to take place.

Part 1: The System

The system is a lens I never considered before taking an adult learning class. I believe I

learned the most after speaking to my director Tim McNamara about the systems in place at

High Tech High Chula Vista. Generally, I still believe that diversifying adult learning to the

spectrum of new versus old teachers is critical, but what I had not considered that it is the

systems in place that allows for a good chunk of the diversification to be facilitated without a

concentrated effort. It is these sort of systems that make a school successful. Adult learning must

be designed into the system.

Tim focused on the fact that people learn in all sorts of different ways and that he walked

into a school with systems in place to allow for adult learning to happen at all times. Some of

what he had said I never even considered to be opportunities for adult learning but once he

mentioned them it felt so obvious. He spoke of having a common prep which allows for the

teachers to collaboratively talk and learn from one another. Having shared students with shared

challenges allows for collaborative problem solving and growth. Project tunings which allow for
various voices and flexible schedules which allows for bigger ideas. As a teacher coming into a

system where a lot is already in place, I feel more ability to be creative. I can be a system

architect with in the designed system because I do not have to recreate the wheel, I only need to

add what would be beneficial in my eyes. In my systems map I focused on what is already in

place at High Tech High Chula Vista, there are of course many more systems built into our

school but the ones I have found integral for the most efficient and effective adult learning is

what I will focus on here. On my systems map on the left side of the planner/organizer I have

included the existing structures within the engineered system. These are systems designed to

make you think and reflect. On the right side are the intentional efforts, these are the systems

designed to push you in a very different way than the structures, they require more effort.

After conducting an interview on my teaching partner, Britt Shirk, who has been teaching

at HTHCV for over 9 years, I realize that these very systems are what keeps her learning. “I am

constantly learning, certainly during intentional PD time but what really pushes me is the

structured and dedicated time to be around new creative energy” (Shirk, 2017). ​As a veteran she

loves being around newer people who have fresh ideas and invigorate her. “Even though we are

a progressive system we still can get stagnant” says Shirk (2017). ​People naturally take the path

of “least resistance” whether it be at High Tech High or any school. They build off of older or

existing concepts when brainstorming, which can lead to less creative ideas. In order to put the

brain in overdrive, you need time around different ideas which push your own thinking.

The main system I see lacking from High Tech High Chula Vista is a way to cover

teachers when they are ill, but more importantly when they hope to do professional development.

I have been offered several opportunities but had no way to go as there was no coverage for my
classroom and Britt Shirk brought up how she hoped to observe other humanity classrooms both

within our school and out of it, but again felt she was unable to based on coverage. If the school

hopes to push teachers with adult learning they must also provide ways to cover the classroom

which feels fair and safe. Currently if I take a day off it means I put my class on another already

overworked teacher, this is not a recipe for success.

System Map:
Part 2: Collegial Coaching

My original plan was to work with a more seasoned teacher both for the challenge and

the potential to learn something from her. That said each time we tried to plan to meet,

something came up. Seasoned teachers are also busy! In the end I choose to coach a 1​st​ year

teacher, someone truly eager to learn and be coached. There is something to a new teacher, they

are in over their heads with the amount of work on their plate but they are so passionate and

hopeful that they are still willing to make time to learn more. Andres was actually a teach for

America teacher before coming to HTHCV, he then took several years off from teaching and

came back into the classroom this year. I have the rare opportunity of also being his friend which

I truly believe helps all coaching and mentoring opportunities. Andres also has been coming to

the afterschool and weekend club I run, Outdoor Leadership Training, which means we have

gotten to spend plenty of time together!

One of my favorite lines Andres used when asking for coaching was that he strives to be

the same person in every room of the house. He said he is still working on this since he really

likes the version of himself when camping much more than the version in the classroom. Andres

is working on reflecting on his style of leadership and he wants to learn how to build

relationships in the classroom. For some teachers he thinks this comes more natural but it is

something he hopes to get more feedback on. He also asked for me to note whether students

knew what to expect and what to work on during project work time as it seemed rather

unstructured to him.

When I observed Andres I noted that he has a strong presence in the room and students

generally seem comfortable with him. The biggest things I noticed that I saw as a potential push
is that Andres was redoing a project, spoken word, that the very same students had done the

previous year, in fact he was using the same resources to teach it. I noticed that students were

getting very frustrated and disenchanted by this and therefore were feeling the very opposite of

what Andres had wanted for them, unstructured but useful time to process and complete a heavy

workload.

I ended up using one of the “Six Coaching Interventions” adapted from Heron

specifically the “Informing” style with a mix of the “Catalytic” style (Heron, 2001). The

informing style was critical because I am not sure Andres was able to understand where the

students grumbling was coming from. As a new teacher he had a lot on his plate, heard about a

great project, got resources and then implemented the project. The part he did not think through

was the fact that these very students had spoken word for several years already not to mention

the previous year using the exact same resources. The began complaining about the school to

Andres who took it personally. The reality is that it is complicated to know what the kids have

and have not done and until you have a few years under your belt the main survival strategy

within HTH seems to be borrow, steal implement anything you can get your hands on. I used the

catalytic style to have Andres tell me what he noticed about students behavior and why they

appeared disgruntled. To do this I used the Sentence Stems for Healthy Conflict from Elena

Aguilar “I want to push back on that idea. I’ve noticed...and I would suggest…”(2016). It helped

using a sentence stem because even though I felt I established a very comfortable coaching

relationship with Andres, what I needed to tell him felt extremely unnatural and uncomfortable. I

ultimately agreed with Elena’s thought “Learning, not emotional safety, is the goal, but we can’t

learn unless we feel safe” (Art of Coaching Teams, pg 4). My hope was to encourage and
motivate him to see the amazing lessons he had started the year off but when he became

concerned that it did not feel “project based” enough he switched into spoken word. He came to

the decision on his own that he was worried that he was in fact “not being the same person in

every room” and he thought if he just switched to something that kids found to be more fun he

could adapt his personality.

Using the “Informing” style I went into the history of project based at HTH and gave him

the endorsement to stick with his own passions. He seemed relieved that he was being told that

his own ideas mattered, he was lacking confidence but I could tell it was clearly returning. “For

those of us guiding adults in learning, it means we have more to work with- more starting points

and, perhaps, more things to undo. What is essential is that we understand what we’re working

with- what previous experiences, knowledge, competencies, beliefs, and interests someone is

bringing to a new learning space” (Art of Coaching ch.4 pg 55). Andres has so much to offer his

students and it is important for him to use his prior knowledge and experience as a toolkit for his

classroom. No one should feel as though they need to start from scratch. While it felt conflicting

and challenging to give Andres some of my pointers, in the end I feel he walked away learning

and feeling more confident. That I would say is worthwhile the difficult conversation.
Part 3: Designing and Facilitating Professional Learning

I had the opportunity to conduct the adult professional development (​Agenda on slide

one​) with all the new teachers of my school. Another teacher has set up the framework where

the new teachers write on a memo board what they hope to learn about, then once a month

professional development is conducted. The topic they requested was project planning time and

college trip.

I had an understanding what the new teachers were experiencing (it has not been so many

years since I experienced the flash flood of learning that is high tech high). What I always crave

from professional development are resources. I brought many resources for teachers to have

options to choose from but I also knew from past experience of helping a new teacher last year,

that the reverse happens where you get inundated with resources; I went through each of the

documents and explained the advantages and disadvantages of each one. The goal being to limit

the amount of time the new teachers will need to spend scouring the documents and potentially

not needing them in the end.

I knew that my first step would be to create a safe environment where we all felt

comfortable to be vulnerable. Just as Elena Aguilar says “For us to build teams that are resilient

and transformational, we need to intentionally create a culture of trust. There is no way to get

around the truth. And to cultivate trust, we need to know ourselves as leaders.” (Art of Coaching

Teams, 2016. pg 40). This came rather quickly, I planned in a few ice breakers, time to be silly

with each other in order to later create a culture of trust. High Tech High happens to

systematically hire people who are pretty ready to be goofy so this came very easily. I also
already had a relationship with most of the new teachers creating again an intentionally safe

space to be vulnerable and ask poignant questions.

Next my goal was to empower the new teachers. Something that I think often happens is

that teachers burn themselves out at a higher rate when there is no recognition. Ready Total

System Power made me realize that what I was ultimately trying to create was a space for the

new teachers who would typically feel as though they were “bottoms” at the very least as

“middles” I also tried to fight for the potential that at High Tech High we might just all be “tops”

(Oshry, Barry. 2006. Pg 2). I could see that from the Systems lens, this was exactly the type of

cultural environment the school was trying to create. It never occured to me until the moment

when I was reflecting upon Total System Power and empowering others through my professional

development lesson.

The main reason I had to stray from my agenda was because I had not realized that there

had been two veteran teachers leading the new teacher training. I had never spoken to the second

teacher about my coming in to facilitate a training so at times she chimed in and the lesson took a

turn. I realize this is perfectly healthy especially with a group like the one I was facilitating since

more heads are better than one. The adjustments I made felt rather smooth, but I still learned that

it is very important to get all the details before a PD as miscommunication could lead to a missed

opportunity.

Conclusion:

I believe strongly in the work that teachers get to do at High Tech High. It is the systems

in place that create a container for teachers to be able to move freely around it being their own
system architects. WIthout this container teachers would not have the dedicated creative time to

learn. The planner in me realizes that you need to have a container with rigid enough walls for

creativity to truly blossom, but not so rigid that it is capped off and suffocated. Teachers need to

be able to learn through a variety of media. I used to think that adult learning was a professional

development scheduled into our routine 1 hour before and after school. I know knnow that adult

learning is something that happens throughout the day as long as the system was well

engineered, and throughout through a planner.


References:

Aguilar, E. (2013). ​The art of coaching: Effective strategies for school transformation​. San
Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Aguilar, E. (2016). ​The art of coaching teams: Building resilient communities that transform
schools​. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Adapted from Heron, J. (2001) Helping the Client: A Creative Practical Guide. London: SAGE
Publications.

Gawande, A. (2011). Personal best. ​New Yorker​, 1-9.

Kegan, Robert, et al. ​An Everyone Culture: Becoming a Deliberately Developmental


Organization​. Harvard Business Review Press, 2016.

McDonald, J. (2013). The power of protocols: An educator’s guide to better practice. New York:
Teachers College Press.

Oshry, Barry. “Total System Power.” ​Govleaders.org​, govleaders.org/total-system-power.htm.