First Year Tech Coach- Part 1

So in starting this school year as a brand new tech coach, I had BIG dreams. That’s really my personality – to think big, have big plans, and I want to drag everyone along with me, because who wouldn’t want to dream big as well- right? Well…. I am slowly learning (in multiple areas of my life) about how different the personality traits really are, and what that can look like in daily life. And how seriously I need to SLOW DOWN.  I feel like I should have learned this much earlier on in my career/ life but so goes it…. You think you know things, right?! So I’m learning about my own faults, and the pros and cons of each personality type. This really all came to a head at the beginning of fall when my husband and I took a “Spiritual gifts” survey as well as the DISC personality quiz at church. We have always joked about how exactly opposite we are, but here it was on paper- black and white. I started to look more in detail at our personality traits, and we both noticed the complaints we have for each other’s traits (which were verified right in front of us) could be used for good! It made me take a good, long, hard look at myself, and the parts of my personality that might get in the way of what I’m trying to do as a successful coach. It also opened my eyes to how we think of certain personalities as being “bad” or “good” when really each person has both sides of their traits. For example, that person who some see as overbearing or demanding- they get things done! And the person who some see as nit-picky or taking too long, will have a phenomenal finished product that is well thought out. More about DISC here– there’s tons of resources out there. Full disclosure- I’m mainly an “I”, and yes, I talk too much.


As I’ve gone through this first semester with these thoughts in mind, and learned even more about different personalities (such as the fact that I’m a toaster- I think out loud, and quick- whereas others may be crock-pots- need time to think alone and come back with answers later) I’ve really learned to appreciate each type. Every single teacher has amazing gifts, experiences, and ideas to bring to the table and it’s exciting getting to be a part of that and share in their successes in the classroom.

I was told going in to this year- take it slow, you will need all year to get to know people, let them get comfortable with you, etc. I am only just realizing how true this is. Because of my personality, I expected this part of the process to go much quicker, and that I would be seamlessly integrated in multiple classrooms by the spring. I mean, I love to talk to people so getting to know and trust me wouldn’t take long right? (Wrong!) I didn’t realize it’s about so much more than that. I also didn’t realize how much I would struggle with making myself available. I’m constantly learning new tips and tricks, and getting invaluable practice with my fellow coaches. I really look forward to using the things I’m learning about communication and leadership in the coming months. Funny how very little of what I’ve learned this semester has to do with technology! I have learned a LOT of that too- but honestly that part of the job is not changing me as a person. The leadership and communication tools I’m integrating in my daily life is the best part of the job yet!

Oh, and I do still have big dreams- but now I’m dreaming WITH the teachers.   🙂

Tell me:

– Have you analyzed your own weaknesses and strengths at some point?
– What have you learned this year that was not part of your “plan”?

Comment below or tweet @mrslacysmith  #firstyeareveryyear  #ETcoach #InstructionalCoach

Book Review- The Coaching Habit by Michael Bungay Stanier

So I am a few weeks deep into my first year as a tech coach, and I really wanted to be mindful of my weaknesses going into this year. I know I’m a talker (hello blog) and my personality is one of wanting to share and help! As a coach, I’m learning how to help people help themselves and empower THEM to organize their thoughts and such, without just giving them my own answers that may or may not work in every situation. Enter “The Coaching Habit” by Michael Bungay Stanier. (available here)


Driving back to TX one afternoon from LA I needed an audiobook to pass the time and so I searched for leadership books. This one caught my eye and at almost 4 hours, fit my drive! Thanks GOODNESS I nabbed this sucker from audible- I’m actually going to buy the print copy also just for the absolute usefulness and journaling aspect I saw that it had as well. I need to do all.the.highlighting!

I had read a few coaching books to prepare for the interview for this job, but they seemed pretty common sense and a bit pedagogical. While those books have their place, I love a good PRACTICAL book to go along with the pedagogy. This book is that practical checklist that gives you ideas, seven simple questions to ask, and walks you through situations of when and how to ask these questions. It gives you a space to imagine, write, and rethink your interactions with your coworkers. It also gives a great wealth of resources from other great leadership books- another reason I want to buy the paper copy is just to cross reference and have more inspiring books to add to my growing list of “need to read”!

I highly recommend this book to anyone in any leadership capacity at all. You can download a preview on the website, or find the author on twitter @boxofcrayons

Tell me:

         -Have you read the book? What did you think? 

         -What is your favorite “coaching” or leadership book you’ve read?


Comment below or tweet @mrslacysmith #firstyeareveryyear #coachinghabit

40 Hour Teacher Week- July Reflection

So I mentioned in my about me section that this blog is a place for (public) personal reflection in implementing the million ideas I see and want to try every day of my teacher life. I’ve been writing blogs in my head for years trying to process and reflect, so why not do it really?!

One HUGE piece that’s made me incredibly reflective is Angela Watson’s 40 hour teacher week club. As you can read more HERE about why I started this club, it was basically to regroup and make sure I was doing the best possible job I could be doing as a teacher. Most teachers know that you spend SO MUCH TIME of what’s supposed to be your personal life doing things like planning, grading, emailing parents and more.

My conference time in school was not nearly enough to get it all done. But THIS CLUB. It’s seriously life coaching for teachers. It’s corny but I actually remember listening to the first podcast last summer relaxing in my tub commiserating on how I wouldn’t be doing that once school started. That first podcast was about what the club entailed, and the big 5 ideas about productivity. Y’all. I had a come-to-Jesus moment when I realized I was doing none of them…. THIS is why I was still so tired, burned out, etc after years of teaching. My craft was getting better but my time management never did! Here’s what you will learn in the course of a year in the club:

(pics courtesy of Angela Watson)

For July, here’s what I learned personally last year:

better classroom flow: does my system work for ME or does it work for THE KIDS?
better procedure planning– of course you do this the first few years and teach it every year, but I had a WHOLE SLEW of other creative professionals to run things by on the facebook group
better delegation– I am learning as I get older I’m a bit of a control freak. I HAD to let my students do some things to free up my time
all in all- how to plan so that my KIDS had ownership of the classroom– I wanted to be that teacher who did not have kids waiting on ME to start the class, run the class, or end the class- they knew what to do at every juncture- WHAT A LIFE SAVER!

For THIS year in the “graduate” club I’ve already learned how to BATCH my time instead of multi-tasking, make a schedule for every hour of my day to set boundaries around my time, and give myself a little grace. Why is it that we need permission to do that?!

Tell me:

– What have you learned to make your life easier as a teacher?
– What one procedure would you say is the most important for new teachers to teach? 

Comment below or tweet @mrslacysmith #firstyeareveryyear #40htw @Angela_watson


First year of Intentional Leadership

So, as I’ve mentioned before, this will be my 10th year in education. Along the way, I’ve gotten pretty good at using technology in my class and often I was one of a few “go-to” people on my campus for tech help. My administrators were also pushing me to get my master’s degree like many other teachers in our district in technology or leadership. They thought I’d be a wonderful teacher coach, and I needed my master’s to qualify. No offense to all the admin out there- but I had no desire to go into leadership as a principal or assistant in my future! I also couldn’t make myself pay for a degree in technology when I can teach myself those things. (A teacher coach is someone on campus who is a liaison, partner, mentor, and so much more for the teachers!) I really did start to entertain the idea of having this job one day with a few hang-ups:


I’m all science. I love it- I geek out on it- I have every nerdy science shirt, pin, and cat meme!


I did not feel like I could successfully co-teach, lead, or help an English teacher in any way other than with technology! So I happily kept my role as tech-help with the occasional presentation at campus meeting days.

courtesy of @kidworldcitizen – click to go to blog post

Fast forward to last year- my family moved to Texas, in a district where you do not need a master’s to be a teacher coach, and there is a position that exists called the “learning technology coach”. SAY WHAT?! Sign me up!! I started paying closer attention to what that job entailed and started tweeting and following more educators on twitter. (OMG the professional development and amazing community of educators on twitter- WOW!)

A job actually opened up for this coming year and I applied, despite having just moved here. A few teachers told me “don’t expect to get it, this is your first year in the district”.  Oh but idealistic, Mrs. Positive me said- “we’ll see”! Well I didn’t get it. I was pretty upset at first thinking of what I could have said wrong in the interview and thinking of all the plans I had if I got the job. (I made it all the way to the interview stage.) But something shifted in me and I was only sad for a second.

See, I had just gotten news that day that I would move from teaching mostly 8th grade to teaching only 6th grade (thank you sweet Jesus- I missed my 6th grade kiddos!) All of a sudden, I really was excited to teach my 6th graders. After my “first year” in Texas (see previous blog post here), I knew I needed to ramp up my teaching. I decided I would be a leader anyway. I would move forward with my technology plans anyway. I didn’t need the title to hold parent tech nights. I didn’t need the title to earn digital badges and become certified in all.the.apps.and.things! I made a conscious decision to be a leader on campus and spread positive change despite “just being a teacher”. I downloaded some ebooks -first one I read was Empower by A.J. Juliani and John Spencer which made me tear up at the end and re-empowered me. (See full review here) I attended #notatiste ( because I wasn’t actually at the coolest tech conference around. I even learned how to make this snazzy digital badge for my digital attendance!#notatiste17

Fast forward to today! Long story short, another learning technology coach position opened and I was called to accept the job! I was literally jumping for joy and crying happy tears around my house. (Can you tell I’m an emotional one?) I was a smidge sad about not having my 6th grade kids next year. BUT I DID say this year would be my first of intentional leadership- little did I know how true that would be.

Tell me:

– In what ways will you be an INTENTIONAL LEADER
on your campus this year?

Comment below or tweet @mrslacysmith #firstyeareveryyear


First year in Texas… with 8th graders!

In my 9 years of education I have only ever taught 5th and 6th grades. I did teach a ½ year with 7th right out of college (YIKES). My first few years I taught every subject to 5th grade, and since then I’ve been happily geeking out in science class with my 6th graders.

You know how they say you don’t know what you have until it’s gone….I THOUGHT I would love 8th grade, I THOUGHT I’d love to have a class that was separated by academic achievement…. I THOUGHT.


Last summer my family and I moved to Texas for a variety of reasons. I was thrilled when I got a job teaching 8th grade science. I had been wanting 8th graders for the last few years. My 6th graders were still SO dependent, needed lots of help, laughed at fart jokes, etc. I was looking forward to the more mature 8th graders…. I know, I know! I was also thrilled to learn there were Pre-AP classes and Academic classes (like Honors or AP, but for middle schoolers). I knew I would have a little bit of a learning curve in addition to learning a new campus, new district policies and culture, new teachers, new curriculum (some), NEW, NEW, NEW.

I felt like a FIRST YEAR TEACHER all over again! (Hence the name of this blog.)

Guess what? 8th graders are just older, more hormonal 6th graders! The jokes are nastier, my mean face/ voice that worked fine in 6th wasn’t nearly the level needed, and they needed just as much, if not MORE help! It really threw me for a loop- I mean, I’m supposed to be a veteran teacher just about…. I’m supposed to have it together!  My amazing science coach showed me lots of grace and humor, and we plowed through with the good work: (aligning assessments, backwards design, student tracking standards, blended and personalized learning- you know, all the stuffs). Spoiler alert- I did live in the end. It was QUITE a year of reflection and here are my take-aways.

  1. IMG_3497
    8th graders like to share their proud moments too 🙂

    Kids are kids are kids- they all have their pros and cons at each age. They ALL need your love and hugs. I mothered the 8th graders just as much as I mothered the 6th.

  2. You have never “arrived”. We say this in church a lot and it fits here too. You will ALWAYS be growing and that’s what inspired this blog. Every year should be your first year to do something new and different.
  3. Kids shouldn’t be separated into pre-AP and academic at this point- maybe high school. It MAY be beneficial to the pre-AP kids but it’s a disservice to the others. (In my district anyone can be in Pre-AP class if they want to, there’s no “qualifying criteria” so you end up with kids who don’t belong pulling the others down, and sometimes kids don’t go to pre-AP because they don’t want to work even though they are quite intelligent. Personal opinion: leave them mixed until high school)
  4. I REALLY missed my silly 6th grade babies (yes I call them babies- not in their presence- I say ma’am and sir to them in class). I’ll take their silly jokes, fidget spinners, and slime obsessions any day over 8th grade vulgarities!


Tell me:

         Have you ever had an unexpected “WHOA” experience that made you feel like a first year teacher again? Tell me about it!

Comment below or tweet @mrslacysmith #firstyeareveryyear


Book review- Empower by A.J. Juliani and John Spencer

Screen Shot 2017-08-01 at 1.50.30 PMSo this is the first book I chose to read after my “I’m going to be a leader no matter what” revelation (read more about that here). I’m so glad it was!

With lots of enthusiasm, positivity, and awesome graphics, this book is an easy read but still powerful enough to gear you up to change the world! It’s great for first year teachers, veteran teachers, teachers in a slump, administrators, and even people in the education business.

Here are a few of my book snaps!

The book includes personal stories from the authors as learners and teachers, a layout of their “Launch” design thinking plans, and lots of encouragement.

“That’s great”, you think. “But how does it really look”? Well one author A. J. Juliani thought about that and created a blog post HERE with sample lessons from all grades. The other author, John Spencer also has a blog about empowerment and the book HERE, he  has a blog more dedicated to the “maker spaces” as well as a you tube channel here.

You can follow either of them on twitter as well @ajjuliani or @spencerideas

Tell me:

         -Have you read the book? What did you think? How will you empower your kiddos or teachers this year?

         -What other empowering books have you read to kick off this school year?


Comment below or tweet @mrslacysmith #firstyeareveryyear #empowerbook


10 years in…

So this is it folks- I’ve officially hit a decade of teaching! That’s 10 summers of planning, 10 “first” weeks and days, 10 years of kiddos gone by. My first group of kids are finishing college and starting their masters degrees (I’ll be right there with ’em)! Some are joining the work force and moving across the country. Some are just beginning as first year teachers. This summer it finally hit me– I treat every year in some way as if it were my first. Of course I’ve learned a lot along the way, but in education the ways change quickly and in these days of edtech, they change as fast as you blink. But every summer I still pull out my ragged copy of “The First Days of School”, I inevitably read a hopelessly optimistic and empowering professional development book, and I dream of what I want my students to engage in and how seamless my procedures will be by October.

Then October comes and I’m begging for some Wong intervention! All kidding aside- I realized this summer how intentional I want to be with my reflective practices, and how far and hard I really wanted to push myself this year. (See the about section for more background.) What better way to do that than share with the world the failures and successes of all those trials. I LOVE to help out new teachers, and love reading ideas and experiences of others- so this will be a multipurpose experiment in reflection, connection, and celebration (when all of my great ideas work perfectly of course)! I’m sure there will be some rejection as well- as all good teachers know, if you aren’t failing, you aren’t trying. So here’s to another year of a little bit of messy, a little bit of silly, and a whole lot of learning!