Literacy Lenses

Focusing on The Literacy Work that Matters

Side by Side Instructional Coaching: 10 Asset-Based Habits That Spark Collaboration, Risk-Taking, and Growth

The Wakelet artifact of all chat tweets is linked here.

By Fran McVeigh

It was truly a pleasure to welcome Julie Wright back to #g2great. It was four short years ago that Julie and Barry were on #g2great for What Are You Grouping For? in 2018 (link) and Julie again in 2021 for What’s Our Response? (link)

I often begin my blog post with the ending. This one is no different. This was one of Julie’s last tweets from our #G2Great chat for Side by Side Instructional Coaching.

Abby Wambach wikipedia

I loved the “WE approach” in Julie’s tweet. But to fully understand this tweet I had to look up Abby Wambach. I’m not a soccer fan so she was not on my radar. However, I quickly noted that she was “… the highest all-time goal scorer for the national team and is second in international goals for both female and male soccer players with 184 goals …” “Highest” and “second for both female and male soccer players” caught my attention because Abby is better than good. She’s a Great soccer player. Winners and leaders need to build capacity that sparks collaboration, risk-taking, and growth.

So fitting to have a “sports” connection in a coaching conversation.

Winners build capacity for a WE approach. That matches the OLD adage that ‘there is no “I” in team’ as found in the online Urban Dictionary (link).

Hmm. Soccer, leading goal scorer, collaboration, risk-taking, and growth and a #G2Great chat. All 10 of the asset-based habits in Julie’s book are critical for success in life. All 10 of the asset-based habits are a part of both the personal and professional lives of many authors we have featured on #G2Great chats. All 10 of the asset-based habits are a part of my life and those of many of my friends and my own thought partners.

It would be very easy to say,

“Go read the book,”

because it’s an amazing, thoughtful book that will provide guidance when you didn’t even know that you needed any further elaboration for some of the habits. But I can guarantee that Julie’s explanations and examples will allow you to dig deeper in EVERY single habit that you may believe you already excel in!

How can I make that guarantee? It’s a combination of my experience, my skills and years of personally working with and learning from Julie. Without doing the math and trying to count years, I can tell you that I’ve learned in a variety of settings with Julie including large groups of over 100, smaller leadership groups and 1:1 meetings whether they were face to face or via Zoom. And then I’ve also learned even more from her books and her participation in Twitter chats. Personally biased? Yes. Personal knowledge? Yes. I learn from Julie every time we have a conversation! She’s a thought partner/ thought neighbor whether near or far!

This blog post is going to be unlike any others that I’ve written for Literacy Lenses. I’ve included “process” many times, but not to the extent you will find here.

We’re going to continue with Julie’s purposes for writing this book as well as her hopes and dreams for all the readers in the next section with the three yellow headers and our basic author questions.

What motivated you to write this book? What impact did you hope that it would have in the professional world?

When schools need to trim budgets, coaches are often the first to be cut.  Or, they remedy the budget by reducing coaching time and giving coaches dual roles of classroom teacher and coach. While I think these are missteps for the district, I understand why it happens.  When I’m working in a school as the coach of coaches or instructional leaders, I urge them to build systems and structures that can withstand budget swings.  One of those is giving the natural school leaders—the people they rely on such coaches, department chairs, PLC facilitators, team leaders— the tools to support ongoing professional learning. Creating thinking partnerships across a learning community is key.  That’s because every student deserves to have a teacher who has a thinking partner—this work is too complicated and important to go at it alone!

What are your BIG takeaways from your book that you hope teachers will embrace in their teaching practices?

There are a few key take-aways from my book that I hope educators will embrace:

1. Having an asset-based stance—grabbing the good that lives across the learning community—brings JOY and SUSTAINABILITY to this work.  No one shows up to be picked apart, worn down or fixed.  Teachers show up to do good.  If we start with assets and then ask teachers what they want to get smarter about, we can help lift that work by providing support.  This stance works for all ages of learners, adults and students alike.

2. Building relationships in our work in schools matters.  It really, really, really matters!  Don’t shortchange it.  It is what builds the good (assets) and shapes culture.

3. A habit is a practice we do regularly.  When we land on coaching habits that others can count on, we build consistency and trust.  Find your go-to habits (mine are building relationships, co-planning and co-teaching) and then build your coaching routines around them.  

What is a message from the heart you would like for every teacher to keep in mind?

Coaching is a lot like neighboring (reference goes to The Art of Neighboring by Pathak and Runyon.  It’s all about building relationships, an essential coaching habit that creates opportunities to do things together that we could not otherwise accomplish alone.  When we choose to make ourselves available to others in our learning community, it’s more likely that we’ll have time to focus on them.  It’s also more likely that we’ll co-create a list of priorities…together!  

Everyone has something they can give (teach or show others) and something they can get (learning from others).  If we build a learning community that has a constant flow of giving and getting, we all get smarter about the needs and wants of our most important stakeholders—our students.  Coaching creates the opportunities to get smarter together, building short and long term capacity along the way.

Typically by now, I and my fellow #G2Great blog post authors have moved on to thoughts from the actual chat in the form of tweets or summaries of big ideas. But this next section is going to share with you some “behind the scenes” #g2great processes from the development of this chat with Julie as an example of our ongoing professional learning.

We (#g2great team) ask our authors to write four questions for the chat. These were Julie’s questions in a simple format with our own first and last question. Remember that you can explore specific responses to the questions in the Wakelet (link) for an overview of this book and topic.


8:35 Q1 Our focus in this chat is on instructional coaching. Reflect on your life experiences.  What are your go-to habits for sparking collaboration, risk-taking and growth?  What attributes make coaching successful? When has coaching been beneficial for your work? How might you partner with a coach this year?

8:44 Q2 Julie believes every student deserves to have a teacher who has a thinking partner because the work we do in schools is too complicated and dynamic to be done alone.  Reflect on your experiences. Who have been your thinking partners and what made your partnership so valuable?

8:53 Q3  In Side-by-Side Instructional Coaching, Julie talks about “sniffing out the good”, using assets as a source of energy, and naming areas that might need a “lift”, or support.  We can use both as entry points to get smarter about our work with students.  How does or can an asset-based stance shape the work you are doing in schools? 

9:03 Q4 This book is written for instructional coaches and anyone interested in or charged with facilitating professional learning—department chairs, team leaders, teachers, curriculum directors, administrators, and others! Julie writes about 10 habits she uses to support professional learning.  What habits do you use in your work and why do you use them?

9:11 Q5 Julie shares simple coaching tips that have a powerful impact – things such as “ask I wonder questions”, “listen more than you speak”, and “provide a note catcher for teachers to hold their thinking”.  These tidbits honor teachers’ time while also increasing autonomy and agency.  What would you add to this list?

9:20 Q6. As you reflect on our chat and the 10 asset-based habits Julie has identified, where will you begin to use this information? Which habit(s) might you strengthen? Which habit(s) require more thoughtful consideration? 

One way that you could begin to study Side by Side Instructional Coaching is to study Julie’s quotes and questions with a friend/neighbor. That might be a place where your professional learning could begin.

But Julie didn’t just stop with quotes, questions and responses to our author questions; instead she challenged us with some possibilities that we could explore.

I share these ideas with you to give you ideas (straight from Julie) on ways that you might USE this book to extend your own professional conversations around coaching.

PD Option 1

This book is broken into 3 sections:  Preparing to Coach, Coaching, and Extending Coaching.   

To prepare to coach, Julie suggests developing relationships, communicating plans to stakeholders and defining beliefs.  How do you use one or more of these habits to create conditions for successful coaching?

During coaching, Julie focuses on designing goals, co-planning, co-teaching, and creating tracks to showcase evidence of growth.  How do you use one or more of these habits to examine curricula, plan with teachers / teams and shape pedagogy?

Julie extends coaching with reflection, building capacity, and prioritizing across the year. How do you use these habits to grow the skills of the teachers/teams to stay focused on their important work?

email from Julie Wright

If you work with a group of coaches or folks who have some coaching responsibilities, how might the questions in Option One inform your work before, during and after coaching opportunities. How might the answers to the questions further define your work? How might your curiosity and joy combine to create deeper collaboration, risk-taking, and growth?

Julie shared her thoughts about the applicability of the contents for all content areas and we are delighted that Benchmark made sure this book title was inclusive of all content areas!

Or you might intentionally consider PD Option 2: “We could hyper focus on a few habits specifically.”

Focus on Beliefs (just one example)

One asset-based coaching habit is to use teachers’ beliefs as an entry point into the work.  Select a topic—purpose of education, learning, assessment, balanced literacy, classroom libraries, or play-based experiences and share one of your beliefs.  Then, we can see how our collective thinking around beliefs inspires and grows new ideas.  I believe _____________.


One asset-based coaching habit is to use teachers’ beliefs as an entry point into the work.  Julie works alongside teachers to select a topic as the focus.  You can select a topic such as education, learning, assessment, balanced literacy, classroom libraries, play-based experiences, and so on. Let’s pick a topic and see how our collective thinking around beliefs inspires and grows new ideas.  Name a belief you have about play-based experiences? I believe _____________.

[we could swap this out for classroom libraries or another one if you prefer]

Deepening Your Understanding

With this book, you have many choices of future actions. Do you increase your own capacity by working with a “thought partner” or a “neighbor” as you read and reflect? Or you could study the questions that we began with in the #G2Great chat and consider the responses from Julie Wright and all the participants. You could also choose to try out option 1 or option 2 above. This book is so inviting that you can begin with any of the “before, during, or after categories” or the individual 10 habits.

Decisions. Decisions. Decisions.

The ball is in your court.

How will you increase your own effectiveness?

Where will you begin?

Find that thought partner and start collaborating. Your only mistake would be to NOT take up the challenge to begin reading and thinking with my esteemed colleague, Julie Wright, the very minute that you open this book. You, your students, and your colleagues will benefit from your learning collaboration. The time is NOW to get started with your very own “WE approach” to collaboration, risk-taking, and growth!


Order book here:

The First Five: A Love Letter to Teachers by Patrick Harris II

Title slide from G2Great chat featuring The First Five

By: Brent Gilson

For a record of the chat please check out the wakelet archive here

I sit in the car for my 30-minute drive on the highway to my first teaching position. Part-time in a Grade 3 classroom. I was welcomed by the most incredible group of veteran teachers. Wonderfully kind ladies with 30+ years of experience each planning to teach until they couldn’t anymore. Walking in fresh out of University I had big ideas and plans. They wanted me to follow their binders. Teach with fidelity to the things they had always done. I opted to follow my heart. I remember the incredible things that little group of 8 year olds did. I remember as I sat and told them about my dear friend and mentor who had just lost her friend to a terrible tragedy. I remember these little faces tell me that we needed to do something. So we started the Familiar Stranger Initiative and the whole class ran around doing kind acts for others, including kids on the playground. We even wrote a picture book together. That first year and the years that followed shaped who I am now. No longer an elementary teacher but still reading picture books with my students, still in awe of the brilliance they display.

This week the #g2great chat was honored to welcome Patrick Harris II to lead us in a reflective discussion inspired by thoughts from his beautiful new book The First Five: A Love Letter to Teachers. As the chat opened we were inspired by Patrick’s own words.

Reflection is such an important piece of the work that we do. Teachers who joined the chat shared some of their reflections about the advice they might give new teachers based on their own experiences.

One theme that comes out of Patrick’s work is the importance of looking at students and teachers as people first. As the world of education seems to be pulled away from unique, autonomous work and towards conformity and standardization Patrick reminds us of the importance to resist this pull and the WHY that is so important.

As we continued to chat the idea of inspiration came up. Why did you become a teacher? Who acted as your inspiration? As teachers read The First Five I believe they will find inspiration for themselves. As Mary Howard states,

So many teachers shared their inspiration. Family members, neighbors, and teachers who impacted them.

Magic. I think as we all look at what we hope to do as teachers Patrick’s words above really encapsulate it. We hope to make Magic in a single room. For each of our students. The question though is how? How can we create that space? What do we need to do to ensure that the space we help create with our students is one of Magic?

One word. Trust. The key to unlocking change. Trust that folks are working for the best of students. Trust that we can ask for help and support and it will come. Trust in parents that they are doing the best they can. Trust in colleagues that they are doing the same. Trust that an offer to help is extended with sincerity.

The world of education is a bumpy one right now but all we need to push back the dark is a little light. Patrick’s words serve as more than just a little light. His humanity is all over this inspiring book. As many of us are starting our school year soon or already have it can seem pretty hopeless. Leaning into the support of our friends and colleagues. Trust each other and look for those willing to support. They are out there and some of them are writing beautiful books.

In closing with much thanks to Patrick, here are some of his words.

Affording Ourselves Professional Grace & Space In Challenging Times

This post is dedicated to all the losers out there. Those of us who listen to interior voices that whisper,

“not good enough”

by Jenn Hayhurst

August 11, 2022 was my  #G2Great homecoming marking return after an extended absence from Twitter. Mary, who is extremely kind and wise, suggested that I write this blog post since our topic was: Affording Ourselves Professional Grace & Space In Challenging Times. Maybe it was fate, a topic that was heavy on my mind, as schools reopen across the country happened to be the one that would welcome my return to #G2Great. Seneca once said, “Fate leads the willing and drags along the unwilling.” If this is true, then call me a happy follower.

During my time away from social media, I learned three important lessons that I have to share with others who find themselves in need of both “grace” and “space”  during these challenging times:

#1 Value Friendships

This may seem like an obvious one, but when you’re feeling overwhelmed it’s easy to take even your closest friends for granted. Another thing to consider; sometimes, when we are stressed, we surround ourselves with “friends” who may not be the best choices. So take stock in your friendships by asking: “What support are my friends giving me? How are they helping?” And then, “Am I being a good friend in return?”

I put out a call inviting friends prior to the chat. I wanted to touch base with my friends who spread positivity and brilliance:

It is my happiness to share and promote all the good work these remarkable humans are contributing to the world right now:

Click here to read @NadineRuzzier’s blog
Click here to read @carolynhelmers Stenhouse Blog post

@juliewright4444’s beautiful new @BenchmarkEdu book

#2 Be Present

When times get rough, it is so easy to start chasing worrisome thoughts.  Then, inevitably, a myriad of distractions set in causing us to lose focus. Aimlessly scrolling online looking for solutions for what to teach tomorrow. When really, the answers we seek are being revealed to us every day by the children we teach.

Whatever, you are doing: teaching a lesson, serving in a committee, or joining a Twitter Chat, be present:

@dubioseducator is a master for showing us how to be more fully present.. read her post, When Slow and Steady Comes into Play
Check our this review on Good Reads. Did you know you can rent audio books from your public library? Check out Libby

This one goes out to our newest teachers, if you are feeling “off balance” during instruction, leaning in means you are learning something. Keep going, reflect and focus on what is happening in the present:

#3  Take Action

So long as we live, there is always a choice. Our actions matter, and either contribute towards positivity or negativity. Sometimes it is a kind gesture:

Sometimes it working towards a vital cause:

During challenging times, do something to contribute towards the “good” because every action matters. Leave a generous invitation to everyone you work with that you are there to help, leave every door open:

In the end, it’s not about winning or losing, it’s about how we decide to play this game of life. It’s not a spin of a dial, it’s the actions we take, once we consider our options. What example will you set? We are what we do, and what do we think. Really, there is only you and what you believe. What will you decide to let in this school year?  This school year, I am opening the door to: being thoughtful about my friends; making a practice of being present by honing my ability to focus; and taking actions that lead towards positive solutions.  Let’s get to work, and have a wonderful school year. Never forget you were always enough.

Developing Digital Detectives: Essential Lessons for Discerning Fact from Fiction in the “Fake News” Era

Cover Slide from #G2Great chat featuring book title, author names and chat details

By Brent Gilson

For the archive of the chat please visit the Wakelet here

From the Authors-What motivated them to explore this topic?

It’s not hyperbolic to say that we believe this is the most important work we can be doing right now. As we state in the introduction to our book, Until we get a handle on our own ability to determine what can and can’t be trusted in the information we consume, we stand very little chance of truly confronting the other problems we face as a species.

Without fail every day at the start of my grade 9 class a student will start the day with a “Mr. Gilson, did you hear about [insert topic] and I always ask them to fill me in. The majority of the time the information I get is partly true with a mix of misinformation, disinformation, and a sprinkling of alternative facts. I often times push back, I ask them where they heard this partly true thing. More often than not it is social media: some TikTok video or a snippet of Fox News or MSNBC that has been edited and crafted to tell a different story than the one intended. When I try to illustrate the gaps in information or the outright false information they are repeating, they are often skeptical of me. 

I don’t remember this problem growing up. We had newspapers and new programs with trusted anchors that were just there to give us the news. It seems as technology increases and attention spans decrease those responsible to get information to the masses have adopted the mindset of entertainment is better than education. This model has dire impact on our students and schools as students are faced with a sea of information. I think about the scene in Alan Gratz’s Refugee when Mahmoud discovers that the life jackets his family purchased were fakes. They looked alright but when needed could not keep someone from drowning. Without the proper support, our students will drown in this sea of information in the time of fake news, misdirection, and flat-out lies that fill our news cycles. Students need tools to navigate these seas and this week the G2Great team was so grateful to welcome Jennifer LaGarde and Darren Hudgins to discuss their work Developing Digital Detectives.

From the Authors- What do you hope are the BIG Takeaways for teachers to embrace after reading your book?

Technology has evolved at an exponential pace in the last few decades, but guess what hasn’t evolved very much at all in that time? The human brain. Mis-, Dis- and Mal- information are problems rooted in human behavior, which means the solutions to those problems can be found there, too!

As the chat began participants reflected on the importance of Information Literacy, the ability to discern the Mis- Dis- and Mal- information from the truth.

Question 1 from the chat Jennifer and Darren remind us: "In a landscape filled with misinformation, information literacy is more vital than ever.” Before we begin our #G2great chat tonight, respond to that statement.

Jennifer LaGarde response. Mentions how false information isn't just to misinform but divide us.
Chat response discussing the importance of teaching kids to evaluate information
Chat response highlighting the constant flow of information and how that information can be harmful.

As teachers reflected two pieces that stood out to me particularly were those of Christie Nold and Jennifer herself. The idea that so much of the book banning conversations are fuelled by this twisting of the truth and purposeful misrepresentation to cause fear is something I think needs more attention.

Chat response highlighting books banned based off misinformation.

Additionally Christie’s point regarding the use of misinformation as a recruiting tool. Praying on our youth as a means to further the hateful agenda of white supremacy. 

Chat response mentioning the dangers of recruitment of young people into white supremacy through misinformation.

Next, the chat covered strategies for how to deal with information that triggers an emotional response.

Image shows Question 2 for the chat. Asking how we deal with triggering information.
Chat response highlighting ways to help students process information that triggers them.
Image highlights another strategy in dealing with triggering information
Image highlights a strategy for dealing with triggering information
Image highlights a strategy for dealing with triggering information
Image highlights a strategy for dealing with triggering information

We might help students to look at the information presented to them with a lens of thoughtful reflection rather than jumping to the idea that we disagree and therefore it must not be true. To analyze things we need to take time. Too often even adults, when faced with something they disagree with, turn off their ability to process and just look for reasons it is wrong. This inability to really look at information makes it even more difficult to maneuver to find the truth. If adults struggle with it and have years of experience how can we expect our students to do so without support? 

One very common concern that often comes up in classrooms is the “dreaded” smartphone. Schools have policies that police how/when/if students can have phones out. Students, in my experience, need support in how to leverage their phones to be the tools for learning that they have the potential to be. While considerations like access need to be considered, when used well smartphones can be powerful learning tools. This year I had students making movies for projects with only their phones. Apps designed to be powerful learning tools are readily available if teachers simply put aside that need for control and help students see how useful our phones can be. 

These are troubling times when forces that mean to do harm have learned how to weaponize information and the internet to spread misinformation and hate. Our students are spending more and more time in these waters and without the proper education on how to discern fact from fiction we are putting kids in harm’s way.

Developing Digital Detectives provides us with the tools and language to help our students navigate these waters. We need to prioritize this instruction in our classrooms so that our students are prepared for the world at their fingertips. Literally.

The G2Great team is grateful to all who participated this week in the chat and especially to Jennifer and Darren for leading this discussion and sharing their expertise.

From the Authors- What do you hope teachers can take to heart after the chat?

News, Media and Information literacy can’t be treated as an “add on” or something we do during “advisory” periods when time allows. We must find ways to embed these skills across content areas and grade spans. Our kids, our communities, indeed our world, are depending on us to prioritize this work.


Developing Digital Detectives: Essential Lessons for Discerning Fact From Fiction in the “Fake News” Era by Jennifer LaGarde and Darren Hudgins

  • Our monthly  newsletter. It’s free and is organized into 5 sections: Explore (one resources to explore). Teach (one resource to each). Think (one resource to think about). Follow (one Information Literacy leader to follow). Bort’s Bonus: (something extra that we think people will find useful.
  • The Developing Digital Detectives study guide we created for people to use when reading our book as part of PLCs, etc. 
  • The Evidence Locker comes with a digital repository of well over a hundred resources, activities, etc. Our book is like a cookbook, with all the recipes, and the evidence locker is the pantry – with all the stuff you need to get cooking!