Crucial Conversations

Conversations that have high stakes, strong emotions, and differing opinions can be tough, but they are also some of the most important conversations to have. In order to be successful in these types of conversations, Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, and Swizler (2002) give some specific steps and skills to focus on in their book Crucial Conversations.

Patterson et al. (2002) recommend that we Start with Heart and remember that the only person we can control is ourselves. The following questions are good to keep in mind:

What do I really want for myself? * What do I really want for others? * What do I really want for the relationship?

I will probably need to think about all three of these during conversations about my Innovation Plan. It will be important for me to stay focused on my goal of implementing my plan, and not shift into competitive mode in which I just want to win the situation for winning’s sake. Instead of thinking of choices as either/or choices, I need to find ways to clarify what I WANT and what I DON’T WANT with an and question. Is it possible that there’s a way to accomplish both ideas?

The next step is to Learn to Look. Instead of just focusing on the content of a discussion, we need to be aware of other conditions, including physical, emotional, and behavioral signals that show that we’ve moved from a discussion into a Crucial Conversation. If this occurs, we need to move back into a safe area where all parties feel like they can say anything. When things are unsafe in a conversation, people can move to either silence or violence; withdrawing from the conversation or controlling the conversation, usually by attacking the other person. To self-monitor, it is important to ‘pay close attention to what you’re doing and the impact it’s having, and then alter your strategy if necessary.’ (Patterson, et al., 2002).

In order to Make it Safe in any conversation, it is important for everyone involved to have mutual purpose and mutual respect. When things get unsafe, it is important to step back, apologize if necessary, and then get to mutual respect. Patterson et al. (2002) suggest using the following four skills to do this: Commit to seek Mutual Purpose, Recognize the purpose behind the strategy, Invent a Mutual Purpose,, and Brainstorm new strategies.

Often, even in safe conversations, things can become emotional. Our instinct at this point might be fight or flight, but with the step of Master my Stories we can explain what’s going on with our feelings. Then we can refocus the dialogue to get back to the facts.

Many times, Crucial Conversations require some persuasion. It is important that we don’t let our persuasion become abrasive. In order to do this, we can STATE our Path and use these five tools: Share your facts, Tell your story, Ask for others’ paths, Talk tentatively, and Encourage testing. These tools can guide us through the what and how of talking about sensitive topics. We also need to remember to listen and Explore Others’ Paths. In this way, we can let others know that they are safe and that we want them to share their Path. In order to do this it is important to be sincere, curious, and patient. These four power listening skills can help: Ask to Get Things Rolling, Mirror to Confirm Feelings, Paraphrase to Acknowledge the Story, and Prime When You’re Getting Nowhere. If you have listened to another’s path and disagree with some or all of what they’re contributing to the conversation, remember to Agree, Build, and Compare your stories and paths.

The final part of having a Crucial Conversation is to Move to Action. It is important for all parties to have clear expectations about how decisions will be made: this needs to be part of the dialogue. To make decisions, there four methods to consider: Command, Consult, Vote, and Consensus. The method to be used in each situation needs to be defined. Some things to consider when choosing a decision-making method include: Who cares? Who knows? Who must agree? and How many people is it worth involving? Once a decision is made it needs to be put into action. The following elements need to be considered: Who? Does what? By when? and How will you follow up? These decisions should be put in writing in order to have documentation of the conversation.

When working to implement my Innovation Plan I will most likely have some Crucial Conversations. One Crucial Conversation I will need to have with administrators is about teachers using an online learning format in their classroom as part of the Blended Learning station rotation model. I will need to convince the administrators at my school that this plan is a good idea, and there are parts of it that I believe they will be hesitant about. Before each conversation I will need to prepare and be ready when things turn crucial. When reading the book, I took the quiz in the Learn to Look section and discovered that I especially need to focus on Start With Heart (which surprised me) and Move to Action (which didn’t surprise me). When reading more deeply about Start with Heart, I realized that I often don’t have specific goals in mind, and therefore it’s hard to stay focused. I need to begin with a goal, and when a conversation gets tough, I need to stop and remember that goal. Move to Action is always tough for me. I can have great ideas, but often don’t know how to get started on them or how to move forward. All the steps in between these two I feel like I could do, if only I could get better at the first and last! I think the key for me is to plan ahead and keep focused on more than just content when I’m having a Crucial Conversation.


Patterson, K., Grenny, J., McMillan, R., & Swizler, A. (2002). Crucial conversations: Tools for talking when stakes are high. New York: McGraw-Hill.

4DX and a WIG

Last week I really enjoyed reading Influencer and couldn’t imagine finding a plan that fit together more easily. But I did! I really like The 4 Disciplines of Execution (4DX) plan! I feel like it is just a different perspective on the same goals, but the combination of the two helps me to think through my Innovation Plan in a focused way.

I will need to meet with my team to implement the changes in my plan. 4DX has 5 specific stages that I will work through in helping the teachers at my school become as effective as possible.

Stage 1: Getting Clear

In this stage, my team and I will need to focus in on one or two wildly important goals, or WIGs, based around using the blended learning station rotation model for implementing a district required reading program. We will then brainstorm and choose two or three high-leverage lead measures to focus on. We will brainstorm about a good way to monitor our progress with a simple scoreboard, which will be in a location where we can all see how we are progressing toward our goal. In stage 1 we will also plan a time and place for our weekly WIG sessions. By planning ahead and having clarity in our purpose, I will be setting the team up for success!

Stage 2: Launch

Executing our plan and focusing on our lead measures will be difficult to do within the whirlwind of our school. If we can trust the process and implement our lead measures with fidelity, we should make progress. During our Launch stage I will be looking for teachers who are modeling our measures smoothly. I will also keep my eye out for those who are resistant to the change.

Stage 3: Adoption

Often times, when a new plan doesn’t work in the beginning, it is abandoned. This is why so many new plans are implemented, which causes feelings of frustration and being overwhelmed. By keeping my team and the teachers at my school focused on the WIG and the Lead Measures, I believe that we will see results more quickly. When teachers make commitments each week and hold each other accountable, they will be able to push through the initial phase of feeling overwhelmed and begin to see the scoreboard moving forward. We will need to keep in mind the idea that we can adjust as we notice what is working and what isn’t. Our weekly WIG meetings will allow us time to review and adjust as needed. As an instructional coach on my campus, I can put effort into mentoring and training teachers along the way. Focusing on those who aren’t resistant but are not necessarily models will encourage them to make progress.

Stage 4: Optimization

It will be exciting and interesting to see what creative ideas my team will come up with to optimize the their performance and the lead measures. Teachers often have amazing thoughts, but no time or permission to implement them. WIG meetings focusing on WIGs will give them the opportunities to try new things. To celebrate these ideas and innovative ways that they are being implemented, WIG meetings will need to include recognition and encouragement both from me and from other team members to each other.

Stage 5: Habits

When my team reaches the WIG that we set, which I’m sure we will, there will need to be celebration. This will encourage the teachers to move on to a new WIG and keep making progress. I will enjoy seeing people who started as resisters become models on the campus, and teams celebrating each other for their progress. The ideas of 4DX will become habits, and guide us through WIGs each year. Our school will make great gains.

My Innovation Plan focus on improving student engagement and attendance rates through blended learning will benefit from the implementation of ideas from the Influencer model and the 4DX model.

Six Sources of Influence

Focus, Measure, and Vital Behaviors

I hope to achieve more student engagement and higher attendance levels across my elementary campus by incorporating a district-mandated online reading program into a blended learning model.

I will measure student engagement by using time on task data from classroom observations as well as surveys for students and teachers to complete. Weekly attendance data will also be collected and analyzed.

The organizational influencers who will be involved are myself, teachers, campus principal and assistant principals, ACTION director (superintendent), parents and the community.

The vital behaviors that I plan to implement are:

  1. Educate the teachers on my campus about blended learning and the benefits it can have in their classrooms.
  2. Assist teachers with planning and implementing blended learning lessons and incorporating a schedule conducive to the station rotation model.
  3. Help teachers set up Google Classroom to make the station rotation model possible in their classrooms.

Sources of Influence

By incorporating all six sources of influence, I hope to put a positive twist on a difficult situation and help teachers feel that they are still impacting their students’ lives.





Teachers on my campus are being required to implement an online reading program with their students.  A blended learning model of station rotation will help them get the most out of the time they have with their students each day, as well as allow the reading program to compliment their teaching instead of replace it. Teachers will appreciate focusing on the benefits of blended learning rather than on the online program that they feel is replacing their teaching. Scenarios and videos will help teachers see examples of what blended learning can look like in an elementary school. I will be on campus to model lessons or assist in classrooms as teachers begin to implement blended learning. In this role, I can talk through situations in real-time with teachers, and give them feedback about what is working and what is not working.


Through an online poll, I will find out who the opinion leaders are on my campus. Enlisting them to be some of the first to incorporate the station rotation model into their classrooms will be encouraging to other teachers. It will also be powerful if some teachers allow me to video examples of blended learning working well, and show them to the faculty. Our campus has a Google Community to post pictures and affirmations. Teachers can post pictures of their students engaged in any aspect of blended learning, and I can encourage administration to post pictures and affirmations as well. I will facilitate weekly meetings with the teachers so that they can discuss with each other what is happening in their classrooms and work through problems together. This will also be a time of celebrations, to give teachers opportunity to acknowledge what is working well. For any professional development that I provide on campus, I will attempt to use a blended learning model to give teachers ideas and examples.


Our campus is expected to implement an online reading program. There will be ACTION directors and supervisors checking to see that the program is used with fidelity; they are taking personal responsibility for the progress that they believe they will see. Confirm that teachers have the computers and headphones needed to allow their students access to the online program, as well as making sure that their classrooms are set up in a manner conducive to a station rotation model of blended learning.



Grenny, J., Maxfield, D., Shimberg, A. (2013). How to 10X Your Influence. Provo, Utah: VitalSmarts.

Harapnuik, D. (2016, January 28). It’s About Learning: 4 Effective Ways to Find and Test Vital Behaviors. Retrieved from:

Grenny, J., Patterson, K., Maxfield, D., McMillan, R., & Switzler, A. (2013). Influencer: The New Science of Leading Change (2nd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill Education.

Learning is a Process

When does change go from being difficult to being enjoyable?

An innovation plan, including mine to implement a blended learning format in my school, can be a big change. Although many teachers will be excited, some teachers could have a difficult time with the change that is involved. But this change is needed. Students today learn through electronics, and it’s about time that teachers tune into this and get on board.

Through my research and reading, I’ve discovered ways that technology can be used in the classroom to assist students in their learning. I hope to use this knowledge to influence the teachers on my campus to incorporate technology into their classrooms. I believe that this will help students to become more engaged, and therefore to be present at school more often.

As an instructional coach, I plan to model lessons using technology and help teachers incorporate more technology into their lesson plans. See my Innovation Plan, Implementation Outline, and Literature Review for more information about my ideas.

Some books that I hope to read to continue my learning include:

The Obstacle is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials Into Triumph by Ryan Holiday

A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change by Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck

Amplify: Digital Teaching and Learning in the K-6 Classroom by Katie Muhtaris and Kirstin Ziemke

Innovator’s Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity by George Couros

The Human Side of School Change: Reform, Resistance, and the Real-Life Problems with Innovation by Robert Bass, The Jossey-Bass Education Series

50 Things You Can do With Google Classroom by Alice Keeler


Innovation Video

Digital Story

Driving in my neighborhood the other day, I saw this sign. “Dive like your kids live here.” It made me think about how I’ve always worked hard to be the kind of teacher I would want my children to have.

Children are born with natural curiosity. They ask questions, take risks, and usually aren’t afraid to try something new. This is especially true when it comes to electronics. Today’s kids haven’t known a world without smartphones or tablets.

However, at school teachers often feel that technology is a distraction.We ask students to learn information from us, when many times they could learn the same thing by searching the internet.

What if we were to change our thinking and begin encouraging students to use their technology for learning? Instead of giving them information, we could spend our time helping them design, build, invent, and create, using their devices to look up the information they needed as they worked.

There’s not a lot that we would need to change; most schools already have technology available.

Change is hard. Change is scary. But what we do in our schools today can set our students up for success in the world. Their world.

The Story Behind the Story

My children are my life and I think about them in everything I do. I feel like I’ve become a better teacher since I’ve been a mom, simply because I think about each child I work with as if they were my own. When I think about the education I want my children to receive, I am passionate that they are challenged, engaged, and solving problems daily. They are some of the most curious children I’ve ever encountered, and I want that to be a benefit in school, not something that is smothered. By using pictures of them in my innovation video, I hope to show how strongly I believe in the use of technology in our classrooms today. We can encourage all of our children to challenge themselves through the use of technology in their learning.

To create my video I used Windows Movie Maker for the first time. I enjoyed the ease of inserting pictures and recording my narration, as well as the ability to simply move my images around as I wrote and revised my wording. I was able to find pictures of my children using technology, and some of my favorite quotes as images.



How will I implement my innovation plan?

Innovation Plan Implementation Guide

As a campus-based instructional coach, my goal is to provide professional development to teachers and to coach them through the use of blended learning to increase engagement in their classrooms.

  • Before school begins or at the beginning of the school year:
    • Pitch proposal to school administration (principal, assistant principals, instructional technology specialist, librarian, counselor, and ACTION campus administrator) using literature review and video. Focus on engagement of students and predicted rise in attendance in the participating classes.
    • Survey campus technology – What is available? How is it currently being used? What changes are teachers willing and able to take on? (I believe that most classrooms have Chromebooks available at approximately a 1:2 ratio.)
    • Create and provide professional development to campus teachers and administrators about blended learning – what it is, why it matters – and find a group of teachers willing to participate.
    • Help teachers decide on a model for their classroom (guide them toward station rotation, but be open to other ideas). Provide ongoing professional development and support for teachers in the model that they choose.
    • Work out technology details with the technology specialist to be sure that appropriate devices are available in the participating classrooms.
    • Make sure all teachers are set up on Google Classroom and understand how to use it. Check that all students in participating classrooms have permission to use Google Classroom (I believe all students in our district have implied permission).
    • Find an appropriate online learning platform for teachers to use. I will suggest the use of iStation and Think Through Math because they are free for all students in our district. If teachers have other online learning interests for their class, I will help them obtain what they need.
    • Meet with campus registrar to get attendance report from previous years, and describe the blended learning plan. Discuss a process for viewing attendance reports throughout the year for participating teachers.


  • During the school year:
    • Assist teachers in developing a schedule for their class that is focused on their blended learning plan.
    • Provide blended learning lesson templates and ideas to teachers via Google Drive.
    • Assist technology specialist in teaching digital citizenship and other technology lessons to classes as needed.
    • Provide resources and create lessons for teachers as needed.
    • Help teachers plan and implement projects and small group lessons.
    • Help teachers monitor Google Classroom and all of their students’ online learning.
    • Monitor student engagement and attendance in participating classrooms, and help teachers develop strategies to continue to increase attendance.
    • Provide ongoing professional development, co-teaching, and coaching to teachers in the area of blended learning.
    • Facilitate weekly meetings with participating teachers either in person or via Google Hangouts to be able to discuss strategies and concerns.


  • Ongoing and after the school year:
    • Reflect and discuss with teachers about benefits, negatives, progress, regressions, thoughts and feelings about the schedule, program, and student learning. This can be done through meeting and/or with a Google Form.
    • Create a graph and report comparing student attendance throughout the school year in participating classes and non-participating classes. Share with teachers and administration team.
    • Encourage participating teachers to provide professional development to other campus teachers about their findings from the year and the benefits of blended learning.


Literature Review for Innovation Plan

Today’s elementary students learn differently than students even fifteen years ago, but what types of teaching and technology can best be used to help them learn? There are many books and articles on the topic, and most experts agree that a combination of face-to-face learning and online learning is the format that works the best. There are a variety of blended learning models for an elementary school teacher to choose from, depending on their classroom as well as their school and their district.

The reality of technology in our schools today is that many teachers use projectors or interactive whiteboards, and that all students learn about digital safety. “We are spending so much time telling our students about what they can’t do that we have lost focus on what we can do. Imagine that if every time you talked about the ability to write with a pencil, you only focused on telling kids not to stab one another with the tool.” (Couros, 2015, p. 7). Many experts agree that students and teachers alike see the importance of technology and want to use it for academic purposes. However, “the actual use of these devices in academics remains low,” (Dahlstrom, Brooks, Grajek, & Reeves, 2015). Although technology use is widespread, devices are not being used to their full academic potential.

As early as 2009 and continuing through 2015, the NMC Horizon Report has monitored and predicted trends in K-12 education. Even six years ago it was evident that technology was making an impact on education, and that it would continue to do so as far into the future as we can imagine. The trends that were on the horizon in 2009 included mobile devices and cloud computing, as well as collaborative environments. The specifics about these trends changed over the years and grew to include personal learning environments, deeper learning approaches, and eventually, beginning in 2014, the idea of blended learning. Johnson, Adams Becker, Cummins, Estrada, Freeman, and Ludgate stated in the 2013 report, “Institutions that embrace face-to-face / online hybrid learning models have the potential to leverage the online skills learners have already developed independent of academia. Hybrid models, when designed and implemented successfully, enable students to travel to campus for some activities, while using the network for others, taking advantage of the best of both environments.” Another common trend over the years is that it is important to rethink the role of the teacher. In the 2013 report, Johnson et al. said, “The abundance of resources and relationships made easily accessible via the internet is challenging us to revisit our roles as educators. Institutions must consider the unique value that schools add to a world in which information is everywhere, and generally free.” They propose that this can be done through blended (hybrid) models.

Blended learning is defined by Horn, Staker, and Christensen (2015, p. 54) as, “any formal education program in which a student learns at least in part through online learning, with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace and at least in part at a supervised brick-and-mortar location away from home.” As districts, schools, and teachers begin to think about blended learning in their classrooms, they need to use “an intentional transformation. The most successful blended learning programs are much more deliberate and generally share a common starting point: they begin by identifying the problem to solve or the goal to achieve. They start with a clear rallying cry.” (Horn et al., 2015, p. 97).

Once a school, district, or classroom defines their problem or goal, there are a variety of ways to implement blended learning. Horn et al. (2015) describe some specifics, including hybrid models and disruptive models. Implementation in elementary schools is most often done with a rotation model; either station rotation, lab rotation, or flipped classroom. A station rotation model is much more easily  implemented into current traditional school settings, because station rotations are something that most elementary school teachers are already accustomed to. In a station rotation model, students might spend approximately ⅓ of their time in teacher-led instruction, ⅓ of their time in collaborative activities and projects, and ⅓ of their time in online instruction. The teachers help their students set goals and work hard to meet them. When students have specific goals to work toward, they are more motivated. “When schools get the design right from the students’ perspective, so they feel that school aligns well with the things that matter to them, students show up to school motivated and eager to learn.” (Horn et al., 2015, p. 134) This is also key in solving the problem of technology not being used to its full potential in schools. Changing the mindsets of teachers to see technology as a tool, not as the main focus, will allow them to explore new and deeper uses for it.

In Visible Learning: A Synthesis of Over 800 Meta-analyses Relating to Achievement, John Hattie is able to point to a few elements of blended learning that could help student achievement. Some practices that were found to have the desired effects include problem-solving teaching, questioning, feedback, mastery learning, goals, and interactive video methods. These methods could combine face-to-face and online learning to increase student achievement. In a station rotation model of learning, students can work on mastery learning and meeting their goals through their online learning, possibly with interactive videos. The teacher can use problem-solving methods and questioning to help students during their small group work. With this type of model, feedback will be quickly and easily provided for each student.

The idea of blended learning is to balance traditional learning with online learning. This can be difficult for teachers who did not grow up in a technology-rich environment, but is as important in today’s world as balanced literacy was 20 years ago. While occasionally students were able to explore and learn to read independently, balanced literacy provided them with direct instruction of phonemic awareness to support them in their learning. Although online learning allows the creative exploration that technology provides, it cannot be forgotten that it is also necessary to have the structure that can only be provided by direct instruction. Blended learning is the balanced literacy of a technologically-minded world.



Clayton Christensen Institute. (2014, June 5). Part 6 — Technology as a Disruptive Force in Education [Video file]. Retrieved from

Couros, G. (2015). The innovator’s mindset: Empower learning, unleash talent, and lead a culture of creativity. San Diego, CA: Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc.

Dahlstrom, E., Brooks, D., Grajek, S., & Reeves, J. (2015, August 17). 2015 Student and Faculty Technology Research Studies | EDUCAUSE. Retrieved from

Hattie, J. (2009). Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.

Horn, M. B., Staker, H., & Christensen, C. M. (2015). Blended: Using disruptive innovation to improve schools [Kindle version].

Jacobs, H. H., & Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. (2010). Curriculum 21: Essential education for a changing world.

Johnson, L., Adams Becker, S., Cummins, M., Estrada V., Freeman, A., and Ludgate, H. (2013). NMC Horizon Report: 2013 K-12 Edition. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium. Retrieved from

Johnson, L., Adams Becker, S., Estrada, V., and Freeman, A. (2015). NMC Horizon Report: 2015 K-12 Edition. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium. Retrieved from

Meeker, M. (2016, June 1). 2016 Internet Trends Report — Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers. Retrieved from

Innovation Plan

In moving to a new elementary campus this year, I am coming into somewhat of an unknown. One thing I have been told is that the students at this school lack motivation and family support, and are often absent. Students can’t learn the curriculum when they’re absent; we need them on campus, participating with and learning from their teachers and peers! These students need to see the value in education and be excited to come to school to learn, and they’re not going to be motivated by the idea of sitting at a desk doing worksheets.

My goal is to help the teachers at my campus make learning more meaningful by using blended learning to raise student motivation and engagement, and therefore the attendance level. My role as an instructional coach on the campus will be to help the teachers understand the ideas behind blended learning and how to use it in their classrooms. I will then be available to help plan instruction throughout the year, monitor student data, gather necessary resources, and model classroom management and instruction as needed.

At the elementary level, most teachers are already accustomed to the concept of a station rotation model. When using the right technology and activities within this model, it could be very effective in engaging students. In a station rotation model, students might spend 1/3 of their time in independent online learning, 1/3 of their time working with partners and groups on projects, and 1/3 of their time in a workshop format having discussions with their peers and their teacher. This time with the teacher can be used for reviewing student goals and progress in their online learning, discussing work that they are completing with their group or partner, or refining understanding about a concept(s). Based on our district beliefs, I see these rotations happening 3-4 days per week, with 1 or 2 days then being used for whole class work and discussions.

Much of the online learning in the station rotation could be prepared and completed using Google Classroom. Students in our district have access to Chromebooks and are familiar with Google Classroom. Within this platform, there are many possibilities of having students watch interactive videos, read articles or stories, watch an explanation of a concept in a teacher-made video, or participate in a conversation with other students in their classroom or around the world. There is also the possibility of using websites to teach students to code, which reinforces problem solving skills. Teachers can use state-provided resources such as Think Through Math and iStation online as well. This will allow students to have choice in their learning and teachers to have data about each child’s individual progress. They will be able to use that data to help them plan each students’ next steps and form flexible groups to meet with each day.

A key component in motivating and engaging students is the creation of personal goals. Teachers and students can work together to set achievable, appropriate goals based on the state standards for their grade level. Using goal statements such as ‘I will…’ or ‘I can…’ will help students have a positive mindset toward their learning.

Upon implementing this blended learning model, I will work with teachers to monitor and track attendance levels in their classrooms. With choice and voice in their learning, students will be motivated to come to school and participate each day. With a higher attendance rate, more students will be learning and more progress will be made across the school.