We recently had the chance to interview Diana Gomez, coordinator of the new teacher mentoring program in the Pasadena ISD (TX), to learn more about how Sibme is currently being utilized in the mentoring program. For the past year, Pasadena ISD has been using Sibme to enhance their mentoring process.
How long have you been an educator, and why did you go into the field of education?
I have 39 years of experience in public education; there were educators in my family, but I knew early on that I wanted to teach. I love learning and sharing what I learn.
How long have you been a mentor, and what is your philosophy when it comes to working with new teachers?
When I was still in the classroom, I mentored new teachers on my campus or in my department. I have been working with our district mentoring program since 2001, but with the current structure, since 2006. We have a strong partnership with the New Teacher Center out of Santa Cruz, CA. We strongly believe in their instructional mentoring approach, where mentors are carefully selected and trained so that new teacher effectiveness is accelerated. Furthermore, we use a formative assessment system (modeled after that of the NTC) of mentoring tools and protocols that encourage deep reflection and analysis by both mentors and new teachers on best teaching practices.
Had you ever videotaped your teacher interns and used it to enhance your mentoring process before using Sibme?
We have participated in a grant study with a university, but the technology we used was very difficult to manage. It got in the way of the coaching/mentoring process because so much time was spent managing the technology piece.
Why do you think videotaping teachers has the potential to improve teaching practice?
For many reasons. Initially, we thought mostly about how we could save time and money. We are not able to provide release time for all mentors and new teachers to complete all the tasks in the formative assessment system, specifically the formal classroom observations. Teachers must use their planning time or find someone who can cover a class in order for the observations to be completed. We initially thought that videotaping would solve some of these problems, given that teachers could videotape themselves and then do the analysis part when most convenient for them. This has happened, but in addition, we have learned so much more. For example, we have learned about the technology involved in the process, and that once a video has been recorded, uploaded, and shared, it can be viewed in many, varied contexts and from many, varied perspectives. The video can be analyzed many times and in multiple ways. There is much learning that happens when watching a video of a lesson cycle. It takes time to teach and train a mentor in data collection strategies needed to complete the observations. With video, that moves to the back burner, and a mentor who is not comfortable with scripting, can move forward with video. Being skilled at scripting is no longer a barrier to capturing the reality of what is happening in the classroom.
When it comes to recording, hosting, and sharing video there are other solutions. Why did you choose Sibme?
When we heard about Sibme, we decided to explore working with them because they were located not only in the same state, but right in our city. We knew we would need a great deal of technical support if we were going to implement video across the program. As it turns, out this has been the very best decision for our program. Sibme has supported our journey, the process, and implementation every step of the way. Sibme educated and trained our staff, our teachers (mentors and new teachers), and helped us problem-solve through our technology hurdles. In addition, as we map out our process, Sibme is responsive to our feature requests. On top of it all, Sibme pricing is unbeatable for a nearly custom solution.
What is your favorite Sibme feature?
Ease of use, and the fact that it is a secure and private platform, and we have ownership and control over the data that is uploaded into Sibme. A year and a half ago, you might have grinned if you heard that I was going to help spearhead this project. However, videotaping with Sibme is very easy for me. I have been able to support about 200 teachers through this process. We especially love working in the Huddles we have setup for our mentors and interns. The time-stamp comment feature adds a ton of value to the mentoring conversation. This not only saves a lot of time when viewing and reflecting on the lesson during the post-observation conference, it focuses the conversation around goals that have been set. This gives us the opportunity to track progress and provides the evidence to demonstrate that goals are being achieved throughout the mentoring process.
As you move forward as a program, how do you intend to leverage the Sibme platform with your current mentoring process?
We want to merge the platform and embed it deeply into our mentoring and observation cycle, in particular with our data collection during the observation process. We also want our mentors and interns to have robust conversations about instruction during the post-observation conferences, and video allows them to do so. In addition, we want to format our feedback process and link it to our formal teacher performance standards, so that the mentoring conversations tie back to our teaching standards.
If you were to give any advice to instructional leaders who are considering implementing video-enhanced professional learning into their teacher development process, what would you say?
Research and take a careful inventory of the technology tools already available in your organization or school district. We stressed and anguished for a long time over how we were going to acquire the equipment/technology tools to do the videotaping. There were important issues to address such as FERPA and issues related to confidentiality/security. In the end those turned out to be non-issues. The primary obstacle was access to technology to do the videotaping. We tried everything, until one day we discovered that all student and teacher tablets and computers had recording capabilities with the ArcSoft Camera Suite. That means that pretty much throughout the district, on any campus, we can videotape without fancy equipment. All we need is that camera suite and Sibme. We have found an affordable and efficient model, and now everybody in our program wants to videotape.