“[TORSH Talent] has been really helpful for me… [Even though] COVID means that our plans are changing, we’re still getting to coach and develop our teachers.”Reilly Blackwelder, Assistant Principal of Instruction for IDEA Rundberg
Reilly Blackwelder serves as the Assistant Principal of Instruction at the Rundberg campus of IDEA Public Schools. We sat down with her to discuss the ways in which adopting virtual video platform TORSH Talent has accelerated the professional development of new teachers and expanded the leadership capacity of instructional leaders, despite pandemic struggles with staff shortages and increasing administrative loads.
IDEA Rundberg is a K-12 campus of IDEA Public Schools located in Austin, Texas. A network of tuition-free public charter schools, IDEA was founded on the radical belief in the unlimited potential of all students and has a long history of democratizing excellent education. Rundberg is committed to a mission of “College for ALL children,” ensuring more students from low-income backgrounds, students who would be the first generation in their families to attend college, and students who come from groups historically underrepresented in higher education have access to realizing their dreams by first completing their college degree on the path to becoming the future leaders of tomorrow. To achieve this mission, Rundberg sets high expectations for every student and is committed to being a diverse, equitable, inclusive, and anti-racist organization.
Reflective Video Tools Help Educators Improve, Especially New Teachers
“The outcome that we’re seeing is that… now that [teachers] are watching instead of just listening to us, [they] are able to start getting better, faster.”Reilly Blackwelder, Assistant Principal of Instruction for IDEA Rundberg
Rundberg’s four instructional leaders work with their 50+ teachers. Each coach manages a caseload of educators grouped by department but which also includes a couple teachers that cross boundary lines. This is “for our own coaching and development…,” Blackwelder explains, so that coaches “become… better leader[s] by coaching all subjects.”
Talent provides an exceptional framework for collaborating, performing observations, and delivering evidence-based feedback. The time-synced commenting feature allows mentors and mentees to mark a moment in a recorded video observation with a text or audio comment. The natural meticulousness of this feature heightens focus by documenting precisely what happened and when, creating freedom for an educator to concentrate on what they can learn from that specific event or scenario. Teachers have more “AHA!” moments, Blackwelder explained.
Check-in meetings with teachers are typically weekly or bi-weekly, depending on where an educator is at in their professional development. Blackwelder said that their system focuses on teachers implementing assigned “action steps.” When the educator successfully achieves an action step, a new one is given. If a teacher needs more help, coaches will provide more real-time coaching and model-teaching until the educator has achieved the goal.
New teachers have particularly benefited from the use of video. “I can speak specifically to one of my teachers, who is pretty new and wants to get better. Having coached her last year without using any video, it took a long time for action steps– for her to become proficient at doing certain things,” Blackwelder shared. “And as soon as we got TORSH… [now her] action steps are being turned around so quickly.”
Rundberg’s teachers at all levels feel a greater sense of ownership over their development with the use of Talent. Blackwelder has noticed that her teachers have become more thoughtful, reflective, and engaged in the whole process – and it’s showing results.
“The outcome that we’re seeing is that… now that [teachers] are watching instead of just listening to us, [they] are able to start getting better, faster.”
Video Platform Expands Leadership Capacity During Pandemic Struggles
“Something that’s been really great with TORSH is that I can just go and set up my phone in somebody else’s classroom, leave it there, and let it record. And then I can watch and observe at a different time and give them feedback. So they’re still growing and developing, even if I’m not able to physically be in the room.”Reilly Blackwelder, Assistant Principal of Instruction for IDEA Rundberg
Using TORSH Talent has expanded the leadership capacity of instructional leaders at Rundberg, allowing them to invest in the professional development of their teachers despite pandemic struggles.
It’s no secret that the pandemic has exacerbated issues that education has been grappling with for years. Educators and administrators are exhausted, overworked, and overwhelmed. Pre-existing staff shortages have gotten worse. Building a growth mindset in a school or district becomes difficult when administrators feel as if they are stuck in survival mode.
Blackwelder confirmed that staff at Rundberg have been facing these same stressors. “This year has been incredibly challenging, for many reasons. And one of the things that we’re finding very hard as admin is, every single day, we come in and we think, okay, am I subbing today? Do we need people? Because there’s been so many people that are out.”
Talent facilitates classroom observation through video, meaning that instructional leaders do not have to be physically present at the back of a classroom when their presence is required elsewhere. Instead, educators record and upload videos of classroom teaching to the platform.
“Something that’s been really great with TORSH is that I can just go and set up my phone in somebody else’s classroom, leave it there, and let it record. And then I can watch and observe at a different time and give them feedback. So they’re still growing and developing, even if I’m not able to physically be in the room.”
These videos can be watched and re-watched by the teacher and their coach(es), administrator(s), and selected peers. Self-reflection, collaboration, and feedback can be provided through a suite of tools, including time-synced video commenting, customized rubrics, and resources in an exemplar library. Coaching and professional development is available at any time and from anywhere with the flexibility of using either the website or the mobile app.
From a leadership perspective, Blackwelder shared that “[TORSH Talent] has been really helpful for me… [Even though] COVID means that our plans are changing, we’re still getting to coach and develop our teachers” through observation and feedback cycles.
Let Us Help You, Too!
Reach out to our team to learn more about how TORSH can support your organization’s efforts in K-12 education!
In the meantime:
Read about how The Center for Transformative Teacher Training (CT3) leveraged TORSH in order to continue their coaching and professional development work amid the pandemic shift to virtual learning. CT3 has been empowering schools to be bold, act in anti-racist ways, and eliminate some of the policies that led us to the current inequitable state of our educational system.