Wildlflowers with headline: What's new since Spring Break Part 2?

Virtual Critical Friends Group Coaches’ Trainings and MicroCredential Trainings leading toward a new Virtual CFG Coach certification!

(If you missed Part 1, about our new Micro-Trainings and MicroCredentials trainings, click here.

Today, getting support and assistance from your Critical Friends may be more critical than any other time since our inception.

You’re facing uncharted territory, unforeseen dilemmas, significantly different work “products,” and stresses unless anything you’ve experienced in your teaching careers … and many of you are experiencing greater isolation due to working remotely, struggles around assisting family members young and old, in your home and away, as you maintain your full-time commitments at school and try to squeeze in some self-care. What better time to feel the powerful support of Critical Friends Group communities?

Yet all our on-site trainings ground to an immediate halt in mid-March due to travel restrictions related to COVID-19.

We jumped into action (while keeping an eye on the Big Picture, the Details, and the Community!) and quickly realized that translating our existing agendas into virtual spaces was not a direct or easy transition. Yes, some protocols and activities convert beautifully and actually work more efficiently via Zoom, but others are more complicated.  And Zoom fatigue is real:  when we train people in the same room with us for five consecutive days, we’re all kind of exhausted by week’s end — adding screens to that schedule wouldn’t do anybody any favors. So the trainings needed to be broken down differently.

We decided early on to limit the technologies we’d use in training to what was available in Zoom and ways we could support that work with Google Docs, Google Spreadsheets, and, recently, Google Classrooms.  (We thought that educators had enough “shiny new tech” to deal with already.  Once your feet are firmly beneath you again with videoconferencing, we’ve learned some great new tech to add to particular protocols, but for starters, we’re keeping it simple and trying to remain with tech that’s already familiar in many districts.)

And just as we’re sure you’re doing on your own, we’re learning SO MUCH about facilitating on-screen, adding agreements about technology to our collaboration, and balancing asynchronous and synchronous work.

The goal: a series of MicroCredentials leading to NSRF certification as a Virtual Critical Friends Group Coach

If you’ve taken our training or seen our Coaches’ Handbook, you know there’s a particular order for rolling out this work:  we build the foundations of trust, introduce protocols with care, teach people how to give and receive feedback effectively, look at “third places” to depersonalize responses to our work, bring dilemmas to the table so we can see new perspectives.  Sometimes in trainings we can add-in observation protocols or looking at student work. But there’s always a particular flow.

Now that many CFG meetings will be conducted virtually, we’ve learned that there are essentials about doing this work via screens … brand-new content in a new MicroCredential that will need to come first:  what can we do with just a few tech tools to reduce overwhelm, how can we take advantage of collaboration to feel more connected, what basic details make a HUGE difference when we’re working virtually?

And rather than cramming everything into 33.5 hours (as we do in five-consecutive days) we made the decision to chunk the material into specific MicroCredentials so participants can take things one step at a time … and add in “electives” when it suits them.  We also are building in the option for asynchronous practice time (for those who want that end certification as a VCFG Coach) so that by the time someone gets through all the MicroCredentials to reach the goal of certification, they’re much more comfortable in the arena, practiced in DOING the work, and ready to continue carrying CFG work forward.

However, we want to develop these new MicroCredentials toward VCFG Coaches’ Certification with care … so they’re not ready yet.

In the meantime, a (temporary) alternative for CFG Coaches’ Certification

Although it’s not our end goal, we don’t want to delay getting more folks trained as CFG Coaches, so we’ve developed an interim plan based loosely on trainings previously conducted in the same room with you, leaning toward what we will eventually offer with the MicroCredentials toward Certification.

Using our new Virtual versions of familiar protocols and activities, wrapped up with some brand-new content for virtual training, we can teach the essentials of CFG work and so we can continue certifying CFG Coaches. These events happen, typically, in eight sessions lasting three to three-and-a-half hours each, and include a few hours of asynchronous homework.  These trainings are led by one NSRF National Facilitator assisted by another National Facilitator who acts as Producer/Tech Host.  Because the two work in tandem, any temporary glitches in connectivity can be managed by the other, and the pair can manage up to 20 participants in training (rather than 15, our limit when we’re working in the same room).  There are a few other slight differences, but the end result is that participants can become certified CFG Coaches and receive access to the Coaches’ materials on this website for a year, in addition to the virtual materials received in training.

If you believe, as we do, that CFG communities can help educators struggle less, then please contact us to talk about CFG Coaches’ Training by emailing nsrf@nsrfharmony.org today!