November 5, 2006



















Reflections from the October 28th CFG follow up training:


· Today I gained further clarification of the CFG process and what a CFG should be and do.

· CFG should not be forced.  Coaches need to be upfront with the process.  A lot is being forced on my campus.

· Thanks again for “re” charging me.  (I knew you would.)  I hope we can get more people to come back to these.

· It was a reinforcement of the value of using protocols; I learned that we pretty much share in the same problems; teachers should maybe volunteer at first to be in a CFG.

· I learned that trust is especially important when looking @ student work.

· I learned that it is always helpful to have the protocol in front of me—even when I have done it thousands of times.

· I learned that coaches need to be able to articulate what they value about CFG work.  They also need to feel more confident.






Text Box: Save the Date

New Coach Follow-up Session #3
Saturday, December 2,2006
8:00 a.m.—12:00 noon 
UH Hilton
Continental breakfast and parking provided

Please remember to RSVP.


Coaching Facilitates Greatness is a weekly support newsletter from The Houston A+ Challenge for new CFG coaches. Questions and comments are welcome at 

Text Box: Why Are We Doing This?





Why are we doing this? How is this going to help?

In thinking about these questions and the kinds of tools we need as we establish our critical Friends Groups, those big abstract words like trust, systemic, change, collaboration, culture, come to mind – those things that the experts say organizations (schools) need  to be successful.

             I was reading the following article from the NSRF website. “NSRF focuses on developing facilitative leaders and collaborative,

reflective cultures in schools and districts. The protocols, training, coaching, and follow-up of its Critical Friends Groups (CFGs) offer educators

specific tools rather than just words: a systematic, documented alternative for those who either cannot afford large-scale structural change or simply doubt its practicality, even its necessity. The aim is to establish an

environment in which educators can safely make their practice “public”

to CFG members, harnessing awareness of and respect for shared vulnerability.”

One of the questions that plagued me as a new coach was the expectation (that I unconsciously put on myself): of how to get the “school” to embrace this wonderful, powerful stuff. How do I present what I have learned and how do I illicit that same enthusiasm that I felt; that, this is what we need to effect change and make us better practitioners, and do it now!

Then one day someone said or I finally heard that you start small, that you work on establishing that safe atmosphere of trust that is the life’s blood of Critical Friends Groups if they are to be effective and change-evoking.

In helping to answer my questions, I use Carl Glickman’s answer to how teaching and learning improve.  Glickman says that

“… the answer is no mystery. It’s as simple as this: I cannot improve my craft in isolation from others. To improve, I must have formats, structures, and plans for reflecting on, changing, and assessing my practice…” (Tipping Point: From Feckless Reform to Substantive Instructional Improvement,
by Mike Schmoker.
Phi Delta Kappan, February, 2004).

             I connect all our work in school reform bringing it from large-scale structural change to answering my initial questions: Why are we doing this? How is this going to help? For me, the answer is: The critical Friends Group puts “us” in charge of our professional development, in charge of our reflective cultures in schools and ultimately in districts. This work begins most effectively with CFG’s. In order to build capacity, the focus must necessarily be on building trust, making people feel completely comfortable that they can be vulnerable and that that vulnerability is the starting point to reflecting on, improving, deepening, and expanding who we are as practitioners. Doing this is time well spent, time well invested in laying a strong foundation that will stand and be able to grow, support and sustain itself.


Carolyn Thibeaux

















For details and registration, go to:

11th Annual NSRF Winter Meeting

Seattle, Washington
January 25-27, 2007

Your Invitation
Since 1995, the Annual NSRF Winter Meeting has been a source of renewal for thousands of educators, providing time to think and inquire, and a space for courageous work to take root. We invite you to grow with us in our tradition of adult learning in the service of student achievement at the 11th Annual NSRF Winter Meeting in Seattle, Washington, for an experience like no other.