Thursday, August 14, 2014

Tips for Coaching Teachers

Those of us who are senior teachers often have the responsibility of advising our junior colleagues. K-12 coach Elena Aguilar offers five good tips for coaching teachers. Here are excerpts:

Active Listening When I'm working with new coaches, the absence of active listening is sometimes what stands out the most. It's the first practice I explicitly teach and one that I think has the potential to shift everything else that happens in the conversation. I've written about this already, so read this post and watch this video to explore this idea more. And then try it!

Planning a Conversation Every time I ask coaches to spend 20-30 minutes planning a conversation, they come out of it with almost visible light bulbs above their heads, with epiphanous smiles on their faces. Yes, it is that powerful of an experience. It makes you feel confident and prepared, it deepens your empathy for your client, it warms up your mental pathways so that the words have already coursed through them and are primed to come out in the moment.

Short Observations But here's the thing about observations: I think that they can be as short as 7-10 minutes, and that a short observation can provide equally useful data to what we see in a 50 minute observation. Many observers and teachers have gotten into a mindset that observations should be an entire period. Most of the time, I disagree with this. In order for a coach to gather useful data, the coach needs to be observing for a very narrow and specific instructional practice such as checking for understanding, asking higher order thinking questions, having positive interactions . . . .

One Teacher, One Goal I want to suggest that we focus on one teacher and one goal. That doesn't mean that you neglect the other 79 teachers/17 goals, it means you FOCUS on one. You plan for conversations with that one teacher, you dig deep into what it'll take to meet that one goal.

When we focus we're much more likely to be successful, to learn in the process, to inspire others to attempt change, and to see results. Our schools are often operating in ways that are in stark contrast to best practices in making change, starting with this issue of being spread to wide and thin. See what happens this year if you identify one teacher whom you want to go deep with, who you'll observe every week, and for whom you'll plan and really prepare. It might be transformational.

Attend to Your Own Professional Learning What's one aspect of coaching that you want to work on this year? Listening? Using analytical frameworks to reflect on what you heard? Trying different coaching stances? Quelling your own judgments about other? Cultivating a quiet and calm mind? Gathering data that shifts instructional practice?

Identify one thing and then create your own learning plan. What are some activities that might help you refine this practice? If you're going to focus on using different kinds of coaching sentence stems, you can audio record conversations and analyze them afterwards. If you're doing to cultivate a quiet mind, you could try practicing mindfulness meditation. If you want to focus on strategic coaching conversations, you can start planning your conversations and reflecting on them afterwards.

You can read more here.


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