Last month, I wrote a blog about facilitating collegial classroom visits while the coach covers the visiting teacher’s classes. I wanted to continue the thread because I think there’s more to be said. The question I asked at the end of the blog was how could coaches facilitate visitations to foster ongoing conversations about practice? It must have hit home because I’ve had some email inquiries asking me how that process could be accomplished without coaches becoming a substitute for those teachers visiting others.
It really is a challenging issue and a conundrum… coaches want to promote professional growth for all and how can they do that if they are not willing to cover classes? If that were only the case, I could answer it in a few words. But asking that question makes me wonder about the shared understanding of the coaching role. Does the staff understand that coaching is not an “extra pair of hands” but rather a deliberate process that involves thinking, planning, collaboration, facilitation and presentation, and debriefing? Do they understand about collective problem-solving, clear communication, and confidentiality?
Every coach I know would gladly cover classes in an emergency. We all would… all hands-on deck! But for a planned event, e.g., a classroom visitation, that’s not an emergency. When planning visitations, a schedule is needed just like any other planned trip. After all, are coaches expected to cover classes when a field trip is scheduled? If that’s the case, I fear that the coach as a valuable resource is misunderstood, misused, and just plan missed!
So, how does a coach help a teacher visit other colleagues? 1) Bring teachers together to discuss how to schedule visitations and make a plan. 2) If they are willing, perhaps visiting during a prep period works, especially in a block schedule where the visit can be part of the class period; 3) Ask teachers if they are willing to trade coverage periods, e.g., I’ll cover for you if you cover for me; 4) See who else in the building is available, e.g., a counselor who wants to see students in action, a coordinator who doesn’t get a chance to see how students work together, perhaps a librarian who would love to take some time and do a library scavenger hunt with students, or an administrator who wants to get back in touch with students. None of these suggestions are perfect but they could work if the coach and teachers collaborate, discuss the goals of the visitation, and plan a course of action.
How do you or coaches you know schedule classroom visitations in your building?