By Ellen Eisenberg

By Ellen Eisenberg, Executive Director of The Professional Institute for Instructional Coaching (TPIIC)

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Coaches often ask me about modeling in class and its effectiveness. I think a lot about this question because I’ve been there! For several years in my beginning coach career, I modeled classes several times a day in a block schedule. I loved it because it kept me in touch with the students, but did it help the teachers? Not a bit. For a long time when I visited, I couldn’t understand why the teachers were not modeling and replicating what I did.

I clearly didn’t understand the idea of “gradual release of responsibility” and didn’t get that I was “modeling” without co-constructing goals for the lesson. The teachers also didn’t understand the expectations because we never discussed them prior to me agreeing to model in their classes. We had limited conversations that started with, “What do you want me to do?” and ended with me saying, “Great, I love to teach that content!” VoilĂ … I was modeling!

 What didn’t I understand? I didn’t understand that modeling was purpose driven.

I didn’t have a purpose… at least not a valid one. I wanted to stay in touch; helping teachers grow their practice was not my focus. I thought it was; after all, we talked about me “showing” how to teach a unit lesson. I expected the teachers to just “model” what I did in their classes. Wasn’t that the purpose of modeling?

Coaches have a responsibility NOT to take over but that’s not to say they do not engage in a co-teaching situation. That’s a very different role and purpose and needs to be clearly discussed, deliberated, and delivered. It demonstrates the collaborative nature of coaching; shows the students that learning together is important; and it removes the temptation for a student to say, “You’re not my teacher” or “I wish you were my teacher” both being equally as embarrassing for the teacher and the coach.

So, don’t be shy to model; be prudent, though, in co-constructing the purpose and goals in the before; share the responsibilities in the during; and be equally as involved in the after because that process is truly collaborative.

When do you co-teach and when do you model?

Monday, September 3, 2018

Coaching is deliberate… that means that every coach and teacher need a collaborative plan to work together. The plan needs to be intentional and clearly indicate the targeted goals for the work. Because time is precious, and teachers need every minute they have to plan, prepare, and practice, the time spent together must be dedicated and devoted to setting the goals, addressing the goals, putting the goals into action, and then reflecting on the strength of those goals and if the intended outcomes were met. Every coaching interaction is purposeful and planned.

This is not to say that coaches should not knock on a teacher’s door and give a cheery greeting. In fact, starting the day with the coach circulating around the building greeting the staff is a wonderful way to begin. However, that’s not a coaching interaction; that’s a salutation, not the way to facilitate a conversation about practice. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that a quick conversation provides maximum support… it doesn’t.

So, what does that mean?

It means that coaches need to engage in an internal planning process for each colleague… coaches need to think about how they will work with their teaching colleagues and decide what questions they will ask as they begin their instructional coaching journey with those colleagues. Each colleague is different and each one will have different goals depending on the students they teach. The coach’s role is to help the teacher “sort out” the kinds of goals they think are important for helping their students reach their fullest potential.

That means that the coach has to prepare in advance (“before the before”) and then ask the kinds of questions in the “before” that will help the teacher move students forward. At the same time, the coach is helping the teacher move his/her practice forward as well. In the “during” phase, the coach and teacher both have a job to do as identified in the “before.” Determining if the goals yielded the expected outcomes is discussed in the “after.” These phases are premeditated (in a good way!) and each phase has a plan with definitive steps to follow.

Don’t confuse a quick “hello” with the more purposeful conversation that occurs about practice. The distinction is clear… a greeting is one thing; talking about practice is engaging in communication that speaks to effective instructional delivery and collective problem-solving.

What’s your plan for engaging in ongoing conversations with your teaching colleagues?