By Ellen Eisenberg

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

Thursday, February 14, 2019

I just read Stephen Barkley’s most recent blog about pre-conferencing. While our vocabulary is different, our thinking is very similar. He says something that really resonates with me. He says, “…a large part of what differentiates coaching from a supervisory model is that most frequently the coaching post-conference turns into a pre-conference.”

In his lexicon, he uses the term “observation” which we do not. The words may be different, but the cycle is similar. For instance, he believes in the pre-observation, the observation, and then post-observation conference. We believe in the before, during, and after, aka the BDA cycle of consultation. In our lexicon, coaches visit with teachers and classrooms and together they co-create goals, identify roles, and meet to discuss the visit a few days after the actual classroom visit.  His conferences are observational.

To our coaches, observations are conducted by administrators while observational learning is handled by the teacher. Coaches help build teacher capacity by collaborating with the teachers and helping them identify the needs which create the goals and the resources follow. The needs drive the conversation and the visits are a data collection tool. The coach is a colleague in the process, a thought partner, with a specific role and responsibility. There is no “observation” but rather a learning environment where partners are learning together to meet the co-constructed goals of the lesson or group of lessons.

I think the key here is to remember that talking about practice is what makes a difference in the practice. Talk before and talk after… keep the conversation going so that student learning is always at the center. Ongoing conversations support continuous learning and help teaching colleagues make the adjustments that are necessary for improved teaching and learning.

How do you remind your teaching colleagues that continuous conversations help create continuous learning?

Friday, February 1, 2019

So, what if you are working with a teacher on staff and another teacher wants to come by your room to talk? Am I breaching confidentiality if the teachers see each other and know that I am working with one and the other is requesting my help? Does that mean I have to meet teachers in a secluded place so no one knows that I am helping someone specific?

Wow… all good questions that came through my “Ask the coach/mentor” email… what to do?

Don’t get crazy… coaches need to project the image and demonstrate through their actions that coaching is not a deficit model and that everyone wants to go from good to great in their practice. Knowing that a coach is working with a teacher is not a breach if the teacher shares the information or makes a request in public. That’s a very promising way to support coaching… a public forum, e.g., a mini PD session, where teachers ask openly for the coach to begin a coaching interaction related to the topic at hand. When that coaching interaction is exposed as a way to offer opportunities for collaboration, the interaction changes from a “fix it” to a “let’s talk about it” kind of situation. How powerful is it if a coach meets with the whole team? Then, everyone on the team is part of the coaching process. And, if there is a cohort approach to working with a group of teachers, everyone on the team benefits from working with the coach.

Changing the paradigm about why instructional coaching is effective is the start. Coaches must dig deeply and discover all the hidden biases about instructional coaching. Be gentle… most teachers are accustomed to administrative observations and not coaching visitations. Some people think coaching is only about “observations” and going into a teacher’s room can be daunting for the teacher.  Sometimes, the coach must “undo” the skeptic’s beliefs, the naysayer’s comments, and even the “do gooder’s” desire to jump onboard and really get to the heart of why instructional coaching is such a valuable job-embedded teacher professional learning model. No one complains if their doctor engages in grand rounds when discussing a patient’s case. With many experienced doctors involved, the greater likelihood that the conversation is deep and productive. Why is it any different with instructional coaching?

Where do you meet teachers when you engage in coaching conversations? How do you maintain confidentiality?