By Ellen Eisenberg

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

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Here we are in mid-October and we only know slightly more now than we knew prior to school opening. We know that we want our students and teachers to be in safe environments, engaged in meaningful work, and supported in every way possible. We don’t know when school will be fully F2F for all students in all buildings as they were in February 2020. So, what does that mean for us here and now?

Well, this is still a new year brimming with energy for new learning, a “rebirth” if you will. Of course, this “rebirth” is not the same as it’s been in the past but there are some things in common: 1) students still need to be engaged; 2) teachers still need ongoing and consistent professional learning opportunities; and 3) technology is the means of communication keeping us connected while we are maintaining our social distancing. We still need to become acquainted with our students, their needs, and learning styles. As coaches, we still need to familiarize ourselves with how teachers learn and what they think about how their students learn. We still need to ensure that our teachers have multiple opportunities to share ideas, “visit” each other in their workspaces, rethink what they are teaching, assess how they are teaching, and reflect on ways to improve teaching and learning. We still need to follow the BDA cycle to support professional learning. That hasn’t changed even though the instructional delivery may have changed.

On the other hand, we need to remind ourselves that we cannot approach the year with the same systems in place, the same personnel providing support for both F2F and virtual classes, the same rules and regulations, or the same plans to move learning forward. We need to reconsider our modus operandi and build on our previous successes in ways that continue to encourage growth, reimagine learning, collect data about how and what our students are learning, address the disparities that distance learning has highlighted, and restore our commitment to teaching and learning regardless of the venue. Students still need to learn and teachers still need to be supported. 

What did you do F2F that you can adapt and implement in a remote environment?

Monday, October 5, 2020

Learning the information, processing the information, and using the information swirl around our heads! So much is available to help teachers navigate distance learning. But, how much is too much and what do teachers do with the information they collect? Do we have systems in place that help teachers make sense of the resources they can access? How do we help them become critical users of the resources and then sustain their learning so that they don’t feel overwhelmed with the plethora of materials and the enormity of their tasks?

I know that questions are the currency of instructional coaching and usually evoke thinking that creates reflection and self-resolution. These questions persistently surface as we continue to navigate the different school settings. Each day brings a new way of thinking and a new set of circumstances. What can we do to streamline the process and create some steadiness for teachers? The "unknowns" continue to plague us but we are getting better at surviving and thriving through them.

First of all, I think “less is more” when it comes to offering technology tools to teachers. Instructional coaches tell me that when they work with teachers to define the lesson’s goals, suggest 2-3 tools that are appropriate to support and extend the learning, and identify how to use the tools, the teachers feel assured that they are enabling their students’ learning in effective ways. They feel confident that they can manage the tasks, replicate the learning, and enable students to use their learning in multiple contexts. The teachers’ understanding of the technology tools is manageable and does not overwhelm them. In fact, the coaches also feel more confident when they bring teachers together via zoom and the teachers share that they feel more in control of their instructional plans and delivery. It’s a win-win situation for all!

What is your "less is more" message?