By Ellen Eisenberg

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

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

I don’t know if you’ve ever had the same experience, but I’m embarrassed to admit that when I was teaching, I often talked too much! Imagine that… I would ask a question but then didn’t recognize the idea of wait time to allow my students the opportunity to think about what and how to answer the question I asked. It took me quite some time to realize and admit why I was so impatient.

There were actually two reasons…1) I was nervous about letting the silence rule the moment; and 2) I was thinking about my next question rather than waiting to see if a teachable moment would follow student responses.

If I were teaching now, I’d like to think that I would remember to give ample wait time for my students to respond, regardless of my environment being virtual, in-person, or a hybrid. But I wonder… is it easier, the same, or more difficult to provide wait time in a remote learning setting?

I asked three teachers the same question and their answers were interesting. One teacher is a five-year veteran who is tech savvy and quite comfortable navigating most websites. She said that she and her class identified norms at the beginning of the year and one of the norms addressed being patient when questions were asked allowing the responder to take time to answer. She said she did the same thing in her F2F environment. She does admit, though, that she must remind her virtual students that waiting for a response doesn’t mean to move away from the computer and get something to eat!

The second teacher is a 20-year veteran and comfortable with a limited number of technology tools. What she knows, she knows well and integrates tools seamlessly into her classroom community. Wait time does pose some concerns because 50% of her students are virtual and the other 50% are F2F. So, the virtual students are seeing the lessons that she is providing to the F2F students. It’s easier for her to monitor the F2F students because she is in the room with them and there is no delay in transmission when students respond like there have been with some virtual transmissions.

The third teacher is a newly hired teacher. He taught for two years in a program and then found full time employment in 2019. Very shortly after being hired, the school went on lockdown and he found himself in a virtual environment for which he was unprepared. But, there is a silver lining here… he is very tech savvy and had no difficulty exploring tools that would complement his instructional practice. On the other hand, wait time became an issue because he concentrated so much on the tool that he forgot to focus on the content. It became clear to him that wait time wasn’t the problem; it was his instructional design! He admitted this would have been the case in a F2F environment as well.

So, regardless of the venue, if you are a coach and you see teachers struggling with wait time issues, what strategies have you offered to help navigate the wait-time is "think time" process?

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

On October 21, 2020, The Professional Institute for Instructional Coaching (TPIIC) offered a ½ day virtual conversation for participants from around the globe. By design, it was a conversation, not a conference, with topics generated from an action research project based on interviews with teachers and coaches (some of whom were parents, too) conducted in the spring. There was a general session, a facilitated breakout session based on topics, and a participant-selected problem of practice. Although there were several “takeaways,” the one that stood out the most was the desire for participants to continue collaborating with their colleagues in ways that promote changes in thinking and practice.

With that in my mind, I just read Karin Hurt and David Dye’s Let’s Grow Leaders Blog in the October 29th SmartBrief on Leadership. The writers share that their most often heard concern is all about sustaining relationships and keeping connected when working remotely. Surprising? Not at all. We found the very same thing in our virtual conversation… the necessity of keeping those relationships active and collaboration alive when teaching in a hybrid or virtual setting.

Being socially distant but emotionally connected does present a balancing act of great proportion. The key is to think about how those relationships were established and sustained in a face to face environment and recognizing what can be carried over to the remote teaching and learning one.

Hurt and Dye suggest the “virtual watercooler” idea as a place for sharing and caring. Instructional coaches can certainly launch a virtual time and place for this to happen. In fact, many coaches routinely schedule virtual office hours to work with colleagues that they can’t see during the day, especially if the coach and teacher have simultaneous teaching periods. The number of participants can determine if the group remains together or if individual breakout rooms are needed. Think virtual PLCs if enough participants can be grouped by interest or topic.

Just like the informal communication occurring in schools is incredibly powerful, the informal exchange of ideas, albeit in an intentional time and space, can bring colleagues together and help them stay in touch with each other. This is crucial in supporting the social emotional state of the community.

What “virtual watercooler” ideas have you tried that keeps you and your colleagues connected?