By Ellen Eisenberg

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

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

In a recent zoom conversation with three coaches, I asked if their coaching differed because their content areas differed. They actually laughed! Not because of the question, but because that was the topic of their weekly zoom coach networking meeting. They started their meeting with the assumption that each of them: ELA, math, and STEM, had a different set of parameters by which to approach their teaching colleagues when they were involved in coaching interactions.

What they discovered was that they each had similar successes and challenges in their coaching interactions regardless of the content areas. What did have an impact, however, was their coaching schedules and whether they were in-person, remote, or hybrid environment. It wasn’t the content that determined their approach; it was the environment that determined how they initiated their coaching sessions with their teaching colleagues and how they provided ongoing support to them.

They recognized that approaching their colleagues who were teaching in a virtual environment meant that they had to sometimes shift the conversation to the tool first and then the conversation around using the tool. In fact, that first conversation was the “before the before” session. They asked their colleagues to send them emails or texts with the kinds of tools they thought they would like to use. Then, the coaches prepared themselves by investigating the tools and their applications, i.e., the alignment of when those tools would be effective for specific instructional delivery. After that preparation, the coaches engaged in the “before” conversations about the goals for the lesson, which tools would make sense to use to accomplish those goals, appropriate resources, and how they would assess for learning and understanding. The coaches implemented this approach regardless of the content areas of the supported teachers and were deliberate in scheduling the "after" so that they could reflect together even though they couldn't always visit the virtual classroom in the "during."

All three coaches agreed that teachers having predictable lessons and assignments for their students but varying their instructional delivery according to the environment and student needs was critical for successful engagement and student participation. Consistent teacher preparation, supported by the coaches, paved the way for teacher growth and ultimately student growth in either a remote, in-person, or hybrid environment.

As a coach, what influences your approach to the collaborative conversations with your teaching colleagues?



Thursday, January 14, 2021

I recently read a blog from Take It Personel-ly, (takeitpersonelly.com) that shared three ways to really get to know employees better in the workplace. In reading it, I noticed how applicable these three ways are to the classroom environment. It’s appropriate now because there is much talk around personalizing the classroom experience with in-person learning and/or hybrid learning. Becoming acquainted with each other is an engagement strategy that works.

See what you think:

1)      Bucket List Guessing… 10 things employees write down as items on their bucket lists. Those lists are sealed and at a subsequent meeting, unseal the lists and play a guessing game about whose list was read. I definitely think this can be done in a virtual or face to face classroom. The game can continue with different things that reveal something about each student.

2)      Virtual Escape Room…this is one way to identify areas of strength and areas of need. This would be a fun way to get students to work together in teams in an online environment. This can be extended to building bridges which, of course, becomes a unity builder literally as well as figuratively. Once in-person learning has resumed, the team building of something creative can continue very effectively.

3)      Hosting a Talent Show…an online talent show for students can be such fun. Students can showcase their musical or dance talent; they can create a fashion show; or if they are into building with Legos, they can share a treasured Lego structure they created.

I would actually add a fourth fun activity… what about a charades game where students could act out a movie or television show they loved, a movie they recently saw, or the title of a favorite song. There are so many ways to engage students virtually. I would ask students for some ideas, too. They are creative in ways we need to encourage!

What are some of your ideas for getting to know each other better?

Thursday, January 7, 2021

 “If you are not a part of the solution, you are a part of the problem” (Eldridge Cleaver). This has so many applications in today’s world.

A recent blog from philosiblog.com goes further to explain the meaning and indicates that a longer African Proverb quoted the idea in this way, “There is no more neutrality in the world. You either have to be part of the solution, or you’re going to be part of the problem.” One is either in the “solution camp” or the “problem camp.” Where do you sit?

In my January TPIIC Coaching Tip of the Month (here), I mentioned that we need to invest in education (social, emotional, financial, etc.) and turn our words into action. We need to do something, but not just anything. We need to be deliberate in our thinking, planning, and acceptance of things that we consider normal. We need to identify the problems; discuss ideas to address the issues; plan for the “what ifs”; and start taking action. We need to start small with a group of open-minded individuals who understand the importance of multiple perspectives and collective problem-solving. Tap into the human capacities of your teaching colleagues.

If you are a former instructional coach and have returned to the classroom during this pandemic, open your virtual or hybrid door and continue to foster collaboration and shared learning experiences. Take a step; evolve into the best facilitator/presenter/teacher you can be; learn from your past experiences, both positive and negative; embrace change and do it with compassion and reflection. Be that non-evaluative colleague and continue to move practice forward regardless of where that practice occurs. Be an active participant in your learning and the learning of your colleagues. Be part of the solution to ensure that your students are not underserved.