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?