Sunday, June 28, 2015

A Year of Coaching … Explained

This post is Part 2 of my year-end series on Coaching

I wanted to outline the basics of how I structure a year with my fellows.  This obviously gets tweaked a bit for each fellow, since coaching really is about personalized, individualized professional growth and development, but it will give you a general idea of my workflow.

Beginning of Year
  • Build Relationships.  Get to know your fellow.  Find out about them as people, be in their classroom to learn about them as teachers, ask about their goals for the fellowship (and work together to set pedagogy-first goals), learn their strengths.  This obviously doesn’t just happen at the beginning of the year, but you must start off that way.
  • Tech Proficiencies.  The beginning of the year is crazy, as teachers are setting up routines, students are shifting in and out of classes, and you are building trust.  Use this time to support the teachers in things that will save them time and headaches later… Do they know how to use Haiku (our LMS)?  Can they add content blocks of various types to help support the learning going on in their classroom?  Do they know how Google Drive works, what “the cloud” means, what a “collaborative document” includes?  Can they organize files and folders within Google Drive and create new documents, sheets, slides, or drawings?   There are some “foundational” tech tools that all teachers should be comfortable with, and you can start the year off laying some groundwork with things you know they’ll definitely need and use as you start the “real” coaching.

Throughout the Year
  • Coaching Cycle.  The basic coaching cycle is “Pre-Brief – Observe – Debrief”, and can take anything between 1-3 weeks.  It will flow differently with different teachers, and you must be willing and able to adjust accordingly. 

a.       During the pre-brief is when you ask “So what are you teaching in the next week?” and start brainstorming what lesson(s) to focus on.  As the teacher describes the purpose and goals of the lesson, and you probe to learn more about what the teacher wants the students doing / learning / producing, you can suggest different tool(s) that might help support that.  You can model for the fellow how the tool works and describe how it would improve / enhance the lesson.  Depending on the fellow, you may show them the tool and ask them to reflect on how they think it would impact the lesson.  As you collaborate together, you can reflect on different aspects of the lesson, what the expected outcomes are, and potential roadblocks that they may face during class (and how to overcome them live in class).  It’s also during this prebrief time that you will collaboratively decide what role the coach will play during the lesson – will it be a modeling or co-teaching lesson?  Or will it just be an observation / collaborative time?

b.      The observation is where the rubber hits the road.  At this point the fellow is equipped to follow through with whatever was planned, and the coach is there to support in whatever way necessary.  This is awesome for apprehensive teachers because you are not asking them to try something new (taking risks…) without the support of the coach.   It is also valuable because the coach is able to see how things go and begin thinking of questions to ask the fellow during the debrief time to aid in their reflection.

c.       The debrief can occur in several different ways.  I would try to do a quick 1-2 minute debrief with the fellow at the end of the class period, sometimes even holding my camera to the side to film it (for our reflective purposes only).  I would also ask the fellow to reflect with a few questions within the next day or two to prep for our next conversation.   Ideally, our next coaching meeting would occur within a couple of days, and we would be able to do a deeper debrief of the lesson and begin to think of next steps.   There are a lot of great questions you can ask during the debrief that will help the fellow to reflect and continue moving forward.

Reflect on Journey (Journal / Blog)

a.       I tried several different methods this year of having fellows reflect.  None of them worked quite perfectly, but I kept modifying trying to figure it out.  The biggest thing is if they don’t set aside specific time to get it done (like I used to do with blogging about my classroom every weekend), then it won’t happen.  For some teachers, it is hard to understand the value of the journaling and to get them past talking about the “what’s” and “how’s” and move towards the “why’s” and deeply reflect on the impact on teaching and learning.  

b.      A few things I tried this year: 1. Leaving a coaching meeting a few minutes early to give them time to do the reflection then.  Problem: as soon as I walked out the door they would start working on something else.  2. Sending out a weekly email on Fridays to ask them to reflect on the week. Problem: No personal communication, sometimes too far removed from what I wanted them to reflect on.

c.       What I’m trying for next year:  I want journaling to just become a natural process and a piece of the whole coaching cycle.  I am going to make a two-column interactive journal where I can reply to them once a week and it can be more of a conversation.  I will also be able to model for them what reflective journaling looks like rather than just “this is what I did”.  The first 10 minutes of our coaching meeting will be journaling time, where both of us will take time to reflect on specific things from the past week.  That way it’s not taking more time out of their week, it’s intentional, and it’s “just the way we do things”.  Because I’ll be in there and it’s before our meeting, there won’t be the issue of moving on to other tasks.  If there are fellows that decide they want those first ten minutes for something else, they are welcome to do the journaling before the meeting.  But, then it is their decision and in their hands, rather than another time suck I’m “handing” to them.  My goal is that as they consistently journal, they find value in the purposeful reflective process and it will have an impact on our work together.

Reflect on Growth

a.       Video Interviews: We try to have 2-3 video interviews with the fellows at the beginning, middle, and end of year.  These are only for us, posted on our shared Haiku page.  I think this is a valuable reflection tool besides the journaling because actually speaking it and then hearing yourself talk about your growth later will be such a clear picture of your journey.

b.      Tech Self-Assessment: 3-4 times throughout the year, we will have the fellows do a tech self-assessment.  The purpose of this is to track growth in a more quantitative way.  It is more focused around their comfort with using specific tech tools.  I’ve modified it throughout this year so the teachers rate themselves on a scale of 1-4 (1=I know the tool exists and its basic function, 2=I’ve worked with my coach using the tool, 3=I’ve worked with the tool by myself, 4=I feel fully comfortable using the tool to improve / enhance teaching and learning).  There’s no “golden number” because the self-assessment will grow throughout the year as we try new tools.  The goal is that each time we take it, we see growth.

End of Year

Set Goals & Reflect on Growth

a.       As we come upon the last month or so of coaching (which ends about 2-3 weeks before the school year does), I begin doing some formal goal-setting with my fellows.  This year, we started by filling out their “Tech Toolbelt”, which listed out the tools they used, how they used them, were they successful tools or not, and would they use them next year.  Next year, I’m planning on having them fill out their toolbelt as we go through the year so it won’t be such a large project at the end of the year.   After they fill out the toolbelt, we start talking about goals, focused on objectives / purposes supported by tools.  We do this over the course of a couple weeks to give time for the fellow to process and really think through what they want to focus on as they continue to grow.  The process of going through the tech toolbelt and setting goals is huge in reflecting on their growth throughout the year.

This post is Part 2 of my year-end series on Coaching

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