Learning to Coach, Coaching to Learn pt. 2

I’m currently taking the Eduro Learning Coaching: From Theory to Practice course with the AISQ8 leadership cohort. Since the our forum posts are private, I’ve asked my coachee if I could post my reflections on my blog. Thankfully she obliged!

Part 1

Week 3
In collaboration with the teaching colleague you identified last week, select a focus for working together, including a lesson to observe in the next week. Have a pre-observation coaching meeting and use a coaching strategy in your conversation. Share your experiences in a reflective post in our community.

As I started thinking about the format of my first meeting with Joanna, I wasn’t really sure where to start. I wanted ways to ask questions and even some specific questions to ask. As I skimmed the readings, nothing popped out at me. I knew I wanted to discuss goals and giving/receiving feedback, but I didn’t really know what to ask and how to ask it. I needed coaching strategies.

Since I know that I process my ideas best through talking them out, I called Christina. As we were talking I realized that what I really needed was to pull from my experience as a Critical Friend. Through my time in Critical Friends Groups (CFG), I have come to understand that protocols can be guiding documents for conversation and coaching. After our conversation I realized that ACSD also recommends a Critical Friends approach to collaboration: “teachers became critical friends who enhanced one another’s teaching practice.” With this lens, it became much easier to plan a format for our discussion.

  • Each of our meetings will start with Transitions. This simple protocol allows “participants set aside distractions before beginning the work at hand.” I am particularly interested in “speak[ing] thoughts so we may release them and feel more connected to the here-and-now.” As our days are sometimes hectic, I find it powerful to start with an activity that creates a blank slate and helps us be present.
  • I will use this pocket guide to questions & feedback. Although I am quite familiar with this guide after participating in 3 different CFG, I brought this guide with me during our first meeting as a source of comfort. Yes – I was a little nervous!
  • I will check in with Joanna frequently during our discussions to make sure that I understand what she is saying. During our first meeting I took notes while she was talking; then frequently interjected with “What I’m hearing you say is…” so that we did not get too far with a misunderstanding. Clarifying questions also helped me to further my understanding of what she was saying.
  • I will use probing questions to further Joanna’s thinking and give her feedback in a non-threatening way. During our conversation about goals, I used probing questions to help me get to the bottom of her goals. I wanted to understand why she is interested in integrating technology, not simply the tools she wants to use.
  • I thought it was important as we embark on our coaching relationship to learn about Joanna’s preferences for receiving feedback. ACSD confirmed my thoughts – “Criticism stings, even when it’s offered with the best of intentions. It can provoke frustration, fear, and a sense of failure. It can stimulate resentment and resistance, undermine self-efficacy, and increase unwillingness to change. In short, it can make performance improvement less, rather than more, likely.” I want to make sure that the feedback I give her is builds her up instead of breaking her down. In order to find out about her preferences, I did a modified Feedback Nightmares protocol. I had her tell me about a time when she received feedback and it was a horrible experience. Then she told me about another time when she received feedback and it was a wonderful experience. These helped us see feedback themes that will help her grow during our work together.
  • We ended our time by coming up with a list of essential agreements that we could both abide by. Although this was a spur of the moment thought I had during our meeting, it wrapped up our first meeting incredibly well.

Joanna’s goals include:

  • integrating technology into all subjects (both teaching & learning)
  • using Twitter professionally
  • games (webquest)
    • review, fun, learning, putting ‘my spin’ on activities instead of getting them online
  • becoming comfortable so I use integrate technology more often
  • becoming comfortable with the resources we already have
  • fun yet educational
  • kids know more than I do
  • include technology in centers
  • Khan Academy (for centers) – use as resource & practice

When I pushed Joanna further with probing questions, she was able to articulate some deeper thoughts on why she is interested in integrating technology:

  • important because technology is where things are going
    be on par w/ other teachers
  • life skills
  • how I was taught vs I want to be a better teacher every year (yay for growth mindset!)
  • search vs creating minecraft world
  • learning vs memorizing

I then shared with her my goals for integrating technology and coaching:

  • authentic
  • meaningful
  • skill-based
  • improve student learning (keep the focus student-centered)
  • collaborate
  • reflection & growth
  • invisible
  • necessary

While we were talking the IB Learner Profile Traits on the classroom wall inspired me to connect her goals to the Learner Profile. Joanna chose the following traits to focus on:

  • Knowledgeable (Joanna) in order to become…
  • Risk-taker (J & Students)
  • Balanced (J & S)
  • Open-minded (J & S)

Joanna already knows that elementary is my area of least expertise. Sharing this with her again, we talked about how we will sometimes both have to be coaches during our time together. As Kim said (#4), Joanna & my expertise lie in different areas and we will be to be open-minded in order to learn from each other.

Joanna’s feedback nightmares lead to a list of ways I will be able to provide her with feedback that she will use to grow:

  • specific
  • focused on growth
  • tell the facts
  • probing questions (but not too many)
  • sharing ideas
  • include action plan
  • constructive

When creating our essential agreements, I made a point to let her know that we will check back in throughout our coaching to make sure that I am honoring our agreements and change anything necessary.

  • honest + open + comfortable = caring
  • consistent communication & check-ins
  • be present during our time together
  • ask for what we need (risk-taking) & be open-minded to other’s needs
  • action oriented

Our conversation left me feeling energized. I came away feeling as though I had channeled both my Critical Friend and PYP knowledge to start our coaching relationship off on the right foot.

 

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