Instructional Coaches Working with Individual Teachers - Steve Barkley
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Instructional Coaches Working with Individual Teachers

happy school girl drawing with coloring pencilsThis is the first of three blogs illustrating how coaches can apply the backwards process of connecting the desired student learning production behaviors to the teacher behaviors/practices/strategies that can generate those behaviors. This blog focuses on the coach working with an individual teacher. The following two will consider working with PLCs or teams and working with an entire staff.

The Coach Working with an Individual Teacher

A new teacher, who started a second-grade teaching assignment in January after another teacher’s resignation, approached the coach after two weeks into her assignment. She shared, “I have worked to implement the reading centers that other teachers are using but am finding the students cannot handle working independently and collaboratively while I am teaching guided reading groups. I think I need to move to some form of whole group instruction in order to maintain student behavior. As it is now, little learning is occurring at the centers and the constant disruptions of my attention means little is being accomplished in the guided-groups.”

Coach: If the students were not disrupting your guided groups, how valuable would that instructional time be?

Teacher: It is critical, as the reading levels are very disparate, and I need the small group time to assess and instruct for those differing needs.

Coach: So, it sounds like changing students’ learning behaviors for independent and center time is the place to focus.

Teacher: I guess so, but I don’t know where to start or if they are capable of a change like that.

Coach: Starting with students at mid-year after patterns of behavior have been set is difficult. If you had started in August and planned for the opening week of school, what do you think you would have considered?

Teacher: Well, I would have taken time to present my classroom rules and expectations and shared consequences for the rules not being followed. I don’t know if they are capable or not of following those rules.

Coach: Would you feel comfortable with my observing students over the next day or two with short mini visits and then you and I can regroup and strategize?

Teacher: Sure

Coach: Perhaps you could jot down what would be the four or five most important student behaviors you want to gain during reading time outside the guided group.

Teacher: Ok

The coach’s observations identify that many students are off task during the unstructured time. Some finish the tasks quickly and look to entertain themselves. Others start and get distracted. The coach wonders about the appropriateness of the tasks which are the same for all the students, when the teacher identified varying reading levels.

When they reconvene, the coach confirms the teacher’s need for students to change behaviors while pointing out several instances where individuals or pairs were focused on completing the center’s activity or their independent task. The teacher shares the following four student learning behaviors that she thinks are most needed:

Four Student Learning Behaviors:

  1. Starting and completing the assigned tasks.
  2. Not distracting others even if you have completed the task.
  3. Using a whisper voice when collaborating.
  4. Holding any need to interact with me to transition times between groups.

The coach confirms the appropriateness of the list and asks the teacher if she feels that spending some time teaching these behaviors would be an appropriate investment of instructional time.

Teacher: If it actually produced the change in their behavior, absolutely.

Coach: I investigated a PD module titled, Communicating Clear Directions and Procedures, and found this suggested process based on the need for students to have some ownership of the classroom rules or guidelines. What do you think about it?

Teachers ….

  • Facilitate students’ reflection on core values for their classroom.
  • Design tasks for student collaboration to brainstorm appropriate guidelines and rules.
  • Positively phrase rules and guidelines.
  • Condense the list to a few global guidelines or rules.
  • Display the list.
  • Reinforce with teachable moments and consequences.
  • Encourage students to hold each other accountable as a community.
  • Periodically revisit with student involvement and replace guidelines as necessary.

Teacher: I can see this would take more time than I had expected but hopefully save time in the process.

Coach: Are you comfortable mapping out a plan for engaging the students in solving the problem with you?

Teacher: It’s worth a shot.

Coach: If you’d like to talk about your plan in advance or you’d like another ear, voice or hand when the students discuss and condense, let me know. I’d be happy to collaborate.

Teacher: I will.

Coach: I found some valuable ideas and questions in that PD module concerning a classroom learning environment like what you’ve described. It’s about a 5- hour facilitated module. Its available for staff if you are interested.

Teacher: I’d like to take a look.

The coach believes that the need to look at differentiating the tasks students are given for independent and center learning is necessary. She believes that working with the teacher on the first behaviors for learning that the teacher requested can build a coach/teacher partnership. That relationship and collaboration can create continuous refinement of teaching and learning.

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