In this week’s episode of the Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud podcast, Steve is interviewed by Kim Cofino and Clint Hamada from Better Coaching.
To listen to part 1 of this interview, click here.
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Steve [Intro]: 00:19 Hello and welcome to the Steve Barkley ponders out loud podcast. For over three decades, I’ve had the opportunity to learn with educators at all levels, both nationally and internationally. I invite you to listen as I explore my thoughts and learning on a variety of topics connected to teaching, learning, and leading with some of the best and brightest educators from around the globe. Thanks for listening in.
Steve: 00:46 Coaching Better Podcast interviews Steve Barkley, part two. In this second part of the interview conducted by Kim Cofino and Clint Hamada, I have the opportunity to discuss the differing roles that coaches play from peer coach to expert coach and we explore adjusting your coaching approach to the teacher that you’re working with. When does a coaching model fit and when does the coach stray from a format or model to respond to the personalized request of the teacher that you’re working with?
Steve: 01:45 We examine how the focus on student learning production behaviors can allow coaches to play many different roles. I hope you enjoy our conversation.
Steve: 02:00 You know, first of all, a lot of people ask about my “model of coaching” and you’ll struggle reading my stuff because there’s — I don’t have a model. I chose to focus on the skillsets of the coach and for me the key is for the coach to build the model that’s coming at the request of the teacher. So I can show you a video clip where I’m working with a new beginning teacher who’s nervous and scared and I dump a ton of approval statements on her about all the great things she’s doing. And then I can show you another clip where I don’t give the teacher a single piece of approval. All I do is present some things that I saw. And you know, what’s the model? The model is who I’m working with.
Steve: 02:53 That nervous beginning teacher needs a ton of positive feedback to build up her confidence in the thinking that she’s doing. The other teacher, if I gave her approval, she’d actually resent it. Thinking I was putting myself in some kind of advisory evaluative position. She didn’t need it from me. So the key is listening and you know, my big word is agenda. As a coach, I need to uncover the teacher’s agenda and I need to work with the teacher’s agenda. And I’m listening to the teacher to guide me into the kind of coaching that the teacher is requesting in our current, in our current relationship.
Kim: 03:42 What are some key – and you may not have an answer for this, I’m not sure if this question is reasonable or not. What are some key things to look out for as you’re listening to be guided by the teacher? Are there some key phrases, some key, even like posture changes, anything that the coach can be like, “oh, this is what they really want,” that you have noticed or could reference?
Steve: 04:04 Well, I’m always reading people to look for interests. And in my consulting work I’m often telling stories about other things I’ve done, other places I’ve been, and I’m looking for the person’s response to one of the stories which tells me they’ve got interest there. And that’s where I am with a teacher. I’m looking to find that spot of interest. And that’s where it takes me into the teacher’s agenda. And then getting the teacher to describe the future the teacher wants to see. My work is built heavily around changing student behaviors because students are the ones that cause learning. The teacher doesn’t cause the learning, the student causes the learning. But the teacher has to create the behaviors in the student that will cause the learning. So when I can get teachers to describe to me what it is they want to have their learners doing, what’s the difference between what your learners are doing now and what you want them to be doing, and then what are your thoughts on how we get there? And I can tell when you don’t have a thought of what you possibly could do to get there, then that’s the spot for me to throw out an idea that I have. But I’m going to try and pull your ideas first if you have them and I can reinforce them or I can work with you to refine them. But if you know that what we’re working to do is to create a picture that you’ve told me you want, then that’s how I know I’m working from your agenda.
Clint: 06:04 That simple question of what is the future you want to see? And then coupled with what are the behaviors that you will see from your students when you are envisioning that future. I think those two things –
Steve: 06:19 Let me add a line there because I want to differentiate because [inaudible] said are the same. So the same as what’s the future that you want to see and what would your kids be doing that tells you you’re there. But the critical one is, what do the students have to do to get there? And that’s the one that I’ve been labeling as learning production behaviors. So if you told me that you wanted to be able to play this piece of music for a concert, and I see where you are now in your skillset as a music instructor, I can come up with the things that you need to be doing that will cause you to get to where you want to be.
Steve: 07:00 So as a math teacher, I need to be in the same spot. Where’s the future — what I want to see my students do, they can’t do that now. What is it that I need to get them doing? So sometimes when I’m working with a new teacher, they don’t know what that is and that’s really a struggle. I’ve tried to design instruction and the purpose of my instruction is to get you to do something and I can’t even clearly identify what that thing is that you need to do. And then as a coach, that’s the part I have to help the new person figure out. We have to know what we got to get the kids to do before we can start figuring out what teacher behaviors I’ll take on in order to get that behavior.
Clint: 07:44 Kim, that’s something you wanted to ask earlier.
Kim: 07:48 I just wanted to say I really — that whole approach that you have of sharing the vision of where you want the teachers to go and having that be the agenda that you’re trying to follow and listening for the clues from what they’re talking about, assigns you your role in the conversation that – like, I just love that because I feel like that’s — coaches and teachers need that flexibility to be in the moment and recognize what’s needed in this moment as opposed – I often struggle with like frameworks and models because I feel like they don’t always work for every person, every situation. And so this ability to be able to be flexible and if both parties understand that there is flexibility in that conversation and in that framework you’re working within, I just think that that is the way that allows the coaching to be most personalized as opposed to most formalized. I don’t know if that’s the opposite, but that’s how it’s like shaping up in my head.
Steve: 08:46 Yeah. Let me give you an example that might illustrate that for you. So I’m real big on what I call a student production behaviors. So when I’m coaching a teacher, I’ll ask the teacher in a pre-conference, one of the questions I’ll ask is, what’s the most important thing you need to get kids to do during the lesson today? So a teacher might say to me, “well, I need the kids to understand.” And as soon as she says that word, understand, I’ll call timeout. Understand is the outcome. So the kids are coming in the door not understanding. You want them to walk out the door understanding. So tell me what is it that kids will do that you think is going to produce the understanding? Okay? And then that’s what I can work from. So if I were to use your model, I work with a principal who collects lesson plans from teachers, but he doesn’t want the word teacher in the lesson plan. He doesn’t want any description of what the teacher’s going to do in the lesson plan. The only thing he wants in the lesson plan is what the kids are going to do. Okay?
Steve: 09:52 So while he doesn’t want the teacher to be stuck with the framework of having defined what she’s gonna do when 10 minutes into the lesson, it’s obvious that’s not the thing to be doing. And his assumption is, as a teacher, you’re going to do whatever you got to do to move the kids there. So now if you took that framework and you put it in as a coach, if you’re stuck in a framework where you’re following the steps of the process or the framework, rather than reading the message you’re getting from the teacher you’re working with, that that needs to change or modify. So it’s exactly like a teacher having a lesson plan, but moving off of it by reading the kids. A coach goes into a post-conference with a plan based on what you know the teacher wants to accomplish but during that process you’re going to be reading the teacher and modifying and adjusting your behaviors to get from the teacher the behaviors the teacher needs for her own understanding or insight or growth or wherever the process is taking her.
Clint: 11:09 As a coach, how do I get — I guess I’m struggling and I’m gonna push back a little bit. You know, it’s like you have to know when to bend the rules and when to break the rules and when to step out of this role and when to go into that role. I feel if I’m a new coach, new to the role, does the frameworks help me to just kind of understand the limits of those frameworks and then I can start breaking them, or do you think as a coach, I could really just – I’m thinking of like jazz improvisation, right? I can just supervise from the beginning or do I have to learn the scales and the rest before I can start improvising?
Steve: 11:48 Yeah, I think you know the answer, don’t you?
Clint: 11:51 Don’t do that to me.
Steve: 11:55 It’s like saying can someone be a natural teacher.
Steve: 11:59 Yeah. I’m sure there’s some natural moves, but as a teacher, each instructional strategy that you study and explore, you add to your repertoire and then that makes you more highly skilled as a teacher to pull the right thing at the right time. So I would say the same thing for a coach. I’d study all the models. I’ve been at this a lot of years and I’m constantly learning and sticking new things in, both things that I’m finding by studying coaching, but also things that I’m finding by studying psychology, studying neuroscience, studying new learning elements, that it’s all adding to having the ability to listen more closely and then have more options available while you’re listening. You know, the difficulty a new teacher has is they have a lesson plan and that’s all they have. And until they can get home that night and rethink it, they’re stuck carrying out what they did. The more experienced the teacher gets, the more things he or she has in their pockets and they can read a situation in front of them and drop the move that they were working on and switch it over to another one.
Kim: 13:22 And I think that’s why it’s so important, I guess, personally that as coaches, we look at so many different models for coaching so that you can pick and choose and pull. And I have noticed in some of the communities that I am a member of, that there’s like, what is the word — I can only think of like dogged acceptance to one specific model. I always get a little nervous.
Steve: 13:45 It’s that ugly word called fidelity freaks me out. You know, I’m the same way with protocols. You know, protocols are good until you’re using them when you shouldn’t be using them or your group has gone beyond the protocol. You know, like a lot of the work I’ll do with professional learning communities. If a group is struggling and they don’t know how to get started in having a conversation, a protocol’s a great tool to assist them in getting started. But once they’ve built a relationship and they’ve built the skills, now the protocol actually ends up holding them back from where they could be going. An interesting metaphor that I use with that – I worked with a teacher who at the beginning of the year, had her rules on sentence strips hanging up in the room. And her goal was as quickly as possible to be able to take the rules down and put them away. Because as the students became a community of learners, you would no longer need to these rules. The rules were just in place as a structure when we don’t know each other to help us get started. And every now and then the kids would mess up and she’d have to get a rule back out and put it back up. We need a little more practice on this. I think of protocols and frameworks the same way. A great way to get started, learn the strategy, be cautious not to stick in it too long.
Kim: 15:17 Such a good point.
Steve: 15:19 Now, I talk about – I did a lot of work with people, identified what I was calling technical coaching, collegial coaching, now I’ve lost the name for it, but a problem solving coaching. And so technical generally went with staff development. When you were learning something new and you were implementing it and you got that technical feedback. Collegial coaching – more designed to get people to know and learn about each other through the coaching. So knowing each other was more important than what actual coaching we were doing. And then problem solving coaching, you know, we had a struggling learner and so we’re observing in each other’s classrooms [inaudible]. And I always suggest that if you knew the three of those, and then sometimes I had cognitive coaching on to as a fourth outside that, it’s figuring out what is it that the person I’m working with is looking for. So even if we’re peer coaching and you’re looking for some technical feedback and I’m looking for collegially getting to know you, we can end up in a coaching relationship where each of us is giving the other person what we want and both of us getting frustrated by it.
Steve: 16:33 But if I can listen so that I know what it is you’re looking to gain from the coaching and you know what I’m looking to gain from the coaching, then we can actually be in a peer coaching relationship that is giving each other the piece We’re requesting back.
Kim: 16:49 So in that sense, it’s almost important that all of the staff understand these different models of coaching.
Steve: 16:57 Yeah. I’ll give you one in front of the history, okay?
Steve: 16:59 Years ago, and I forgot the technical term that was used to describe it, but it was – oh, teacher expectation. They had identified a set of behaviors that that showed teacher expectations. So if teachers had high expectation, they gave kids more wait time, they got closer proximity to kids. They actually touched kids more often. Okay? And the researchers that identified that, and so they started a coaching program where teachers would go into each other’s classrooms and look at these things one at a time. Like, I’ll come in and make a map and the only thing I’ll do is record, where were you physically over 45 minutes. So there was a spot in the room you never got to. Well, when people start that program, people would love it and within 18 months, everybody was second tired of it and wanted nothing more to do with it. And it’s because in the midst of getting that technical feedback, a problem grew up that you would like to collaborate on, but you were stuck in the framework of not going there. I wanted to find out about you more about you collegially but we were stuck in this framework and it was a great framework to start. It was safe – it got people understanding how to use feedback, but frequently people stayed in it too long.
Clint: 18:25 Sounds like the the moral of the story is to embrace fluidity. I think these concepts are very fluid in how we flow back and forth from one framework to another or from one focus to another and being willing and able and being cognizant. Right? I think it takes an amount of, sort of emotional intelligence or just kind of social intelligence to know Kim or Steve are not interested in what we’re talking about. Now I need to find out what they’re interested in. And as a coach, that’s my responsibility. It’s not necessarily always going to be the responsibility of the teacher that I’m working with.
Steve: 19:03 And experienced teachers have gotten caught in that pendulum swing. So we swung over here and then when we left it to come over here, we dropped everything we were doing over there instead of figuring out what were the critical learning pieces that we wanted to keep in place and keep getting better and better and better by things we’re learning each time.
Kim: 19:26 What’s that flexibility and that ability to articulate why and when we’re doing what we’re doing. And I think that’s sometimes how we get in that pendulum swing. We make the shift, but we forget to decide like, oh, we’re making this shift because of X. When Y happens, we’re going to do, you know, A. Whatever the case may be. So I think that could go in along with the fluidity that you’re pointing out. I think that articulation or that explicitness of being able to say, this is what we’re doing now. This is why we’re doing it now. Here’s how we’re going to get to doing it this way and we have the ability to go all these other options too is really important.
Steve: 20:01 I kind of describe a model like that in classroom management. The best teacher knows his or her style and they are consistent with their style so that the kids can work with that consistency. But the outstanding teacher is capable of stepping outside of his or her style when they have a student who needs them to do that. And I would say the same is true of instructional leaderships in schools. You know, as a school principal, here’s your style and you’re consistent and the teachers know it. But man, there’s sometimes there’s great teachers. And to keep those great teachers on your staff, you gotta be able to step of your style for that great teacher. And I think the same thing is true with coaches. Coaches all have their natural style and that natural style is going to work terrific with these people on these issues, but am I willing to read the situation and see that I can advance that teacher’s impact on her students further by my willingness to step out of my style.
Kim: 21:09 You really, through this whole conversation, you really highlighted and articulated so clearly the critical need for coaches to be responsive to the people that they’re coaching and I think that that is why the frameworks maybe can be a challenge to that because it’s so much harder to be so responsive. I think that understanding of how to be responsive and how to learn to be responsive and step out of maybe your comfort zone is like kind of a next level thinking about coaching professional development, right? Like, okay, I know all these various models, but how do I take myself out of the way that I do things so that I can meet the needs of all of the teachers that I work?
Steve: 21:47 Yep. You got it.
Kim: 21:49 Cool. I feel like that was an amazing, super deep conversation. We never even got to our planned questions, but what we talked about was fabulous and I’m very conscious of your time. So thank you so much.
Steve: 21:58 Well thank you. I’m glad we had a chance to record it. I appreciate your interest.
Kim: 22:06 It is our pleasure. 100%. Thank you so much for your time today.
Steve: 22:10 You bet. Take care.
Kim: 22:11 You too.
Steve: 22:11 Bye bye.
Clint: 22:12 Thanks so much, Steve.
Steve: 22:15 I greatly appreciate the time and energy that Kim and Clint put into conducting the interview for this podcast. You can find a video clip of the podcast on their site and I’m sure that we’ll team up again in the future to explore our ongoing learning about coaching to build teacher learning to impact student learning. Thanks for listening in.
Steve [Outro]: 22:53 Thanks again for listening. You can subscribe to Steve Barkley ponders out loud on iTunes and Podbean and please remember to rate and review us on iTunes. I also want to hear what you’re pondering. You can find me on twitter @stevebarkley or send me your questions and find my videos and blogs at barkleypd.com.