Whether your learners are working virtually, in classrooms, or doing both in a hybrid model, your assistance as a learning coach can build more current academic success now and reinforce important executive functioning skills. These are career and life skills. Listen as Steve provides some specific focus areas and examples of what coaching conversations might sound like.
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Steve [Intro]: 00:01 Hello and welcome to the Parent Wellbeing and Student Learning During School Closures Edition of the Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud podcast. With the extended closing of schools, we as parents have entered into a new territory regarding what we have known as “school learning.” With this and future podcasts, I’ll look to share my experiences as a teacher, educator, parent, grandparent, and continuous learner.
Steve: 00:34 Supporting your learners: being a coach. As your learners start a new school year, whether it’s online in classrooms or mixing both in some hybrid fashion, your assistance as a learning coach can increase their success. Many years ago, I began helping educators focus on identifying the difference between paying attention to teaching and paying attention to learning. Both are of course important, but when overly focused on teaching the student is often in a more passive mode, kind of taking in the content that the teacher’s providing. In a learning focus, the learners’ actions and behaviors are key to the content being mastered.
Steve: 01:32 In other words, students cause student learning and student achievement. The role of the teacher is to create the task and structures, supports motivation and feedback that promote the student learning behaviors. As parents and caretakers, we want to coach students in those important learning behaviors. One of my favorite examples of coaching a learner was when my granddaughter came home from school with her new flute and she suggested that I should help her learn to play the flute. I certainly had no knowledge or skill concerning playing a flute. She took out only the mouth piece, the first piece of the flute and got it to make a noise. Then she told me that she was supposed to get that noise to last for 10 seconds. As a learning coach, I timed her. That was five seconds. I encouraged her. Try again. I promoted persistence. That was seven seconds.
Steve: 02:51 You’re getting it. Keep going. I celebrated with her. That’s 10 seconds. Hurray! I challenged her. Do you want to try for 12? So what are some things we might do as learning coaches? For a starter, we can support our learners in identifying where and when to engage in the needed learning behaviors. This is a good place to focus on your learner’s voice and choice in decision-making while empowering them as they discover what they know about how they learn best. Some learners will focus better at the kitchen table while a parent is busy making a meal versus another, who is constantly being distracted by anything around them.
Steve: 03:47 Just some silverware moving in the tray can be distracting. That learner would do better alone in her room. But that first learner alone in her room is likely to keep coming back to the kitchen because of a discomfort being felt being in the room alone. Some learners do best sitting in a chair at a desk, while another does better lying on the carpet and floor or propped up in a bed. And still another standing at the kitchen counter. Music playing in the background helps some learners block out other distractions while others are distracted by the music and need quiet. As a learning coach, help your learners examine the results from trying different learning locations and different strategies. Yesterday, you read outside in the hammock and today at the kitchen table. Did you remember more or read more? Did you stay focused more in one of those spots than the other?
Steve: 05:00 You seem to finish that assignment rather quickly today. Did where you did the work help? How? Another item to consider as coach is schedule. Many learners, especially during a virtual only learning time, need some structure and a schedule can provide that. This again, is a good time to engage your learner in uncovering how manipulating the schedule can help them learn. Start by having your youngster identify what parts of their schedule have no flexibility. When do I need to be online for synchronous lessons? Then experiment with building required task into the open spots during the day. I need to read three chapters in the novel this week. When should I plan reading time? By Thursday, I have to have the first draft on my social studies report handed in. How should I plan for that?
Steve: 06:21 My Spanish teacher says to practice at least 20 minutes each day. When’s best for me to do that? The key is to experiment and debrief often. Younger students may need to debrief hourly. How did that go? You might ask your high school student to do a draft schedule on Sunday for the week. Then nightly, ask how it’s going. What are they discovering? Are there any things they change in the schedule based upon the discoveries they’re making? I recorded an earlier podcast just on this topic of time management and I’ll put a link to that in the lead in to this podcast. In addition to time management, this is a good time to look at other executive functioning skills that are important for learners. Accomplishing goals, prioritizing tasks, organizing, planning, focusing attention, problem solving, and regulating emotions. Assisting your learner in some goal setting and action planning is a good way to build executive functioning skills.
Steve: 07:46 These skills can be important throughout school and beyond school. For younger learners, a goal might be to complete a short task without straying away from the desk or work area. A conversation around a plan can help. I just received a picture of my grandson’s work area on the first day of school. I noticed a box of Kleenex is placed close by. That may save several trips away from his desk. Another conversation for a young learner might be that the plan is to bring the finished task to the kitchen and that will be snack time. Middle school or high school students might focus on goals lasting over a weeks or a month. The critical issue is that we check in frequently. The purpose of the check-in is to see if the plan is working more so than checking for progress on the goal being completed. That comes later.
Steve: 09:06 For example, the plan was to work on reading some of the novel after all the other assignments are submitted each day, but your learner is finding that he’s too tired and doesn’t read long enough or focus enough at that time. A new plan might emerge to try taking a break when everything is submitted for the day and try reading a half hour after dinner each evening and an hour on Saturday and an hour on Sunday. It’s not easy for coaches to meet the needs of those that they’re coaching. One strategy that athletic coaches often employ is using players to coach each other. Can learner’s sibling be tapped to provide some coaching for that younger learner? Maybe it’s part of their daily chores. Might a grandparent be read to online as a way of providing support to many readers who need to have someone listen while they read? One last note. Consider how your coaching can provide information for your learners’ teachers. Information that they might not be able to observe working virtually. A quick email to a teacher about where your learner is stuck, unsure, or need some feedback can be very valuable. Coach your learner to develop agency so that they can become comfortable requesting the needed support from their teacher.
Steve: 10:55 Highly successful students develop confidence in knowing when they can profit from a teacher’s input and they make it easier for the teacher to support them. Being a learning coach, you can not only increase your child’s current academic success, but you can also build important skills for future life success. Coaches often build strong relationships through their coaching process with their athletes and performers. Coaching your learners is an empowering parenting role. I wish you well. Thanks for listening.
Steve: 11:42 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.