How do you personalize coaching conferences so that the teacher’s agenda is driving the process. Working from the teacher’s agenda and maintaining that focus builds trust and increases teacher’s vulnerability which increases teacher growth. A sample conference with a teacher is included.
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Steve [Intro]: 00:14 Hello and welcome to the Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud podcast. Instructional coaches and leaders create the environment that supports teachers to continually imagine, grow and achieve. They model an excitement for learning that teachers in turn model for students.
This podcast is dedicated to promoting the important aspects of instructional leadership. Thanks for listening.
Steve: 00:42 Personalized professional learning – teacher voice and choice in coaching. I had the opportunity to present a workshop session at the Sydney Better Together conference. My session focused on personalizing professional learning in coaching, professional learning communities and professional growth plans. In this podcast, I’m sharing the section that focused on personalizing coaching conferences. I’ll cover the other areas in additional podcasts. In the lead into this podcast, I’ve placed links where you can find the visuals that are mentioned during the presentation. A model conference is also included as an illustration. I hope you find this valuable.
Steve: 01:43 I need to say that personalizing has always been been built into my, my coaching work. I’ve got 35 years of working in the field of coaching, but but COVID trumped and raised it to another level. Just as COVID hit, I was scheduled to go to Bangkok and do a four day conference on instructional coaching for the Near East South Asia overseas schools organization. And so I got that message canceling it when everybody got everything canceled and they said, tell you what Steve, we’re going to move you from March to to October and in October, we’re going to be having a conference in Abu Dhabi so we’ll move the the instructional coaching training to there. And so it only took about two weeks until the note came that said Abu Dhabi is not going to happen either.
Steve: 02:46 So Steve, we need a plan. And I already had some online modules for training coaches developed and I put together this package that I called a personalized coaching, and I kicked it off with one-on-one interviews with each participant. And in that interview, we would decide together which of the online modules they would take and then I had three calls scheduled with them during their study. And during that time every one of those calls I had with them was followed up by me sending them blogs and podcasts and research articles that dealt specifically with what it was they were dealing with. And was very nice when the program finished, I had built in more personalization because we started dropping start and finish dates and instead opened it up to match it to people’s schedule.
Steve: 03:54 And so getting the evaluations was, was nice, positive feedback, but as I reflected on it, I was convinced that people had learned more in that process than had we spent the four days together in Bangkok. And for a guy who’s spent his whole career doing four days in Bangkok, that wasn’t an easy thing for me to to process. But it’s really caused me to zero in on the whole concept of increasing personalization and even thinking about how do we build more personalization into schools for students, because I’m sure it impacts their learning in much the same way. I was sharing with with Corey that right now, most of my consulting contracts begin with me doing one-on-one phone calls with the participants before we start the training. And I believe that as my face-to-face begins to increase, I know that I need to build in that same kind of of personalization into the process.
Steve: 05:08 So let’s jump into looking at personalization in coaching. And this is a diagram that I use when I’m getting people to think about peer coaching compared to mentoring, compared to instructional coaching. And peer coaching was the first area that I worked in. I actually started my teaching career by doing a year long internship in a fourth grade classroom that had a master teacher, two student teachers, a graduate intern and visiting professors. So I spent a whole year of being observed and getting feedback every day. And then I taught for 10 years in different grade levels, but always in open concept schools. So coaching was just a – without a name, it was a natural process that existed, and it wasn’t until I began consulting and working in schools and traveling that I was finding out how foreign my experience was to most of the teachers that I was working with.
Steve: 06:19 So as I began to introduce to people, the concept of peer coaching, I would use this diagram. And so all the way on the left, I placed evaluation and said, when somebody comes in your classroom to do an evaluation, they’re bringing outside criteria into your classroom and the judgments are being made off of that outside criteria. When I go all the way to the right, and I look at what I define as peer coaching, now the teacher who’s receiving the coaching is totally in charge. So the teacher’s deciding who comes into the classroom, when the person comes in and what’s the purpose for the person being there. So the two ends of my continuum. Then I stuck smack in the middle of the continuum, the word supervision, which is where most building level administrators told me they found their role. And that was sometimes, they were working on the coaching side of the continuum,
Steve: 07:19 and other times they were working on the evaluation side, which made that supervision role very difficult, because you needed to communicate to the teacher where you were on the continuum. I was just working this week with an instructional coach who told me that next year, he’s going to be part-time instructional coach and part-time assistant principal. And he asked me about the struggle. And the struggle is that he’s going to have to be able to communicate to people which hat he’s wearing when, because you can’t wear both hats at the same time. It’s okay to wear both hats, but you can’t wear them at the same time nd it has to be real clear to people when you’re wearing which hat and you gotta be able to build the trust factor that you can change hats. Just the way students need to have a trust factor that most of the time, my teacher is a coach, but there comes those moments when my teacher steps out of coaching and steps into doing the the evaluation role.
Steve: 08:17 And then I stuck the term mentoring between supervision and coaching, with mentoring being that time where the person who’s the mentor has an expertise and they’re being asked to use that expertise and provide feedback that perhaps the teacher hasn’t requested. So when I’m peer coaching, I’m only going to give the teacher the feedback that the teacher requested. When I step into that mentor role, which is often a more experienced person working with someone new, now you’re asking that experienced person to use their judgment and provide you with some feedback that you not know enough to ask for. My favorite example, I started my career teaching fourth grade, then fifth and six for five years and then I went to teach first grade. When I taught first grade, I needed a mentor because I didn’t know enough to know what I needed to ask for.
Steve: 09:12 I needed an experienced person looking at me and providing that feedback to to assist me in growth. Now, when people are working in instructional coaching, I use this to help them decide when they’re where on the continuum. So sometimes an instructional coach is peer coaching. That’s whenever the teacher runs into your office and says, I have a non-English speaking student. I don’t know what to do, come on. And they grab your arm and drag you down to their classroom. At that point, you know, you’re peer coaching. They picked you, they picked when, and they told you exactly what to do. You’re mentoring as an instructional coach, anytime you’re giving a teacher feedback that the teacher didn’t necessarily request. So if the building has a professional growth focused for everybody on questioning and I’m in the teacher’s classroom, giving the teacher that feedback, or I’m doing data reviews with the teacher, they may not have requested that so I’ve now stepped into a different role.
Steve: 10:09 And then lastly, instructional coaches can get very close to supervision when an administrator advises a teacher to go work with the instructional coach. So the instructional coach doesn’t have a an evaluation role, but the evaluation role of the supervisor is kind of shining behind them as they work in that spot. So you want to do as much of your coaching work all the way to the right hand side of this, because that’s when the teacher will be most vulnerable and the teacher’s vulnerability is critical to the growth process. So the more I can personalize my work with the teacher, the more likely I’ll be able to move to this right hand side. Here’s an example – if you think about Sharon and Sarah and Bill in my circles there, being teachers at the same grade level or in the same high school department teaching the same course,
Steve: 11:22 I found a tendency when schools went to standards that they were kind of making this statement to parents -iIt doesn’t matter which
teacher your child gets because the standards are the same. And I found that having a terrible depressing impact on teachers. My finding is, the spot where the circles overlap – so let’s make them all fourth grade teachers. The spot that the circles overlap, that’s the standard curriculum and we need to be able to assure a parent that regardless of which of those three teachers, your child gets, they’re going to get that standards part of the curriculum. But every one of those teachers has some area of student learning outcome that they want students to gain from spending the year with them that isn’t part of the district’s curriculum. And if I’m going to coach a teacher in a personalized fashion, I need to be aware of what that spot is for the teacher.
Steve: 12:40 I’m going to continue talking here a minute, but I would love, if in the chat, you would just stick in the name of one of those areas where, when you’re teaching, what is it you want kids to walk out of your classroom getting that you’re not necessarily sure they would get some place else. It’s not likely to be measured by the district, but it’s critical and it’s important to you. That’s what makes you special as a teacher. And while you’re doing that, my example – so if I’m coaching a teacher and a teacher says to me that in the science lesson that she’s delivering today, she’s going to have kids working in collaborative groups to carry out this science experiment. And after a while listening to the teacher, I might I might respond back:
Steve: 13:37 so are you focused on kids learning collaborative skills as well as being focused on your science content? And if the teacher tells me yes, my next question back will be, well, suppose I put them on a balance scale. So if you had a balance scale and then this side is your science curriculum today, and this side is your collaborative skills what’s the balance scale look like? Are they kind of equal importance? Or is it early in the year and you’re planning to use collaboration a lot? So actually today, the collaborative skill set outweighs the science content. Or do you know that there’s an exam coming up in two weeks that the kids have to take? And so the content is really heavy, meaning if the collaborative process doesn’t work, you might you might drop it and switch to a different strategy to bring about this lesson.
Steve: 14:38 Now I’m going in and I’m observing the teacher and I’m keeping in mind what I call, the teacher’s agenda so that my pre-conference with the teacher allows me to uncover the agenda during the observation on keeping that agenda in mind and in the post-conference, I’m staying with the agenda that the teacher gave me, but I’m also thinking about the critical, personalized part of it. So Kim has agreed to join me here for an example, but Kim, before we jump in and do a model, Corey, is there anything in the in the chat either a thread that seemed to run through what people said or any questions?
Corey: 15:29 Yeah. So, and we had a few people just join us. So one thing that Steve had asked is, you know, in addition to the curriculum and the standards in your classroom, what else would you want students to learn from you? What makes you an individual in your classroom? And so, Steve, there was a lot of comments around sense of belonging and equity, that social-emotional thread is definitely a piece that I see in what we as
educators really strive that our learners in our rooms get out of their experience of us being their educator.
Steve: 16:08 So it’s critical then as a coach, working with the teacher, I know that besides the content that the teachers laid out here, I know that she’s watching the classroom through that extra agenda focus of hers and I need to make sure that I’m respecting that as I’m providing the feedback. So Kim’s going to help me just do a real short little model of how I look to uncover that in a, in a pre-conference. So, Kim, would you just give a little introduction to folks and describe the teaching situation that you’re going to come into this with?
Kim: 16:49 Sure. So I am modeling as a kindergarten teacher. We are doing a guided reading lesson in hopes that our students are learning how to read eventually. So I’m a kindergarten teacher.
Steve: 17:05 Okay. And Kim, how close is guided reading to Kim’s reading instruction model versus how much does Kim have to modify and change what she’s doing to follow a district’s guided reading model?
Kim: 17:29 So I am just a brand new teacher, so I feel like my vision and what guided reading looks like is – I’m definitely a learner in this. I’m trying to figure out what the district wants versus what my students need. So I’m kind of in this space and also a very beginning teacher as well.
Steve: 17:56 And what would you say are some of the student needs that you think you’ve identified to this point?
Kim: 18:08 So I have a range of students who have, who have come in at the beginning of the year. Some of them, I have a couple that are able to actually read some lower level like BC texts, but I also have some students who are really struggling with letter sounds. We’re kind of all – the spectrum is very wide in terms of what students are able to do.
Steve: 18:31 And want to talk a little bit about the specific activity in guided reading that you’d have me observing?
Kim: 18:39 Yeah. So we are gonna meet with a group of students who seem to be struggling more than others at this point. They’re really at like a pre A, or maybe an A text. They’re struggling with some sight words and kind of retaining those sight words. And we’re just getting to the point where most of our letter sounds, I would say probably 20 letter sounds, we’re doing a great job there, but we’re struggling with retaining the sight words, and we’re definitely at a level A, to pre-A, we should be at least a C at this point in the year.
Steve: 19:27 So you’re feeling a need to accelerate this group of students.
Kim: 19:31 Yes, definitely.
Steve: 19:34 So during this particular learning activity, what would you say is the most important thing you need to get the kids to do?
Kim: 19:43 I think retaining the sight words is really important in this. And then also, the pictures are going to give students a lot of support in the text. So I think noticing what’s happening in the picture is going to be important as well.
Steve: 20:00 Okay. So let me go back to retaining is an outcome you want.
Kim: 20:06 Yes.
Steve: 20:06 So what will the kids do during the learning activity that you think increases the likelihood of you getting to that outcome?
Kim: 20:15 Well, we are going to do some work with the sight words prior to reading the text. And so I’m hoping that will help while they’re reading. I think that’s one thing. But then they’re going to see the word “the” and “a” over and over again while they’re reading. So hopefully kind of that repetition will help.
Steve: 20:36 So repetition is key?
Kim: 20:39 I think so.
Steve: 20:39 And the student engaging in the repetition?
Kim: 20:43 Yes.
Steve: 20:44 That’s visual and auditory, touch as well?
Steve: 20:50 Yes, I have a whiteboard so I think I’m going to also use that and allow students to have their magnetic letters to kind of move
those letters so that they can also have that kinesthetic movement too.
Steve: 21:04 And how about the – you talked about the the pictures. You want them to stop and use the picture to assist them in word recognition?
Kim: 21:27 Yeah. So just to help them, like, there might be a dog on the page, in the picture and then the word dog. And so, just making that connection so that maybe if they don’t know necessarily what the word dog is, they’ll see it.
Steve: 21:40 You could touch their head, you’re hoping they’re looking at the picture and asking themselves some questions.
Kim: 21:48 I hope so.
Steve: 21:48 Okay, great. So what do you think are the most important things you will do during this time to get the kids to do what you want them to do?
Kim: 21:57 So I think the most important thing that I can do is make sure that I have a good plan for how students are going to know the sight words, “the,” and “a,” and that I’m using, I like that you said, visual kinesthetic, like that I’m using all of those things. So I think making sure that’s really planned out and that I know how to support students if they struggle. Like, if they see a dog on the page, but they say puppy, what am I going to do in that situation? Which might be to like, point to that beginning letter and make sure that they say, oh, no, that’s, you know, what is this letter? Because they should know some of those letters, like I said, they know about 20.
Steve: 22:43 Safe to say that what you’re planning for is repetition.
Kim: 22:48 Yes.
Steve: 22:49 So that you want to maximize the number of repetitions they get in in the time that you’ve got from a planning standpoint.
Kim: 22:56 Yeah, exactly.
Steve: 22:57 And then the feedback support you give them as they practice skills you think is important.
Kim: 23:06 Yes.
Steve: 23:07 So I’m wondering – I like to think that when I’m there, I can be like a like a video camera recording what’s happening, but I want to give you control of the camera and zoom it in. What would you like me to be zoomed in on the pay close attention to that when we sit down and talk afterwards, I can give you some feedback?
Kim: 23:27 I think zooming in on perhaps, the students and whether or not they are understanding those sight words, whether or not they understand the sight words specifically, “the” and “a.”
Steve: 23:41 And what would tell me they’re understanding it?
Kim: 23:45 They’re able to say it. They’re pointing to the words.
Steve: 23:49 Okay. And how many students?
Kim: 23:51 I have three.
Steve: 23:52 Okay. So I will just, I will just draw a little picture of the three kids and I’ll record specifically what I see them doing during
Kim: 24:00 Perfect.
Steve: 24:01 Okay. Thank you.
Kim: 24:02 Thank you.
Steve: 24:04 Always feel free to contact me at barkleypd.com with any questions that arise as you listened to the presentation. Teachers deserve personalized coaching, their students gain from the benefits. Thank you for being a provider. Thanks for being a listener.
Steve [Outro]: 24:28 Thank you 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.