Here in the middle of summer those of us in the world of education find ourselves wondering what will school look like next year? Many districts are opting to move forward with plans to adopt a hybrid model with fully online schooling available. With these models of distance learning continuing, I found myself wondering how can support for teachers look different next year? When we initially started distance learning, many teachers were thrown into it with little or no time to prepare. Some teachers excelled, others have not. As I continue with my master’s program with the goal to eventually coach educators full time, I decided to put on my coaching hat and reflect on this subject for my blog post. My standard of focus for this week is ISTE Standard for Coaching indicator 3d:
Personalize support for educators by planning and modeling the effective use of technology to improve student learning.
Since I have been a teacher I have found myself frequently in Professional Development sessions or conferences that are aimed at helping teachers be better educators. Many of these trainings have been a “one size fits all approach”, meaning sometimes I get something out of it and other times I don’t. As I begin to embrace the world of coaching, it is my goal to try and find ways to make my help be personalized whenever possible. If I can personalize support for teachers, it could help them be more willing to take back what I shared and utilize it in their teaching.
When starting my research, I decided to look for ways that coaches can be most effective. As I have not coached before, I am basing my efforts off what I liked most in those who have coached me before. What I found can be used in both in-person and distance models of coaching. These were my three biggest takeaways:
- Conversations – Something that I saw on every article and blog post was the importance of having conversations with those you are coaching. In an article that I read from Insight it mentioned that coaching is not scripted. It is something that should be embedded into natural conversations. I also find that having conversations with people to genuinely connect with them, I learn more about them. This will allow me to be a better coach for their individual needs.
- Meet people where they are at – This is so important when specifically wanting to help people with technology tools and apps. Some of the teachers I work with will be excited and ready for me to give them a firehose of information while others will need encouragement to try one small step at a time. This is also true in our teaching. If we meet our students where they are at, rather than expecting them to already be in a specified position they feel more supported and find deeper learning.
- Be present – With remote or in person coaching this is so important. Sometimes as a teacher I can be in a meeting, and not hear a thing because I have so many different thoughts running through my mind. I imagine that this would be the case if I were to run a PD session. Being present to me means both focusing in on the person you’re directly working with, and paying attention to your audience when you’re with a group. If you can tell what you have planned isn’t working, allow yourself to go where the needs are, and change gears.
After recording my takeaways, I thought more about the specific tools and programs that will be used during instruction next year that teachers may need support with. Initially I was thinking just about how to demonstrate and share the tools with teachers in a very broad sense. When I received feedback from members of my cohort, I realized a way to help the teachers really learn and be comfortable with the tools would be to give them a way to use it. This will help them find ways to integrate them into their regular teaching.
Below I share some of the apps/tools that my district has encouraged during times of remote learning along with in person teaching. To get started, I share some of the ways I have used these in lessons with my own students to give a very basic model of what I hope to achieve with teachers I work with.
Google Classroom – I have used this with my students as our digital learning home base. They find directions and links to all of their assignments categorized by topic. Students can turn in their assignments directly through classroom, where I can then grade and return it to them with feedback. There is a guardian feature I turned on that gives parents a weekly email of upcoming and missing assignments.
Zoom – I have used Zoom to have synchronous meetings and learning sessions with my students. As the host I can mute them, and set parameters for chatting within students. I have also used breakout rooms to allow students to connect with each other in a smaller setting than the whole class. If a student isn’t able to make the meeting, I can record the session and share it with them to watch at their convenience. I have found that with my elementary students the greatest takeaway from Zoom is not academic content, rather the ability to see and talk with each other. To know that everyone was still around and that their teacher still cared about them.
Screencastify – I used this program for asynchronous learning with my students. My favorite feature of this was the ability to screen record whatever I was doing. I used this for shared reads, where I could read the text out loud and students could follow along in the text on the screen. With my touchscreen computer and stylus, I was able to record myself solving math problems step-by-step for my students. They had the ability to pause at any time or to repeat the steps as needed. This made teaching math during distance learning less threatening.
I am just at the beginning of my coaching journey. I haven’t had the opportunity to practice yet, but I look forward to getting back to school so I can get started. Since I am a full-time teacher I will not be in a full time coaching roll, but I have been thinking about sharing lesson plans and videos that I have created that incorporate the programs our district implements, such as the ones I shared above. From there, teachers can see an example of how to incorporate them into the classroom and can reach out to me for one-on-one coaching if needed. Let me know what your favorite resource sharing platform is below.
- Anderson, Jessica. (2019, April 25). Virtual Coaching: Three Factors to Consider When Engaging Adult Learners in Professional Development. Better Lesson. Retrieved from https://blog.betterlesson.com/virtual-coaching-three-factors-to-consider-when-engaging-adult-learners-in-professional-development#:~:text=With%20virtual%20coaching%2C%20the%20coach,steps%20to%20accomplish%20their%20goals.
- Boettcher, J.V. (2019). Ten Best Practices for Teaching Online. Designing for Learning. Retrieved from http://designingforlearning.info/writing/ten-best-practices-for-teaching-online/
- Carla. (2016, August 15). INDIVIDUALIZED PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT. The Teaching Experiment.http://teachingexperiment.com/2016/08/individualized-professional-development/
- Cashman, Kevin. (2020, February 15). Five Coaching Practices To Accelerate The Growth Of Others. Forbes. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/kevincashman/2018/01/29/five-coaching-practices-to-accelerate-the-growth-of-others/#2161354c5388
- Cullbertson, Jason. (2019, April 24). Five Practices to Do Today for More Effective Instructional Coaching. Insight Education Group. Retrieved from https://www.insighteducationgroup.com/blog/five-practices-to-do-today-for-more-effective-instructional-coaching