Friday, April 17, 2015

The Coaching Conversation

I recently attended a day long "gathering" of literacy coaches from across Wisconsin, put on by our DPI.  This was the second of two meetings we had this year and it was again as equally valuable.

The first part of our day was spent in round table discussions where we used the "rule of two feet", to satisfy our learning.  If a conversation was not moving you forward, we were highly encouraged to move to a different group.  The point was for us to get the most out of this time as possible.

After lunch, we were treated to a coaching presentation by Cathy Toll (@cathytoll).  She modeled a true coaching session for us and we discussed our findings after.  She encouraged us to spend 50 % of our coaching time in conversations.  These conversations start with this all important question:
"When you think of the work you are doing and the difference you want to make for your students, what is getting in the way?"
Many times the teacher's answers may be shallow at first, which shows us that the teacher has healthy boundaries.  From here your questions continue.  These might include: "What else is getting in the way?"  or "What are some ways we could meet these goals?"  Many times our teachers want us to just tell them the answer.  Cathy's response to that was this...If the solution were that clear and obvious, you wouldn't have brought it to the coaching conversation
The coach's responsibility is to take the teacher from there they are to where they want to be.  We can do this by:
  • using data appropriately
  • asking open, honest questions
  • paraphrasing to show you are listening
Cathy also cautioned us to avoid observing in the classroom first.  We should begin by having the conversation.  This allows for a platform to work it out aloud.   Sometimes when we run out of ideas is when we need to push ourselves, because the best may yet to come. Keep asking, "Anything else?"  until the teacher runs out of things to say.  Then ask them, "What would it be like if the problem is solved?" 
I look forward to using what I learned from Cathy Toll in my future coaching conversations.  

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