Implement Sustainable School-Wide Changes

Instead of one pre-observation meeting, Lulu and I had two. One reason for this was to find enough time to talk through the various aspects of the task. The second reason, just as important, was to give me enough time to reflect on the ideas that we shared during our first meeting. It allowed me to sleep on it (I value that process a lot), and query Natalie, our librarian and Tom, our learning technology coach (present in this course) for their suggestions. Team work!

With her Cultural Fridays, Lulu had the perfect nucleus of a project for us. In teams of 3, her grade 4 students research and present on 3 aspects of a country, one team each month. This is a new project which Lulu is trying out this year and for which she has only given little oral guidance to her students so far. She was looking at ways to improve it while keeping this extra-credit activity fun and engaging.

ISTE White Paper on Coaching

The ISTE White Paper on Technology, Coaching and Community was instrumental in helping me examine the various models of coaching. I was originally tempted to follow the coaching cycle stages from the Peer Coaching approach until I discovered the detailed structure of a planning conversation presented in the Cognitive Coaching model (Cognitive Coaching: A Foundation for Renaissance Schools, by Arthur Costa and Robert Garmston). I drafted my questions and waltzed into Lulu’s classroom with the following listed on my notepad:
  1. What outcomes do you have in mind for your lesson?
  2. What will students be doing?
  3. What do you see yourself doing to produce these outcomes?
  4. What is the sequence of your lesson and what are the estimated duration of each sequence?
  5. What will you see in the student to indicate that this lesson is successful?
  6. What do you want me to look for and what type of feedback do you want?

Talk to Teachers

What I quickly discovered is that as reassuring as those questions were to me, I only used them as a loose framework to keep the conversation flow natural. Running through my scripted sequence would have meant turning a pleasant chat into an interrogation reminiscent of an evaluation process, a caveat I wanted to avoid at all cost in my position.

During our first conversation, Lulu expressed her desired outcomes clearly: to raise her students awareness of other cultures in a fun, entertaining way, and to use technology to help each group work collaboratively. Lulu’s first draft aimed at each group sharing a recipe or craft, a game and a story from their respective country. As challenges, she identified the fair sharing of workload within each group, directing the students towards appropriate resources and determining a common platform that could be used for the presentations.

Let Ideas Mature

At our second meeting, I was able to bring back some ideas which matured by talking with Tom and Natalie. Tom who has experience at the elementary level pointed out that the students would love to act out the story piece and recording it with a camera would allow to share it to multiple groups, a suggestion that Lulu liked a lot. She also agreed that the recipe and the game could help the students develop skills at giving out clear and precise instructions. Natalie was very helpful in demonstrating how the online catalog could help the students find not only relevant books in the library but also age appropriate website for the topic. Finally, Lulu and I picked Google Slides as the collaborative platform on which the students would build their presentation. We hashed out a lot more details, these will become clear in next week’s post.

My main finding from this preparatory phase was that even though I walked in expecting to follow the Cognitive Coaching model, I walked away from a meeting having used some strategies from each model. This felt natural because these approaches to coaching do not contradict themselves, in fact they work well together. I was also very happy to collaborate with Natalie and Tom in the process so that Lulu could identify them as primary resources and see this project as a collaboration both at the students and teachers levels.

This post belongs to a series of posts I originally published for my course on Eduro, Coaching: from Theory to Practice taught by Kim Cofino.
ASSIGNMENT - In collaboration with the teaching colleague you identified, select a focus for working together, including a lesson to observe. Have a pre-observation coaching meeting and use a coaching strategy in your conversation. Share your experiences in a reflective post.


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