The Topic: What Instructional Coaching Looks like in Practice
The Task: Select one of the strategies from the readings and try it out with a coaching colleague (or team). Share a reflection on the experience: Which strategy did you try and why? How did it work for you? What did you learn? What would you do differently next time?
Last week, I met with a colleague who is my school’s new Arabic Instructional Coach. She is a Spanish native who is also fluent in Arabic (wow) and has been tasked with coaching the Arabic department in middle school to help improve the teaching and learning, and student engagement. She approached me because she is helping the department integrate meaningful use of technology, and has been researching different iOS apps to help support grammar and speaking lessons. Overwhelmed and unsure of how to proceed, she sought me out for support and ideas.
Our meeting started with her explaining what she has researched, and I had her talk me through each of the apps with their pros and cons. Through our discussion, she was able to weed out a few duds and come to the conclusion that middle school students would find something game-based more engaging, and that the design of an app/how it looks affects their engagement. She lamented that she was unable to find another app that allowed students to speak one-on-one with Arabic speakers and fellow learners. (There are some, but having students chat with adult strangers isn’t an ideal situation!) Now, this is where sometimes I am not sure what direction to go in. Should I tell her my idea, or should I keep questioning her to help her find a solution? I opted for sharing my idea. I mentioned that when I taught elementary students and wanted them to practice reading, we would visit a lower or upper-level class and read together with them as “reading buddies.” I asked her if she thought “speaking buddies” might be something her and the Arabic team could easily arrange with our high school and elementary school. She lit up and was quite energized at the idea, and then we talked through how she could make that work.
I feel pretty good about the conversation, as my colleague left with more confidence, an app to take to her team and a solution to finding speaking opportunities. I’m not confident it was an ideal coaching conversation, as I don’t think I asked enough questions and I’m not sure giving her my idea was the right thing to do. But, it felt right and she was excited about it. So, that can’t be bad?
I think I need to work on my questioning skills, and knowing which strategy to use and when. I think it will come with more practice, and I am glad to have had this opportunity, especially with another new instructional coach! Next time I think I would go in asking more questions and digging a little deeper for information. I think I need a little coaching journal and cheat sheet to take to meetings. Something to help guide me as I guide my colleagues!