Sunday, January 6, 2013

Sowing Seeds

I hate metaphors. Unless they are used in poetry or really great fiction. Perhaps this is because of the sports analogies my husband tries to use when he explains his point of view to me (trust me, they are all lost on me which makes our communication that much more difficult). Yet I couldn't resist using the metaphor of sowing seeds to later reap the harvest. Let me explain...

One of the most difficult aspects of coaching is that you rarely reap immediate benefits from your daily work. This is unlike the classroom where you are continually seeing growth students make as a direct result of your work together. So it took me over a week before I made the connections between all of the conversations that had to happen in order for one particular instance to take place: a teacher inviting me in to look at how her students were responding to instruction. As a coach, these are the dream type of situations that you hope for. Teachers wanting to talk about and examine instruction. Unfortunately, it's taken me years to realize these opportunities rarely just "fall into our laps". So here is how the seeds were sown.

Over the summer and through the beginning of the school year, I read John Hattie's book Visible Learning. The more I read of the book, the more passionate I became about the work I needed to do in order to make the most impact on student learning. I was so motivated that I put together a short presentation for our leadership team. At the end of the presentation, it sounded a little like this. Then the conversation went in a direction that I had not intended. Team members were asking the administrator, "So your expectation is that we all work with the coach." What I was hoping to hear was, "So our focus should be on what students are getting out of instruction and how we can learn about this."

Fast forward to three months later. Right before holiday break, a teacher approached me to work with her (yay!) and asked for ideas on what we should work on together. I asked the teacher what she was curious about and what she wanted to learn about her students. I didn't put the pressure on for an immediate reaction and didn't hear back for several weeks.

Then, during a professional development session, the same teacher asked if I could work with her team to observe students during independent practice times. She and her team would use the observations to determine if what they were having students do was the best approach and work as a team to tweak what they are doing.

These are rare coaching moments when all of the conversations you've set up fall into place. I can't wait  for the "reaping" of student learning benefits as we work together on this!

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