Friday, September 5, 2014

PD for Coaches

Over the first few weeks of this school year I've touched base with our new tech integration coaches a number of times.  We have had 2 meetings with all the coaches across all divisions of the school together, I've had several individual meetings with coaches and today we had a meeting just with the coaches in the elementary school.  I'm aware that at these meetings as well as sharing what we have been doing, that these are times when our coaches need to be developing and refining their coaching skills - that these meetings are professional development opportunities for our coaches.

So far this year I have focused on 3 main areas:  planning conversations, paraphrasing and asking mediative questions.  I've been thinking of what learning activities we can do to develop these skills.  For myself I have lots of opportunities to practice the skills as I'm coaching teachers in 2 grades and all the specialist teachers and assistants.  In addition, I'm really fortunate in that one of our parents is interested in developing herself as a cognitive coach trainer, and she has offered to give me half an hour a week where we practice our coaching skills together.  At today's meeting one of the coaches questioned another coach about something, and it was an ideal time for them to practice this coaching scenario as a role play.  This got me thinking about what are the best ways for our coaches to professionally develop themselves, especially when none of our coaches has received any formal coaching training - and as teachers of primary school children none of them is experienced in adult learning theory.
  • Role Play:  this can be a great way of running through a past coaching conversation that didn't go particularly well, or getting ready for a future one that you anticipate may be tough.  Today our coaches did this with me acting as an observer.  We could also do this as a fishbowl activity and get everyone to reflect on it.
  • Consultancy:  we talked about the difference between being a coach and being a consultant, and when I got home I decided to read more about this.  Being in a Critical Friends Group in my first year made me aware of various protocols for sharing dilemmas and getting different perspectives on a situation.
  • Relationship building skills:  coaches need to develop these - in particular empathy.  This calls for building listening skills such as being able to listen with an open heart and mind and being non-judgmental.
  • Planning for conversations:  the more we practice the more effective our conversations will be.  We can plan how to ask questions and listen to our own listening skills.  For me this is one of the hardest things to do - so the one I need to practice the most.  Oftentimes I'm listening but with a busy mind.  Instead of really listening to what the other person is saying, I'm already trying to slot what they are saying into a connection with an experience that is already in my own mind.  I'm listening and at the same time thinking about whether or not I agree with this.  I'm getting ready with my answer or thinking of some way of debating their point.  In my own coaching conversation with a parent last week I explored several ways of dealing with this. Maybe I could record (audio or video) the conversation to play back afterwards to really observe how much I talked as opposed to the teacher being coached (I should be talking for less than 1/4 of the time), whether I allowed appropriate wait times, the kinds of questions I asked and so on.  One suggestion regarding videoing was to look back at the video with the sound off so that you are only looking at the non-verbal communication.  It's the non-verbals that the teacher being coached is also picking up on.
I think audio or video recordings is a good thing to suggest to our tech integration coaches as a way of reflecting on their own skills as a coach.  Although I am happy to attend their coaching sessions as an observer, I also don't want to come across as the "tech expert" in the room, which might get in the way of the relationships that the coaches are building with their teachers.  I think I'm going to suggest audio and video recordings to them at a future meeting - and then we can watch or listen together afterwards and hopefully we can all learn from this and improve our skills and practices.

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