Tell Me About… A Memorable Coaching Experience

Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/ October 2011

Asking the Right Question

Years ago, I was explaining to my coach with great pride the elaborate special education–type conferences that our school had developed to catch and support students who were on the road to failure. She commented, “What do the data show about the effectiveness of the process?” I stopped short, realizing that I had never collected such data. Soon I embarked on a mission to verify whether students had improved following the conferences; to my dismay, they had not. My coach’s critical question led to a revamping of our system for conferencing. It became much simpler and student-led. And, guess what? We got better results!

—Saralyn Richard, school improvement consultant, Southern Regional Education Board, Atlanta, Georgia

A Bug in My Ear

I participated in Project TEEACH, a University of Alabama program to prepare special education teachers. Our coaching support included an open line of communication with our professor. When one of my students’ misbehavior seemed more than I could manage, I Skyped the professor. As I continued to teach, she watched the student with the behavior problems and told me when and how to reinforce the student’s positive behaviors and when to ignore certain attention-seeking behaviors. This “bug in my ear” helped me become more confident managing all the students in my classroom.

—Katie Clark, inclusive elementary teacher, Tuscaloosa County School System, Alabama

Learning to Talk to One Another

About 10 years ago, our teachers’ union was filing seven or eight grievances a year. We simply did not know how to talk to one another. At about that time, I received training in Cognitive Coaching, and I realized that the strategies I was learning to build rapport (such as pause, paraphrase, pose a question) could greatly enhance communication in our district. We began to offer the eight-day Cognitive Coaching seminar to our administrators and teacher leaders; then we expanded the course to mentors, class and club advisors, athletic coaches, classroom teachers, and the rest of the teachers’ union executive board. As a Cognitive Coaching training associate, I continue to offer the seminar free each year in my district. About two-thirds of our staff has now been trained. The result? Our negotiations are much more productive and collegial.

—Doreen Miori-Merola, vice president, Solvay Teachers Association, Solvay Union Free School District, New York

Fun and Games for Learning

I was coaching the teacher of an elective math classroom for students who were above average in curiosity and inquiry but low achievers in their regular math class. Using the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics’ Illuminations website, we found computer games to enrich the math curriculum. This resource cut our planning time in half and enabled us to focus on the mathematics behind the students’ strategies. Within a few class periods, the students started to smile, laugh, and discuss the strategies and mathematics in the games. The teacher I was supporting said, “I had no idea they could do that; this is much more fun!”

—Theresa Wills, math coach, Hammond Middle School, Alexandria, Virginia

Making Kids Feel Like Superstars

I was working with a 1st grade teacher to assist two boys who were struggling with using reading strategies. We decided to videotape the boys reading a familiar book. We used the raw footage and Windows Movie Maker to highlight times when the boys successfully monitored their own reading. The boys also recorded themselves reading a book, and they used the video to demonstrate for a kindergarten reader how to use strategies to self-correct. When the boys watched their videos, they felt like superstars! These students have made great progress since seeing themselves as readers.

—Kathy Barton, literacy coach, Jefferson-Houston Elementary, Alexandria, Virginia

The Power of a “Ghost Writer”

As a technology integration specialist, I do a lot of coaching. I nudge, needle, and nurture. I felt particularly successful when a teacher called me her “ghost writer.” She explained that I came into her room with great ideas and strategies, and she used that input to make instructional changes that she valued. That summed up my goal—to help teachers get excited about trying new approaches while feeling that the book is still theirs to write.

—Kyle Dunbar, technology integration specialist, Alexandria City Public Schools, Virginia

Customer Service

As a literacy coach, I consider myself a salesperson. To sell my wares, I need to have a clear sense of who my customers are. Do I sell what they need? Can I accommodate custom orders? Are my hours convenient? Is my customer service satisfactory? Do I understand my competition (other district initiatives)? Is my store (my office/myself) inviting? Am I providing up-to-date products? Can I deliver what I’ve promised? How can I make each customer feel important? What structures will ensure repeat business? These and many more questions drive my work with colleagues daily.

—Renee M. Burnett, coordinator of network team, Onondaga–Cortland–Madison Counties Board of Cooperative Educational Services, Syracuse, New York

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