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Coaching Advice from a Fuse Fellow

Val Seveney teaches Grade 1 at Melville Elementary School in Portsmouth, RI. She is a Cohort 4 Fuse Fellow supporting Jamestown Public Schools. Be sure to follow her on Twitter @ValSeveney!

During Year 1 of the Fuse Fellowship, we ask Fellows to complete Monthly Missions, assignments that may consist of playlists, written responses, or documentation of work happening in their Partner Districts. As Fellows are now beginning to coach early adopter teachers, last month’s mission focused on the challenge and promise of coaching from the Fuse Fellow perspective. Here, Val reflects on the most important aspects of coaching in blended classrooms.

First grade students in Val’s classroom work in differentiated phonics groups with a peer leader.

I believe the two things crucial to successfully coaching teachers who are implementing blended & personalized learning are:

  1. establishing a strong rapport, and
  2. supporting coachees (teachers being coached) with the development of clear action plans and curated materials, employed using a gradual release model.

To build a strong rapport, coaches must take a supportive stance, using active listening and descriptive feedback. It is important that coaches listen carefully, understanding where teachers are and supporting them with where they would like to go. When beginning the process of rapport-building, a coach may consider sharing a pre-observation document, allowing teachers to share and reflect on their practice.

Potential questions may focus on a teacher’s perceived strengths:Where do your strengths lie? What is currently going well? What are you most proud of? and their struggles:What are your current concerns? What challenge would you like to tackle that will have the greatest impact on students?

Responses should provide the coach with a focus for observation, a window into the coachee’s thinking, and a lens through which they can view their coachee’s classroom. Furthermore, asking “What do you hope to get from either the classroom observation and/or debrief?” ensures the coach will address their coachee’s expectations and support them with where they want to go. It is important to build this rapport as quickly as possible.

Students collaborate to record each other’s informational reports using the green screen.

It is equally crucial that coaches support teachers with the development of a plan of action aligned with their district’s classroom priority practices. Coaching should be based on the gradual release model where initially the coach assumes more of the responsibility of developing a clear plan, while the teacher focuses on their goal. The collaborative planning process should explicitly address the behavior management aspect of the lesson. One cannot overstate the importance in planning the collaborative and independent tech stations using tightly curated materials and/or apps. As much as possible we want to actively set up our coachees for success. Co-creating a lesson with clear directions and ensuring teachers pre-teach tech problem-solving strategies will go a long way to ensuring success. In an ideal world, the coachee will implement the plan, videotaping the lesson for a teleconference debrief or meeting with their coach face-to-face. As with our students, we need to emphasize what went well.

The one thing to avoid in coaching is imposing your own viewpoint or overwhelming the teachers you are working with. With a clear understanding of where teachers are and where they would like to go, it is important for coaches to embrace the role of supporter. Foremost in the coach’s mind should be “go slow, to go fast.” As a coach it is imperative that teachers are not discouraged by trying to implement too many things at once. Encouraging teachers to be deliberative and strategic in what they implement and then building on that success will provide a positive initial foray into the exciting world of blended and personalized learning.

Written By: Val Seveney