One of my top challenges in virtual literacy coaching is ensuring virtual coaching conversations are interactive and puts the teacher in charge of the conversation, not the coach. When coaching on-site, I might observe classroom instruction, but more often than not, I am modeling and co-teaching lessons with teachers. Our coaching conversations following those lessons is collegial and interactive, commenting and questioning the active roles we both played. But, in virtual coaching, I am typically observing instruction (although I have some ideas to change this!) to give helpful feedback to teachers. Therefore, our virtual coaching conversations can far-too-easily look like a one-sided conversation where I give feedback and the teacher listens. Even if energetic and productive, this is not coaching.
Coaching is a partnership where teachers and coaches learn from each other and from the students in front of them, in person or virtually. Therefore, our coaching conversations must be spirited, interactive and shared. I rely on a few conversation starters to spark interactive conversation:
- What you think about the lesson? What went well? What didn’t seem quite right?
- How do you feel the students responded? What evidence do we have for their learning?
- What do we need to do next to further student learning? What are they ready to know next? What lessons, materials and coaching might we plan for?
- What did we learn about literacy teaching from our partnership?
I think it is important to remind ourselves the power of wait time. During in-person coaching conversations, we often give ourselves the time needed to think and reflect. While it can be difficult, waiting a few extra seconds for a teacher to initiate conversation is better than jumping in with another comment or question in fear of the silence. This wait time is even more important online. Depending on your connection, conversations may lag slightly as the wifi works to keep up with live conversation. If you don’t give each other enough wait time, you end up talking over each other or worse yet, it seems like you are interrupting.
While it may seem odd to plan so carefully for something as natural as a conversation, doing so will ensure a successful virtual conversation and strengthen coaching partnerships.
This was the second post in a blog series on virtual literacy coaching as part of an exciting partnership with Sibme. Head here to read all posts in the series and join the conversation!