Observe, Support, Grow

In my PLCs we do a lot of teacher coaching. I was trained as a coach last year at iFLT (International Forum for Language Teaching) in Denver. It was a great experience, and I'll be going to the training again this summer when iFLT is held in Cincinnati.

Basically our set up is: One teacher, one coach, a row of chairs for 'students'(other teachers usually) and a row of observers. Teachers teach, students are the most perfect angels that they can be and are focused on learning, and the observers watch the teacher interact with the students.

If you ask any teacher coach they'll tell you that the person who gains the most out of a coaching session isn't the teacher, it's not even the students. It's the observers. During our debriefing we ask the questions: "how did the teacher connect with students? How did they make language comprehensible?" In our coaching model we focus solely on the positive. The teacher already knows what didn't work while they were teaching, and the observers aren't going to take anything to their classroom that they thought the teacher did poorly.

Our goal is to get this brave teacher, who got in front of (unknown) peers and taught, to keep doing the great things they are already doing. As teachers we typically critique ourselves pretty harshly, and we tend to focus on that. Having an outside person tell you what you are doing well is such a revitalizing experience.

Recently we've even taken to writing "love letters" to the teachers who demo. One of the observers will write down all the things that the other participants say. It's a nice little thing to keep in your desk and look at when you're feeling overwhelmed.

So what's my point in all this? Have an open door policy. Let your colleagues observe you, and go observe your colleagues. Let them know what they are doing great so that we can get everyone working on doing more of the great things they are already doing.