Saturday, November 6, 2010

Coaching Teachers of ELLs..A First for Me:)

I have not been online much since the new year has started because my new position has left me dead tired (but feeling good). My district is in the program improvement due to low test scores in subgroup areas (special education and ELLs). When schools enter this area, they must have instructional coaches at every school site (elementary through high school) to provide instructional support for teachers. This has the potential to be a truly good thing IF teachers don't feel threatened by a coach's presence.

What is the life of a coach like? For a reality tv look at it, try watching a few episodes of TEACH: TONY DANZA on the Arts and Entertainment channel. Tony Danza is an actor close to 60 who always had a desire to teach, but life opened other doors when he graduated college (boxing, acting, dancing, etc.). Now, he has put the demands of his many other activities on hold to pursue his dream.....teaching high school English. The show takes place in a real high school in Philadelphia (Northeast High School) with real kids and staff. As a new teacher, he is assigned an INSTRUCTIONAL COACH who helps him through his first year. I think the show does a great job highlighting the duties of a successful coach in that though he is a good sounding board for Tony, he also steers him in the right direction if he sees a problem with administration. I have also told my district about it because I think other coaches should watch an episode or two to develop a better understanding of what our jobs really are.

I am beginning to feel a bit more comfortable in going into classes and am trying to not offer my spin on what I would do in this or that situation. This is the most difficult since some of the activities could be improved. I need to be able to develop better skills at getting teachers to come up with their own solutions with minimal input from me. I have posted questions on this at www.classroom20.com, but to date, have not received any responses. I will start being a regular again starting Tuesday after I finish my online class development with National Hispanic University.

If any of you have some suggestions to ease me into my coaching position, please share:)

Thanks much and I will be back on again tomorrow....I LOVE blogging:)



  1. For forty years I taught high school level English and for 7 of those years, I was a part-time staff developer (1/2 day in class and 1/2 day with teachers in their classrooms). Now I'm retired but have returned as a part-time (consulting) instructional coach in our two-campus district. I had the good fortune to spend 50 hours last summer with the dozen or so year-two teachers I now coach. That gave us an opportunity to develop trust, a familiarity and an understanding of the confidential nature of our relationship with one another.

    During the summer, I used a constructivist approach to their learning. They created mini-lessons and presented them to one another in areas such as class community building / icebreakers, classroom management procedures to be taught in the first weeks of school. We created our own blog (private-just for us) where we're all authors and we've created a Live Binder to house and share our work, including the sharing of classroom strategies.

    I act as a co-teacher sometimes in their classes, modeling how to conference with students. Sometimes I take on the role of a student and raise my hand to ask a question that might be a kind of prompt "Should we be taking notes on this part?" or "Should I try to explain what I just heard you say to my partner here?" I can only get away with this because both the students and the teachers know me. I'm never going to say anything to embarrass students or teachers. I always focus my comments on the learning of the skills, the concepts, or the work products, never the people. After class and in private, the teacher and I do talk about specific student cases. That's what teachers want to talk about -- their learners and how they can best learn the next thing.

  2. Your response has definitely lowered my anxiety quite a bit. I especially like your "taking on the role of a student" by asking key questions.

    I tried creating a blog, but the response has been zero to date. I probably need to talk it up more at meetings and one-on-one with the teachers I am assigned to for coaching.

    I hope your school truly knows how lucky it is to have a pro helping out in this area.

    Thank you so much for your response:)