Fall quarter has come to an end but the learning is still continuing. For this quarter my project was around coaching a peer in order to create a lesson plan. I’ve been using the ISTE Coaching standards to help craft a relationship that allows for collaboration, trusting relationships and an environment that allows for designing learning experiences that engage students. Through this project I have learned a lot about what it means to be a coach and steps for working with a peer to improve lesson plans. I am still in the process of coaching my peer, but am moving forward with the lessons learned this quarter in order to improve our coaching relationship and have a positive impact on student learning through lesson development.
What I’ve learned so Far
I’ve always felt like I was meant to be a coach in some capacity. I enjoy working one on one with people and building relationships. However I also know I still have a lot to learn for myself about what it means to be an effective coach. I have so appreciated all the learning and support of my peers this quarter in helping me become a better coach.
When I first started working with my partner on developing a coaching plan and thinking about lesson improvement, it was clear I had a lot to learn. I had never used a coaching plan with a peer before so at first it was a little overwhelming. However through the use of the coaching plan my partner and I were able to have deeper conversations about students learning. The plan helped us focus on what our learning goals are not only for the classroom but also for the school. This helped us to begin to think about how these goals work together and what we might need to do in order to meet these goals. I think it was intimidating for my partner at first to think about what our goals might be for our work together but the more we talked and had honest conversations the easier it became to think about our goals. This leads to other reflections I’ve had during this project.
Coaching relationships are intricate. A good coaching relationship does not happen overnight. It takes time for a coach to build a relationship with their partner. It also takes listening, reflecting, and authenticity. These are all things I knew going in but this project was a great reminder of how important they really are to the coaching relationship. As my partner and I continued working together there were often times where we had to pause the work on improving our lesson plan in order to just talk. In the current state of education it is extremely apparent that teachers are overwhelmed and emotionally drained. I find it is important as a coach to allow for these moments to happen, moments where the teacher can just breath, be honest, and talk. So often we find ourselves just moving forward and continuing the work instead of taking time to acknowledge how we are feeling and where we are emotionally. So as a coach I wanted to be sure to build space for this. I wanted my partner to know that I see them and I hear them. While these means we may not always get through things as quickly as we would like, it does help build a trusting relationship as my partner now knows that I care about them and that I am here to support them.
I’ve also learned that coaches need their own coaches. It has been so helpful to have peers of my own that I can work with this quarter. For me they have been my coach through this process even if they don’t know it. It has been helpful to bounce ideas off of them, tell them how I am feeling and have them listen and provide feedback when needed. This has been especially helpful as my partner and I have begun improving our lesson. I’ve often had questions but did not be able to talk them through with my own coach before taking them to my partner. So it was helpful to be able to share the current lesson my partner and I are working to improve and get feedback from my peers.
So what does lesson improvement look like? Well as my partner and I have been digging into this work it has been really important to continually come back to our learning goals for the students, what is it that we want them to have learned after completing this lesson? Do our standards match with our learning goals for students? How are we engaging students in this work? One resource that I have found helpful for engaging in this work is the “Learning Design Matrix” that was created by Les Foltos.
Instead of sharing the matrix as it is I have broken it down by the four different quadrants. This has helped my partner and I focus in on a specific area that we want to improve. So for our lesson we are looking at the engaging task section of the matrix and are thinking intentionally about the ways we want students to engage. We are also looking at the technology section of the matrix as we know that it is highly likely that students will still be remote in the spring when this lesson is taught. Therefore we want to be intentional in the way that students are using technology to engage in the learning. We are also trying to bring in an element of social emotional learning to the lesson since we know that this school year has been stressful on everyone. Therefore we are working to acknowledge where students are emotionally and trying to find ways to account for that in the lesson.
The lesson that we are working on is for a seventh grade math class. Students will be coming to the end of a unit on ratios and proportions and will be using what they learned in order to solve real-world problems. With this in mind we are thinking about how we might use students interests and backgrounds in order to make the learning more culturally relevant. We are looking to allow students to come up with some of their own examples of how proportional relationships show up in the real world, while also providing examples of their learning. We are hoping to utilize breakout rooms for discussion and collaboration amongst students. We are also looking into different platforms such as Nearpod or Classkick for students to demonstrate their learning. I am also hoping to build in an element of choice for students around what other platforms they might use to demonstrate learning. I want to focus on how we might collaborate together to design a lesson that is authentic, builds student agency and takes into account the variability of our learners.
This is still very much a work in progress. My partner and I are continuing to meet virtually almost weekly. We are still working on the specifics of our lesson and how we might improve it. So I know we still have a lot to work on. However through all of this we have gotten closer in our coaching relationship. We’ve been able to have honest conversations with each other and sometimes even cry in front of each other. This is real and this is where we are. But to me it says a lot about our relationship that they feel comfortable with showing their feelings. This has helped us to have harder conversations and I believe will help us develop a lesson design that will have a positive impact on student learning. I also plan to continue to use the Learning Design Matrix and the ISTE coaching standards moving forward as building blocks for this work. I am excited for this relationship to continue to grow and that through this I am able to continue to work on my own coaching practices. This allows me to continue to practice my listening and communication skills so that I and my partner continue to grow.
Foltos, L. (2013). Peer Coaching: Unlocking the Power of Collaboration. Corwin.
Foltos, L. (2018). Learning Design Matrix. Peer-Ed, Mill Creek
ISTE Standards for Coaches (n.d.). Retrieved from: https://www.iste.org/standards/for-coaches