February 2021, Coaching Tip of the Month
“I will teach you in a room
I will teach you now on Zoom
I will teach you in a house
I will teach you with my mouse
I will teach you here or there
I will teach you because I care” (Found on Pinterest)
You just can’t lose with Dr. Seuss!
Yes, our teachers are teaching, and our students are learning. Are they learning in the same way as they did in the past? Oh, no… are teachers teaching in the same way they have in the past? Oh no… so, what’s the problem? We all love change and continually chant how things must change. Well, things have certainly changed since last March. And, you know what… some of those changes have been for the best.
Certainly, the integration of technology in a more systematic, deliberate, planned approach has been an advantage. And, from talking with instructional coaches, that focus on technology has increased their access into classrooms, both virtually and in person for those in a hybrid environment. It has also provided multiple opportunities for instructional coaches to meet with more teachers, more frequently, as they invest more time to engage in accountable talk about practice and how to increase student engagement and improve student outcomes; they can make time for a virtual conversation in ways they couldn’t previously. They are identifying their goals and then talking about the tools they can use to engage their students in meaningful ways. Sometimes, the coaches and teachers plan that in the “before,” the coach’s role will be virtually onsite in the “during” and visit the breakout rooms to help the teacher monitor student progress; sometimes, the coaches virtually visit the whole classroom to collect the agreed upon data. The “after” debriefing session can certainly be accomplished in a remote environment and many coaches have told me that the virtual debriefing has been quite effective; both the coach and teacher were able to take the time needed offsite to process the visit and then come back together at the pre-determined time to discuss the feedback. Sounds like a win-win to me!
Teachers are teaching and students are learning. The change since March 2020 is what and how we teach. The bottom line is that our students still need to be engaged, encouraged, and evaluated. But, so do their teachers. What’s a nation (or in this case, the world) to do??
Well, first, let’s unpack the idea of accountability and responsibility. We, the entire school community, all share in the responsibility of educating our students and their teachers. We are responsible for ensuring that all parties have the necessary tools to complete their tasks and impact outcomes. We are responsible for ensuring that students and their teachers are given various opportunities to learn, numerous chances to share, and multiple experiences to talk about their learnings. We are responsible for providing to our communities of learning, time to actually explore learning as often as possible. That means that not everything we taught before is critical for right now; not every method of instructional delivery is appropriate right now. The responsible thing, however, is to ensure that students and teachers are heard, validated, and held accountable for being learners in a very different time and way than ever experienced in the past.
We cannot be held accountable for the pandemic. But we can be held accountable for what we do and how we “behave” in these challenging times. We can be held accountable for not following the science of safety; we can be held accountable for not being investigative reporters, i.e., determining what students know and what they have learned since March. We can be held accountable if we do not take learning seriously enough to be academic detectives to find out just what our students know and are able to do at this time, in this moment. We can be held accountable if our teachers are not given every opportunity to accept their professional responsibilities to grow and develop so that they can help their students grow and develop, too.
Yes, we must answer to how we are preparing our students for post-pandemic. But, testing and formal evaluations would not serve us well at this juncture. It would be more productive if we could engage our teachers in virtual and/or hybrid collaborative conversations where they could discuss their work and how they are engaging their students, what they are learning about how their students learn, and what they are learning about their own needs and skills. It would be more effective if we could help teachers provide feedback to each other and to their students about what and how they are learning without fear of their own negative evaluations.
Fast forward to next year… where will we start? What are our short range, mid-range, and long-range goals for 2021-2022? What are our objectives as we plan to accomplish our goals? We know that there will be learning deficits. We know that the achievement gap will be wider than expected but how does that translate into actionable items? What do we need to do as individuals and school communities to identify our individual and collective responsibilities so that we leave no child or teacher behind?
It’s now the planning that matters most!