By Ellen Eisenberg

By Ellen Eisenberg, Executive Director of The Pennsylvania Institute for Instructional Coaching (PIIC)

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

In the June 20, 2016 Education Week Teacher section, Amy Shapiro, a math teacher wrote about her experiences teaching math and science and how those experiences changed her thinking and ultimately, her instructional practices. She came to an amazing realization: “I believe that the key to creating a classroom environment with a true symbiotic relationship between teaching and learning is writing, so next year, my students will be doing a lot of it.”

She mentions in her blog that she recognizes the importance of students learning to solve problems and to talk to one another about those solutions but more importantly … “to teach them to write about their strategies and thought processes, or they will always struggle to exhibit their mathematical understandings.”  She also reflects and realizes that she must assess her students’ strengths and needs appropriately and prepare herself to meet the changing demands of her students by examining their progress and addressing their needs in ways that will help them become successful.

Wow, where have you heard that… “using evidence-based literacy practices” in all content areas?

Writing is part of literacy. Instructional coaches remind teachers about the importance and necessity of writing across the curriculum. They help teachers collaborate so that talking about writing becomes the norm, not the exception. They help dispel the myth that writing only occurs in English class.

Remember to build in ample opportunities for teachers to work collaboratively and cooperatively around the integration of writing in every class, every day. Help them understand the significance of writing to learn; scaffold ways to help them integrate writing into their work through John Collins writing, “Do Nows,” Tickets Out/In the Door, and other strategies to increase the amount of daily writing. Help teachers work with students to talk about their writing and what they’ve learned through the writing process.

What are some of the ways you work with teachers to help them enhance their students’ writing skills?

Friday, October 7, 2016

“There is a certain relief in change, even though it be from bad to worse! As I have found in traveling in a stagecoach, that it is often a comfort to shift one’s position, and be bruised in a new place.” Washington Irving

Coaching has often been symbolized as a stagecoach, depicting the journey between stations. Much the same can be said about instructional coaching; it is the journey of a scaffolded approach to teaching and learning. Instructional coaches work with their teaching colleagues to promote growth and identify ways to grow as a learner and reflective practitioner. And, it is often accompanied by some bruising; that is, the recognition that some instructional practices are not effective and need to be adjusted. Or, what I thought I did, in fact, was not what really happened.

This kind of “bruising” is critical to making changes in practice, the primary function of an instructional coach. Yes, coaches help teacher collect data; yes, coaches help teachers identify professional goals for growth; yes, coaches help teachers navigate curriculums, standards, assessment tools, and many other elements of effective instruction. But none of this is done in isolation or without ongoing dialogue.

I think most people want change but don’t want to be the first one to experience it. You know, “You go first!” Our teaching colleagues may know something must change but not know how to make those changes. So, while one bruise may supplant another, rest assured that every instructional decision creates a “shift in position” that will lead to another bruise. But, with time and continued conversations, being proactive and addressing those changes will result in fewer “bruises” and more practitioner driven resolutions!

What kind of “bruising” have you noticed in your coaching interactions? How have the practitioners with whom you work tackled their bumps and bruises?