I walk into the classroom for the first time. The teacher and I, excitedly, have been planning to focus on data management. I suggested Google Sheets at our planning meeting as a way for students to focus on the types of charts/graphs they can create with simple data collection. Sheets will pump out a graph quickly, rather than students drawing their own. The benefit of this speed is so that students can create multiple graphs and charts, and be able to discuss and determine which graph is better at giving information that another, and why this might be so. The teacher agreed, and so we set the dates to co-teach the lesson.
It was Hallowe’en, so the class was excited. I walked in with 100% energy and began the lesson. The teacher supported by asking me and students’ questions and played with the program as I worked with students so they could become more comfortable with Google Sheets.
The room was loud as students stacked cups, built linking cube towers, or did jumping jacks. I gave simple data input instructions, told them how to find a timer on the internet, and I let them go. Students started immediately, the engagement was palpable in the room.
The kids ran the show.
Some had time to create a few different graphs, and I lead conversations around what graphs were more effective (and, first, with a few groups, what an effective graph meant), and why. We managed to share our graphs in a shared slide. We had a quick whole group summation of our data — hey! Data collection can be more than me walking around the class asking questions. It can be helpful when we have chosen an effective graph because the reader can interpret our data quickly and efficiently.
Then I left.
My time was up with those students and that teacher for that day…
And, since I support 19 schools, I wouldn’t be back for a month.
Sure, I emailed the teacher all of our work and gave them a chance to ask any follow-up questions as needed.
But that was it.
But did I do anything? Did I create change? Would that teacher now move ahead in two ways:
- Consider ways to make the curriculum come alive creatively?
- Continue to use a piece of technology meaningfully and with purpose?
Metrics: Collecting Data
The first response to this is to collect tangible data. In this case, when I am completing a cycle of schools, I send out a survey to collect data from teachers. This is dependant on if teachers fill out the survey, and I always wonder if they are being completely honest. I think many fill it out to be kind, which doesn’t give me a sense of how my time with them will be beneficial in the future.
Another tangible piece is total bookings. If I am booked a lot, in theory, I am reaching more teachers, and assisting in curriculum and innovative connections. I have some of this data — it is quantative, but is it really showing what is going on in the daily use of instructional practices by the teacher?
How do I, without a doubt, know that my time with that teacher has contributed to long-lasting educational change? Are teachers really thinking about their practice after I work with them? Or am I stand alone show? Sure, metrics can show some data, but does this tell me if I have really created long-lasting, sustainable change?
Student Carry Over
I also wonder about the students: Sure, a teacher may not have had sustainably changed practice after co-planning and teaching with me. But, perhaps, a student took the tool that was used and is now using it for another purpose. Perhaps when another math task comes up, they will open up Google Sheets, for example, if they feel it is the tool for them. How do I measure student success — because maybe the student is the one taking leadership, and encouraging other students (and teachers) to use a particular tool, or try a certain task.
Stages of Coaching
Perhaps it is in the next steps. For this particular example, maybe the change isn’t happening yet. It will come when I check in with that teacher the next time I arrive, and have a face-to-face conversation. Or, theywill book me for a second round of co-planning and teaching, this time wanting to explore at different angle of math, or a different tool that can bring, perhaps, student reflection about their math (the first tool assisted the students completing the math task, the next step might be for a tool to help students speak to their understanding).
I am learning that this means that I am going to be having a different conversation with this teacher the next time around. I am not completely sure what that conversation will be. It may be as open as “What have you done since the last time we were together?”
Teachers, this is a great chance for you to let me know: What do you hope your Coach does with you? How do you know that your Coach has been effective? How do you like to be approached? Feel free to continue to talk with me here, or on Twitter (@heidi_allum).