This past year as a math coach for my district has been eye-opening, engaging and a whirlwind learning experience. Kind of like a year as a classroom teacher!
I spent my year creating professional development trainings. I also spent time with teachers at their grade level meetings, and in their classrooms doing demos and engaging in coaching cycles.
Below is the process I used in working with teachers and grade level teams, which we refer to in my district as ACs (Accountable Communities).
STEP ONE: First, I meet with the team of teachers and gather information on what they’re thinking about a standard they’re trying to master or the process of an activity, such as a Number Talk – a brief routine that is meant to develop a child’s computational fluency. The teachers share with me what they’ve tried, what their thoughts are about it, what they’d like to see, and where they think I can help them.
STEP TWO: Typically, I then schedule a date to do a demonstration in their classroom with their students. I’ve taught whole lessons from start to finish or demonstrated a Number Talk. If I’m working with an entire AC, I will schedule these in each of their classrooms, usually back-to-back in one day, if possible. When demonstrating a Number Talk, I will do the same problem in all the classrooms so that in our follow-up meeting the teachers can have a common framework as they discuss the similarities and differences that arose in the various classrooms.
STEP THREE: In the follow-up meeting, we discuss what the teachers saw in the demonstration. For example, in a Number Talk demonstration, teachers will often notice the strategies that are obvious across the grade level and/or the strategies the students seem to have mastered. They also notice the different strategies that are used in different classrooms. This usually prompts discussion about what the teachers did to get students comfortable and confident in using those strategies. After a lesson demonstration, the teachers will discuss the aspects of the lesson they liked and will want to continue forward with, questions about why I did certain things, and clarifying questions in order to better understand the standard being addressed.
STEP FOUR: We then collaboratively plan another lesson where either we co-teach, or the teacher leads the lesson and I observe and take notes based on what the teacher wants me to look for. The decision on whether we co-teach or the teacher teaches and I observe, is solely based on the teacher’s comfort level with the particular option.
STEP FIVE: We meet again afterwards to discuss the lesson (similar to the follow-up meeting that I described above) and then we make arrangements for next steps.
What I’ve noticed is that this coaching demo process is very similar to planning a lesson for students in a classroom. What’s valuable in the coaching model is the ability to discuss and collaboratively create engaging learning experiences for the students, and build content knowledge for the teacher to grow professionally. More brains are better than one!