Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Put On Your Listening Ears

Image used via Creative Commons License from http://www.flickr.com/photos/niclindh/1389750548/
Today was one of those days when I truly enjoy my role as a coach.

I got to spend an 80 minute block observing in a social studies class, listening in on conversations students were having around an article they were reading.

I spent 40 minutes listening to a science teacher talk through his thinking about a lesson in which he will think aloud how to summarize a newspaper article on a science topic and how he is connecting his language and the expectations for student summaries to the work they do in their language arts classes.

I spent another 40 minutes listening to a language arts teacher describe pre-assessment results and thinking through how she will adjust instruction based on the data she collected.  I also listened as she described the format of her small-group lessons.

Today I listened.

The teachers I met with today didn't necessarily need help with they work they were doing.  They needed to talk through their thinking with someone.  They needed a listener who would ask questions that would help them to think more deeply about their practice.  They needed time to process.

When I was still in the classroom, I would often have conversations such as these with my teaching partner.  We would plan our lessons together and ask each other questions, often playing devil's advocate, imagining the questions students might have or predicting student roadblocks.  These conversations were great practice for much of the work I do as a coach.

Tomorrow I will be in that science class and in that language arts class listening as those teachers put into practice the lessons we discussed today.  Both teachers have asked me to listen for specific student language and to look for specific student behaviors.

I'm learning that listening is perhaps the most important thing I do as a literacy coach.  It can be hard not to jump in with suggestions for how I would do the lesson or the language I would use in a demonstration or think aloud.  I have to think carefully to determine what each teacher needs at a particular time during our coaching conversations.  I have to remember that providing an opportunity for a teacher to reflect on his or her practice in order to refine a lesson or rubric or activity is just as important and impactful as demonstrating in a classroom or co-teaching a lesson.