How “Coaching” Can Complement the Classroom

Returning to the well for a yearly conference is rejuvenating and special. This week I am in the middle of two weeks of attending two amazing weeklong conferences – NTPRS and IFLT. I am sure both will provide tremendous amounts of growth opportunities for me as an educator and as a trainer and coach (which are my main roles at each conference).

I am fortunate to serve on both Coaching Teams at these conferences that value the need for participants to reflect and practice skills. It is crucial that teachers take the time to try out all of the new ideas and skills that they are learning in order to best prepare them for when they return to their classrooms. In “Coaching” we provide a safe space for teachers to practice and grow with the support and nurturing from a Coach and fellow participants. Each conference provides coaching times embedded throughout the workshops and Open Coaching sessions throughout the week. And yet, although I see these moments as opportunities for growth and development, the reality is that some may see a coaching experience as torture.

Why torture? There are a few reasons. We are asking educators to get up in front of peers and teach in an artificial setting. Let’s add the reality that some educators may have concerns speaking in a non-native language they teach or if English is their second language, they must communicate in our English-speaking environment. Lastly, participants are learning so many new concepts, skills, and strategies that may be outside of their comfort zone to try to implement. So when you put all of that together, we as Coaches know how overwhelming a Coaching experience could seem.

Over the course of many years, TPRS/CI Coaches have created a model that puts participants at ease and works to best meet their individual needs. In fact, we know that people learn so much by reflection and observing that observation plays a big role in the Coaching process and, for those who do not want to “teach in front of peers,” they can observe or learn language as students. The model has all participants focus on everything that they CAN DO WELL. Everyone is reflecting on what they see and throughout the process, they are all learning by looking for the good instead of the bad. [If you are attending NTPRS, IFLT or AGEN, be sure to feel the power of Coaching].

Now in this post, I wanted to think about connecting elements from our Coaching model to the classroom. I have to really take a step back with this because I do not think I am always as encouraging or positive with my students as I am on the Coaching Team. Do I always just look for the positive and what my students can do or do I point out the negative and their errors? If I am often criticizing my students’ language or possibly creating a culture of scrutiny, what is their impetus to even try? My desire to “help” them and correct their Spanish could be having a reverse effect. I also have been reflecting on my level of “positivity” working daily with teenagers whose commitment to their smart phones often takes precedent over focus in class or, even worse, the priority is to just talk over me as I am trying to provide input and conduct the class as the teacher. I am aware that their actions do not always put me in the most positive state of mind.

In many ways our Coaching experience is just like how my classes need to be. In Coaching, we set ground rules and expectations and work to shed light on everything that participants can do while providing guidance to hone a new skill. Although our conference audience is most often happy to be there, we know that there is a tremendous amount of pressure put on them. Frankly their Affective Filters (from SLA research) could be quite high but if we provide the support needed, nerves can be calmed and then their success celebrated. When I ask students to perform by comprehending, reading, and speaking Spanish, they too could experience high Affective Filters, especially if the environment sometimes goes toward the negative or is not set up to celebrate their successes. My thoughts on this are resonating a bit more now as we just finished the end of a the school year, which was more challenging than the “bright eyed” beginning of the year. Students’ actions and the constant need for classroom management in some classes really brought me down this spring. Knowing this, I think back to all of the negative energy that was in the classroom environment and how perhaps the Coaching Team mindset could have helped both my students and me as an educator. Even though I serve as Co-Coordinator for the Coaching Team at NTPRS, it has taken the support from our coaches and our time together to refocus, recharge and remember all of the good that we can do by looking for the positive in others. Bit by bit I am preparing for the school year. Cheers to Summer PD.