Coaching: Turning Practice into Action

Gelfuso (2016) likened the phases of reflective discourse to a theater performance. First, you set the stage, focusing the conversation. Then, the play begins where the conversation moves through the preservice teacher’s ZPD. Next, the curtain closes as the preservice teacher makes a ‘warranted assertability’ about the teaching process. Finally, you take a bow and bring the reflective process to the attention of the preservice teacher. This metaphor helped me understand the reflective process and coaching discourse, but it also serves as a framework for my experiences as I learn how to coach.

First, the stage was set as I began my time with the Cambridge Schools Experience. Readings and discussions helped focus my attention towards important aspects of coaching. My path was open for me to shape, but guidance was provided to assist me as I defined my needs and goals. What did I  need out of this experience? What did I bring to the experience? What was important to me? What were my misconceptions and previously held notions of what a coach is or does?

Then the play began as I practiced my skills in the schools, worked with a preservice teacher in her classroom, and began to explore my identity as a coach. The very first time I stepped into the classroom as a coach I struggled to maintain my focus on what the preservice teacher was doing. As a classroom teacher I have always been focused on what the students are doing. Over the course of my visits I began to shift my focus to not only the preservice teacher, but also to the connections between what she was doing and how the students were responding. This led to increased insight into her practice and how she could increase student engagement and outcomes. In turn, our coaching and planning conversations became more detailed and focused on her needs in that moment. My first conversation with the preservice teacher remained broad as we discussed our combined observations, questions, and goals. Over time I was able to hone my ability to observe her lessons, which in turn created more specific feedback and guidance. I began to notice growth within the preservice teacher as a reflection of my personal growth as a coach. In addition, I began to establish my identity and style as a coach. In the beginning, I felt I was mimicking more than creating. As time and experience went on, I became more comfortable in my discussions and actions. I felt my personality begin to emerge and take shape in this new role, which led to a decreased focus on myself and an increased focus on the preservice teacher. Overall, my growth was directly reflected in the preservice teacher’s growth. Much like we think about our first classroom of kids, “Please forgive me for all of my mishaps! It was my first year!” I feel the same towards the preservice teacher with which I worked. Did she grow because of me, or in spite of me? Thankfully, she was a strong individual who will be an amazing educator on her own abilities.

The curtain closes with these blog posts as I reflect back on what happened, find purpose within those events, and create meaning from my experiences in the field. Reflection cannot occur without dissonance (Gelfuso, 2016), and I am thankful I was provided many opportunities to move through this in my Cambridge Schools Experience. Through thoughtful questions and discussion I have been able to identify areas of growth and to develop personal beliefs about coaching. While I still feel I am at the surface of coaching, I am thankful to have experienced this practice of reflection at the level I have. My hope is that it will continue as I move forward in my journey.

I take a bow as I move forward into my professional role as a technology TOSA/coach. Through these experiences and stages of development I have begun the transition from practice into action. I am nowhere near proficient, but I am more aware of the intricacies of my practice that add up to be the bigger picture. I am more reflective of my practice, thanks mainly to the guidance and coaching given to me in this experience. I am more confident in my ability to say, “I don’t know, but we’ll find out together,” where in the beginning I thought I needed to have all of the answers. I am mindful of the smaller moments in coaching that can become so much more. Overall, I have a new definition of what it means to coach. I have transitioned my mindset from ‘coach’ as a noun, to ‘coach’ as a verb. It is in this space that I find my direction and growth.

 

Gelfuso, A. (2016). A framework for facilitating video-mediated reflection: Supporting preservice teachers as they create ‘warranted assertabilities’ about literacy teaching and learning. Teaching and Teacher Education, 58, 68-79.

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