During my tenure as a special education teacher and district coach, I thought I’d seen almost everything. I was an instructional manager supporting the special education reform in New York City public schools for 1.1 million students. I then supervised the implementation of a coaching credentialing program for over 300 coaches in Broward County Public Schools. During these projects, I witnessed great coaching, terrible coaching, and downright non-coaching—-and only rarely did I see something genuinely transformative. That is, until I saw Real Time Teacher Coaching® (RTTC).
I recently joined the Center for Transformative Teacher Training, creators of RTTC, which provides on-the-spot coaching via a headset. Having worked as a traditional coach, this style of coaching is by far the most impactful I’ve experienced. RTTC is transformational because teachers get real-time feedback while teaching so they are better able to understand the strategies they have been taught and immediately implement them into their practice. The RTTC coaching session is immediately followed by a post-conference with the teacher to reflect on success and decide on next steps.
Baseline Observation and Pre-Conference
Preparing teachers by observing and then pre-conferencing with him/her is imperative to a successful coaching session. For example, we pride ourselves on getting teachers to understand the essence of being a No-Nonsense Nurturer® through the 4-Step Model. Besides Step 4: Relationship Building, my next favorite is Step 1: Give Precise Directions. Research indicates that the first step in motivating all students to get on task is to make sure students know exactly how they are expected to behave in any activity, transition, entering the classroom, working in groups, etc. (Riegler & Baer, 1989; Walker & Walker, 1991). Precise directions can also reduce disruptive behavior. An integral part of the pre-conference is having teachers practice the 4-Step Model with the coach and get feedback before class.
Instant Coaching with Real-Time Feedback
As I discreetly perch myself in the back of the room, some of the feedback provided in real-time is for the teacher to narrate (acknowledge) students who are following the expectation(s), check-in with specific and/or all students, and sometimes provide consequences to students not following the expectations.
All the while, it’s essential that the teacher maintain his/her own personal style. By adopting research-based classroom management practices, a teacher does not have to diminish his/her persona, enthusiasm, or unique ways of connecting with students. In fact, by giving teachers tools they can use to improve the culture of their classroom, we open up new opportunities for them to engage with students in meaningful ways.
During the post-conference, I affirm positives in the teacher’s practice and support their reflections by analyzing the impact on their students. In RTTC, I not only start with a positive affirmation, but also ask the teacher for feedback about the process and how I can better support them as their coach. By inviting the teacher to reflect on the implementation of their deliverables from the previous conference and how they impact student engagement and classroom culture, that creates a safe environment conducive to growth for both the teacher and their students.
Sometimes teachers want instant answers to problems that seem to be the bane of their existence. As a coach, it’s okay to leave them with some “right now” answers, but I found that it’s most important for me to unpack their mindset through questioning techniques that get them to reflect on how their practice impacts students’ lives daily, and for the future in order for change to be effective and ultimately systemic. In turn, by reflecting on my own practice as a coach, and by seeing in real-time whether I’m having an impact, I become a better supporter of every teacher I work with.
When I’m coaching, I seek to offer tangible resources that create immediate and sustainable change. For example, a teacher may have difficulty managing student behavior. My feedback would be to create a behavior chart where the teacher and student can track the student’s behavior throughout the day. The teacher could also instate a classroom incentive program by having students earn specific class points toward a class prize, such as extra recreational time or other free incentives.
It’s critically important that I provide
management strategies for learning, not behavior!
In traditional coaching I was used to observing teachers and giving them feedback with next steps that I expected to see with little to no input from them. But in RTTC, I get to invite teachers to be part of the learning and growth process by using qualitative and quantitative data from classroom observations to get the teacher to reflect on the implementation of their deliverables and how they impact student engagement and classroom culture. This allows me to get into the teacher’s listening and have him/her increase the urgency in improving his or her practice.
The need for world-class coaching is both urgent and ongoing. With increasing demands placed on teachers and decreasing levels of support for this critically important profession, now, more than ever, we need to provide transformative support. They deserve everything we have to offer and I’m ready to give them that and more.
Reigler, H., Baer, D. (1989) A developmental analysis of rule-following. Advances in Child Development and Behavior, 21: 191-219.
Walker, H., Walker, J. (1991) Coping with noncompliance in the classroom: A positive approach for teachers. Austin, TX: Pro-Ed.
By Karen Baptiste, Associate
Karen is a recognized special educator who has developed an unwavering commitment to serving disenfranchised youth, especially students with disabilities.