XChange - Publications and Resources for Public School Professionals

Coaching Across a Continuum: UCLA Center X Coaching Support, A Journey of Learning Through Forest and Trees

Issue Editor: Natalie Irons

Summer 2019

Tree Quilt

“Grey Autumn” – designed and quilted in 2017 by the late Karen Lee Lummus, teacher and literacy coach in the Lancaster School District for 33 years.

How does a coach know they are impactful?

At UCLA Center X we have had the opportunity to learn from two decades of coaching educators. In this XChange issue we have displayed our learning as coaches and our support of coaches within the framework of a continuum. We have learned from the educators in our professional learning settings that coaching is in part the ability to hold onto varied perspectives, like seeing the “forest” and the “trees”. We know that coaching requires high levels of awareness of self and others. The work represented here is a reminder that humans are complex and our thinking, our choices to take action, to make decisions about strategies to use and our conscious and unconscious behaviors all make up who we are and who we want to be. Coaching is a fluid act of negotiating all the complexities of educational settings. This XChange issue provides readers a holistic view of educator support by outlining coach capacities where each “continuum” gives examples to the fluidity of the work of a coach.

Coaching Across a Continuum: UCLA Center X Coaching Support

How does a coach know they are impactful?

At UCLA/Center X we determine our influence within a framework that identifies three areas of focus; the what, why and how we support educators. These three areas live on a fluid continuum that allows coaches to self-reflect, assess and know the ways of their influence. This range includes different approaches and ways of thinking a coach has in their work. We offer a metaphor of seeing “the forest AND the trees”. While the idiom says that people sometimes “can’t see the forest for the trees”, coaches at UCLA Center X propose that coaching is a fluid act that is inclusive, broad while focused, and outside the conventional and historical understanding of many coaching models. Therefore, the following areas of coaching, framed as capacities, are essential to understanding the impact of our work.

Coaching Capacity # 1: To think about coaching as a way of being with educators and holding positive presuppositions for their capacity to be effective.

This means coaches value the people they support as human beings first, so that they can coach for both content and identity. Educators benefit and grow in their work when they know the content they teach, as well as, when they reflect on their identities as educators. This continuum is our “what” of what we do. 

I am sitting with a teacher in a 7th grade ELA classroom who has asked essentially the same question over the course of the year about how to teach a particular concept effectively. Setting aside my own frustration that we have been around the subject of teaching “theme” multiple times, I take a breath and say, “This is a complex topic to teach adolescents.” A resounding, “Yes!” fills the room. Then I offer a question, “What are some things you know about yourself when teaching complex ideas?” She sits back and says, “I really need to slow down and teach the concept from another angle and I think I have been repeating the same thing over and over that is not getting through.” Instead of telling the teacher what I did, or offering a dozen ideas about teaching theme, I acknowledged, understood and supported from an approach that holds positive presuppositions that educators have strengths from which to build. This snapshot of a coaching exchange allows the teacher to think about the “what” and “how” they do their work AND “why” they do the work they do. An effective coach listens for these areas of content, pedagogy and identity of the educator in developing their own capacities.

In another recent coaching conversation, I asked a principal, “As you think about the past year of support, what might be most significant to you as a leader in moving forward?” This question focuses on the identity of the principal in reflecting about the role. Contrast that question with the one I heard a director ask of a leader, “What did you do this past year that produced the results you achieved?” While this question is reflective, it focuses more on the external reflection. Oftentimes a coach asks questions that access the “what” or “how” only, like how things get done or “what” was accomplished, and less on the internal thinking of one’s identity. Coaches at UCLA Center X know the value of offering questions that ask about the significance of being a leader to provide an opportunity to think about values and identity.

One of the coaching models we draw from to support educators in thinking about identity is as a Cognitive Coach. This model, one that is supported by 35 years of research and practice by Robert Garmston and Arthur Costa, assumes that educators have capacity and experiences to inform who they are, what they do and how they work. A Cognitive Coach knows how to access resources in others through thinking practices that encourage self-directedness. Coaches give careful attention to others by listening in productive ways, paraphrasing and asking questions about thinking provide opportunities for teachers, administrators and support staff to check in on who they are and want to be as educators (Costa and Garmson, 2016). This close examination between what is and what is possible provides the growth space for change.

Capacity #1 for us is inviting people to think about who they want to be. We do that by “coaching for identity”, in addition to coaching for “content and pedagogy development” as noted in our continuum metaphor. Thinking back to that principal and the coach’s question about identity, the principal responded with a long pause and then said, “Hmmm, I want to think more about that as I create my planning for next year and then talk with you again, so that I can really think about how I will support people next year and how that might change my role.” The response confirms our learning that always focusing on ways that educators can get their work done will only live “at the surface,” without the opportunity to live “below the surface” for greater meaning. Coaching for identity IS the way to actionable work where this fluid concept serves a coach from the bottom up, rather than the other way around.

Coaching Capacity #2: Maintaining successful coaching relationships is both acknowledging one’s position in the interaction and the diversity within each educator. The coach then makes adjustments to meet people where they are.

This means checking on assumptions/biases/filters. Listen and observe first. Asking the question, “How might my identity, both internal and external, impact a coaching interaction?” is vital to this continuum and speaks to the “why” of our coaching. 

At UCLA Center X we recognize the assets of our surrounding communities and our positionality in relation to others. This frames for our own coaching community a deep value and desire to know and understand the coach’s self in order to understand and support others.  We acknowledge that when a coach comes into an educators’ work space using a specific set of tools and structures without first checking in on who they are coaching and what they value, the coach risks the potential to create a safe space for the coach and educator to have a successful working relationship. Understanding neuroscience research is an important part of this coaching capacity.

Researchers in this area of study of the brain describe that our basic brain functioning makes associations and combs each situation for safety – above all else. Steven Porges, founding director of the Traumatic Stress Research Consortium at Indiana University, uses the term “neuroception” as a part of the “Polyvagal Theory” in which the vagal nerve processes input to detect safety, physically and socially, within the autonomic nervous system; essentially, how our bodies intuit threat, or safety (Porges, 2011). This kind of detection system is extremely important for coaches because this knowledge informs how a coach attends to a person in non-verbal ways, like listening with attention to using tone of voice, or facial and body gestures.

In a recent conversation with a science coach supporting an urban school campus, I noticed a distinct non-verbal shift in this coach. Her eyes averted mine and she gave a subtle nod of her head. I acknowledged that she is “hesitant” to use just one model of coaching, one that other coaches value. She sighed heavily and stated, “I really need to be doing some other things with the staff…my work there looks very different.” She described how as a white woman with decades of educational experience that she needed to build trust, listen to teachers and staff and acknowledge that there might be some identity differences to attend to and adjust for on a campus of students and staff of color. What this coach knows is that her identity awareness is essential to being a successful coach.

When position and race are involved in supporting educators, coaches benefit from what Zaretta Hammond in Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain describes as an “equation: rapport + alliance = cognitive insight” (Hammond, 2015, p. 75) for teachers in the classroom to frame their building of relationships with students. We believe this classroom strategy applies to adult support, as well. When UCLA Coaches enter a campus to support teachers, administrators and other staff members, they are conscious of the ways of the human brain, its primal functioning, and how a coaches’ biases can directly impact a coaching situation.

Coaching Capacity #3: Successful coaching is multi-dimensional, both utilizing a set of tools and structures while also being fluid within those tools and structures.

This means navigating through models, tools, and strategies to support educators in being effective practitioners. These include paraphrasing, asking questions, and/or offering. This capacity addresses structures and tools to support the work of a coach.

Every coach brings a coaching a “toolkit” of strategies to use to support teachers, administrators and support staff. Some coaches are trained in particular models or approaches and do not deviate. Some coaches recognize that some school communities require a multi-faceted approach to coaching. At UCLA Center X, we believe that educators engage in complex, diverse work every day and therefore need support that reflects that complexity. We recognize that the work of supporting an educator needs to be as multi-dimensional as the work itself. We must be the reflection for teachers and leaders.

In order to be reflective, coaches must have a very fluid set of models, tools and strategies from which to draw. Cognitive CoachingSM is one model that encompasses this fluidity. At any given time a “coach” may listen attentively for identity and thinking by paraphrasing and asking questions while simultaneously listening for when someone is “tapped out” or would benefit from hearing another point of view. Sometimes becoming an expert to “consult”, or a colleague to “collaborate” gives an educator an anchor. Cognitive CoachingSM calls these “Support Functions” and in our coaching work these are pivotal in how we focus our attention. (Costa and Garmson, 2016).

Recently when providing coaching support, a math teacher asked me to review a video of her teaching to submit for National Board Certification. She said she had been working on “mathematical talk” in the classroom. I noticed in her facilitating of the math talk, she asked mostly closed-ended questions, like “Did you simplify?” or “Is the reciprocal needed?” Because of the pattern of this way of questioning, I asked her about what she knew about closed and open-ended questions. When she indicated that she was aware of the difference, we listened together again at her questions. She seemed surprised that she heard something different than what she thought she had said. I asked if I could share some thinking. “Yes, please!” she almost begged. “There is a lot of evidence that teachers know it is important to ask open-ended questions, yet still ask closed-ended questions. Remembering to insert a “what” or “how” to begin your questions might reframe them for your students. How might that benefit you in math talks?”

This example describes how as a coach I move along our coaching continuum from a coach who focuses more on the educators’ thinking to a “consultant” who has an eye on a valuable teaching tool, one which I see clearly that the teacher sees with less focus. This movement is very fluid and adaptive. It requires a coach to be vigilant in listening for where the educator is in their thinking, content knowledge, pedagogy and identity and when it is important to insert additional knowledge, perspective and background. Without this vital coaching capacity, the other capacities are less meaningful and impactful as a coach. We need clear tools, strategies and structures from which to draw or we stagnate, repeating the very ways we hope to impact as a coach.

We believe our support is deeply rooted in our ability to develop our own capacities, attend to our own learning and adjust for others to meet them at their learning space. Our continuum of coaching support is an evolution of 20 years of supporting educators, teachers, administrators, paraprofessionals, support staff and parents across districts and organizations and our learning, as evidenced by one UCLA Center X math coach who recently shared in a support meeting, “What is valuable to me and important about being a Center X coach is that I get a chance to learn and grow. I guess that’s why I stay even when it’s hard.”

Coaching questions for our readers:

  • When has coaching been impactful for you?
  • What are some ways you are attentive to others to reach their capacities? How might your identity impact your coaching relationships?
  • When you think about your toolkit of coaching strategies, which ones are most impactful and how do they vary across each educator?

 


Costa, A. & Garmston, R. (2016). Cognitive coaching: Developing self-directed leaders and learners, (3rd ed). Lanham, MD: Rowman & LIttlefield.

Hammond, Z. (2015). Culturally responsive teaching and the brain: Promoting authentic engagement and rigor among culturally and linguistically diverse students. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Porges, S. W. (2011). The polygal theory: Neurophysiological foundations of emotions, attachment, communication, and self-regulation. New York: WW Norton.

Natalie Irons is the Associate Director of Instructional Coaching Programs at UCLA Center X and a Training Associate for Cognitive CoachingSM and Adaptive Schools with Thinking Collaborative. She has held National Board Certification since 1999.

CONTINUUM OF COACHING:

  • null

    Coaching is for Teachers

  • null

    Coaching is for Everyone

This continuum addresses “who” receives coaching.

Articles – “What We Do?”
Articles – “Why we do this?”
Origins of Coaching at Center X
The Origins of Coaching at UCLA Center X

James Berger, UCLA Center X Professional Learning Partner History Coach
May 3, 2017

Was it a labor of love, a love of labor, or both? The origins of coaching at UCLA involved some important social and political changes, a cadre of caring and concerned educators, and an intense desire to promote social justice in the challenging environment found in urban schools of the city of Los Angeles.

Two key events in Los Angeles created a spark to demand more action to create a care for social justice in Los Angeles urban schools.  First, was the 1992 uprising in areas of South Los Angeles due to the failure to convict members of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) for the brutal beating of motorist Rodney King. Second, was the 1994 California voter approved Proposition 187. This ballot measure denied public services such as public education and healthcare to all undocumented residents of California.  In November 1997, Judge Mariana Pfaelzer ruled Proposition 187 unconstitutional because it infringed on the federal government’s exclusive jurisdiction over matters relating to immigration in California.

Dr. Jody Priselac, former Executive Director of UCLA’s Center X and adjunct professor in the Department of Education at UCLA and current Associate Dean for Community Programs with UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, thought that Proposition 187 was one of the key factors motivating UCLA’s Graduate School of Education educators to start Center X. In addition, the impetus and birth of UCLA Center X was formed in 1994-95 partially to respond to the “inequity and poor educational practices” in some urban schools. The demands for equity and parity support the fight for social justice in the classroom as well as in the community. As a result, UCLA Center X became the start for intense teacher candidate recruitment for the Teacher Education Program in 1994 (TEP), the Principal Leadership Institute in 2000 (PLI), and California Subject Matter Projects in Writing, Reading, and Literature, Mathematics, Science, and History/Geography. In a 2009 article by Karen Hunter Quartz, Jody Priselac, and Megan Loef Franke about transforming schools, they stated that “Since its’ founding, the Center’s professional development work has developed district partnerships to support teachers serving the lowest-achieving students.” In 2002, Cognitive Coaching became an important tool at UCLA Center X as part of a service to give direct support to new as well as experienced teachers.

In a recent interview with Dr. Priselac, she stated that the first vision and goal of UCLA Center X Coaching was to “work to partner in schools to improve academic achievement.” Dr. Priselac added that some of the key people who started the coaching program with her at Center X included Megan Franke, Susan Hakansson, Faye Peitzman, Anne Sirota, Janet Thornsby, Frances Gibson, and Jane Hancock. Many of these talented educators came from the Center X literacy projects.

In an extensive interview with Jane Hancock completed by UCLA Center X Professional Learning Partner Susan Strauss, Jane Hancock as Co-Director of UCLA Center X Writing Project stated, “I had been doing workshops for the Venice Westchester/UCLA Collaborative and came up with the idea that, in order for the partnership to accomplish what we wanted to accomplish, we would try literacy coaches.” According to Jane Hancock, there were key factors in looking for a coach. “I looked for people who were innovative and who could seize the moment.” This led to Jane’s book group. Jane stated, “It seems like I recruited everyone that was in my book group to become a coach.”

The first Writing Project coaches came from Jane choosing all Writing Project Fellows and one from the Reading and Literature Project. These coaches for the Westchester schools included “Sydnie Myrick, Norma Mota Altman, Caitlin Rabanera, Kim Marantos, Robin Wisinski, Karen Caruso, Jennifer McFarland, Frances Gipson, and Kim Mitchell.” With some models and a little book on coaching to use, the group decided to write their own coaching book. After learning how to talk to teachers, the group used the Cognitive Coaching and Adaptive Schools strategies with Carolee Hayes.

According to Jane Hancock, coaching was “all about making a connection.” This was the key as well as the key challenge of “establishing the connections,” which is always the key to any professional relationship.

These talented team of educators worked tirelessly with educators like Dr. Sylvia Rousseau. Dr. Rousseau was a former Principal at Santa Monica High School, former Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Administrator District 7, and former Instructor at UCLA Center X. As an Associate Director of the LAUSD/UCLA Partnership, she was instrumental in connecting UCLA Center X with particular schools in the former Local LAUSD District 7.

Dr. Rousseau wanted Literacy and Math coaches who were connected to UCLA Center X to provide direct support to classroom teachers with model teaching examples of “scaffolding using Bloom Taxonomy including the California State Standards and the goals of No Child Left Behind.” UCLA Center X agreed to “provide trained instructional coaches who provided instructional support “in the three C’s of content, context, and cognitive demand.” Later, the coaching program expanded into former LAUSD District 3. Today, the UCLA Center X coaching program provides teacher support services in Los Angeles area school districts and specifically in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) schools located in South Los Angeles, East Los Angeles, and the San Fernando Valley.

Together the Center X teams collaborated, planned, and organized programs to train educators who wanted to become instructional coaches in order to provide direct support to classroom teachers. They spent countless hours, weeks, and days planning how coaches might be trained, briefed, and placed in specific schools that might best support the success of teachers and administrators. This benefit would lead to greater teacher success in the classroom as well as higher teacher retention with improved student achievement.  After classroom observations, coaches provided this direct support by engaging with the teacher in productive reflective, planning, or problem re0-solving conversations. In addition, support might be in co-planning a lesson, co-teaching, modeling a lesson, providing standards-based instructional resources, or collaborating in the development of a classroom project or lesson or school-wide program.

The Coaching Program worked along with a Partnership with many urban school districts. “To help further build relationships with both schools and districts, Center X had developed strategic partnerships with local districts across Los Angeles. This relationship included school-based workgroup meetings and on-site in-classroom support.” Specific forms of support included after school Professional Development (PD) for teachers as well as direct support inside and outside of the classroom. Coaches usually led or co-led professional development in their respective departments or subject matter areas. Teachers “learned to integrate content literacy strategies and standard-based instruction.” These PDs served teachers in all grade levels and all subjects in the core curriculum such as English/Language Arts, Mathematics, Science, and Social Studies.

According to Jody Priselac, the effects of coaching were assessed and measured from “2001 to 2008 as Center X Faculty worked with UCLA evaluation experts to study the implementation and effects of this partnership on context-embedded teacher learning, and ultimately student achievement at the high school level.” The study produced some significant results. “During the six years of the partnership, we saw changes in teacher practice that demonstrated teachers’ understanding of the importance of engaging students with text,” says Priselac. UCLA Center X continues to provide support for classroom teachers as well as make a significant impact with classroom instruction as both a labor of love and love of labor.

As writer of this article, my first exposure to UCLA Center X coaching was during my final year in 2005 as a classroom teacher at Dorsey High School. UCLA Center X History Coach Ed Sugden offered me support with valuable coaching conversations and collaboration in assessing my history students’ writings from a combined History/ELA research project.

My first experience as a UCLA Center X coach was after I retired from the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) in 2005 finishing a 32 year career teaching history at Henry Clay Middle School and Dorsey High School. Since 2006, I have worked with and supported history teachers in both middle schools and high school of LAUSD located in South Los Angeles, East Los Angeles, and the San Fernando Valley.

Jim’s article provides a historical retelling of the origins of coaching at Center X and the focus on literacy strategies with teachers.

The Beginnings of Coaching at Center X: Interview with Jane Hancock
Interview with Jane Hancock, The First Director of the UCLA Center X Coaching Collaborative

By Susan Strauss

On October 29, 2016, I interviewed Jane Hancock, former Co-Director of the Writing Project, about the origins of UCLA’s Center X Coaching. As the Director of the Venice/Westchester Collaborative, the university’s initial literacy coaching partnership with the Los Angeles Unified School District, Jane offers a first-hand account of the beginning of the instructional coaching program at UCLA. Through Jane’s evolving leadership, she witnessed Center X coaching transform into its current professional learning partnership with the LAUSD. Since I first became a Center X coach in 2002 and consider Jane my friend, my interest in the history of UCLA’s coaching is both professional and personal. The following is her account of how coaching began at Center X, an outreach program at UCLA’s Graduate School of Education:

 

SS: So, Jane, how did the coaching business at UCLA get started?

JH: I had been doing workshops for the Venice Westchester/UCLA Collaborative, when we came up with the idea that, in order for the partnership to accomplish what we wanted to accomplish, we would try literacy coaches. At that time, we really didn’t know anybody else who was doing it at all.

SS: How did you come to know about the concept of literacy coaching?

JH: At that time, an education consultant named Dennis Parker, a former California Department of Education administrator and UCLA School Management Program professor, seemed to be the guru on coaching so he came and spoke at our conferences several times about the value of coaching teachers.

SS: How was the first collaborative formed?

Once we had our first literacy coaches, we planned a conference in the summer of ’99, at which Parker spoke. Though the literacy coaches we’d hired had not yet started to work, we did so much research on how coaching might play out that we planned and advertised the conference, invited people to come, and people interested in coaching came.

SS: How did you realize the value and need for coaching?

JH: In the partnership’s first newsletter, “The Collaborator,” I explained that “Coaching allows teachers to collaborate on change rather than trying to work on something new in isolation, offers opportunities for continual follow-up, allows for one-on-one professional development and allows students to observe teachers working together to help the students in their learning and to improve their own teaching skills.”

SS: What was the perspective of Center X at UCLA on this coaching venture?

JH: Everybody wanted to get on board. Jeanne Oakes, the Director and Founder of Center X, was the one who hired me to be the Director of the Collaborative because they needed somebody to be the liaison between Center X and the District. So I went to all the principals’ meetings. Eventually, the Venice-Westchester Collaborative became a part of it. Then we began talking about literacy coaches. Later, it became ‘coaching,’ not ‘literacy coaching.’

SS: Was that a good thing?

JH: Not for me. I thought that you needed literacy in science. I always thought of this as being how we get kids to read science texts and write about science. This is how we get kids to read math and write about math. This is how we get kids to read P. E. and write about sports. I always thought about it as literacy. Is it literacy for the math and science teachers, or is it how to teach math, how to teach science? Is it literacy? Is it still literacy? When it started out, it was definitely just literacy.

SS: How did the coaching network reflect the mission of Center X, particularly the focus on social justice? 

The mission statement for Center X is “We are a community of educators working to transform public schooling to create a more just, equitable, and humane society.

JH: Making everybody read and write certainly improves their chances any place they go. In the first newsletter, Center X Director Jeannie Oakes wrote an article that explained her goals for the collaboration between coaches and teachers at the Venice Westchester campuses. She stated that “in order for the collaborative to make a difference, it must pursue two strategies simultaneously.” First, she believed “enhancing the existing opportunities in school, no matter how marginal the improvement, can make a tangible difference in the lives of your people and their communities.” Second, she urged that the Collaborative provide “the courage to make the profound cultural and political shifts that equal educational opportunity requires.  The diverse young people we teach–-and the rest of us–-deserve no less.”

SS: What did you look for in a coach?

JH: I looked for people who were innovative. Who could seize the moment. And that’s hard to define when you’re interviewing someone. Or looking at someone. Just in conversation, that might come up. Like, what have you done in the past that might have seemed at the time risky or off the way but turned out to be good? I think that experience maybe should have been, not experience as a coach because no one had that, but experience as a teacher because some of our coaches were brand new at teaching. They were just good. And we knew they were good. They had the skills and were willing to try new things.

SS: How did you know where to look for coaches?

JH: It seems like I recruited everyone that was in book group to become a coach. I think what was great about the coaching that we did was the way we brought them together for the Cadre meetings. When it was just Venice-Westchester, we met at Webster in a classroom building. So it was just about thirty people, but then later when we got to be big, and we were eighty, ninety people, we met in Culver City.

Another thing that set us apart was that we had the Language Arts Cadre writing anthology, Author’s Night, and Open Mic Night. Although I worked with coaching at other districts, they never had that, and I think that really gave us a goal that we were looking for. That spread to where schools had their own anthologies like you did at Marina.

SS: Those were good times! Were the first coaches Writing Project coaches?

JH: Since I was the director of the (Venice Westchester) Collaborative, I chose all Writing Project Fellows but also included one from the Reading and Literature Project. The first coaches for the Westchester schools were Sydnie Myrick, Norma Mota Altman, Caitlin Rabanera, Kim Marantos, Robyn Wisinski, Karen Caruso, Jennifer McFarland, Frances Gipson, and Kim Mitchell.

Nine coaches for over twenty-four schools. Our thought was to split schools so the coaches would work Monday and Tuesday at one school and Thursday and Friday at another. On Wednesdays, they would get together and talk about what worked, and how they could make it better. They kept a big scrapbook of everything they did, and that plan worked pretty well.

SS: What did you use as a model for coaching?

JH: There were models, and we had a little book on coaching. But, we wrote the book. That’s what those Wednesday meetings were all about. “What are we doing? Did it work? What did you do? Well, I put a note in the teacher’s boxes every Monday morning. Oh, why don’t I do that!”

SS: Yes, whenever I heard someone say something good, I’d say, why don’t I do that? Because I felt like I was in uncharted territory.

JH: Yes. Every Wednesday when we got together, they would spend the day thinking they had to get the ideas together for Thursday or Friday. Most of the day was just sharing how it worked. That’s when the coaches started learning how to talk to teachers. And that’s when we got the Cognitive Coaching and Adaptive Schools with Carolee Hayes.

SS: How would you describe that early coaching community?

JH: It was always about making a connection. That people want you. Please can you come to my room? Will you come? Because I know that at first people were leery of us. They didn’t need coaches. They didn’t want coaches. Can you come talk to me? Sometimes coaching is just listening.

SS: What might have been some of the challenges?

JH: Establishing the connections. When the coaches first began working at the schools, they were there on the days that school actually started, the days when you don’t teach, when you get your room ready. And they were there with a broom ready, whatever was needed, because teachers didn’t know what coaching was all about yet.

The coaches wanted to find teachers who were willing to have a coach. Some teachers said, “I don’t need a coach.” Later on, they asked for one, and eventually, we got to the place where the coach had a whole school, and no one ran from one place to the other.

SS: Were there other Writing Project coaches?

I checked with all the other Writing Projects in California, and none of them had anything that even looked like coaching. So, as far as I know, we were the first. The coaching developed over time because Venice-Westchester had their own results that they wanted; they were on a big Everybody-Goes- to-College track. A lot of it had to do with visiting colleges and having college nights. But, it also included the Parent Project. We had a great Parent Project at the time. It might have been one of the first Parent Projects. Then we took it to Venice-Westchester. Then in 2002, Venice-Westchester became District 3. That changed everything because it took in many more schools, and we had to hire many more coaches.

It was all about literacy, even the Parent Project in those early years. Every time I went, what they asked me to do was get the parents to write with a piece of text. So even with the Parent Project, I was still doing literacy. We needed to get those parents to read and write and understand what their children are being asked to do. Have them do some of those same activities. I know how much the parents loved the piece we used, Salvador Late or Early. Every time I would use it with different parents, they loved that one. It spoke to them. Most of them spoke English. So sometimes they were English speakers. Sometimes we had a translator.

SS: How did the Venice Westchester Collaborative change?

JH: First we had Venice Westchester. And then it became District D, which later became District 3. Then the math became coaches. Then the social studies and the other coaches. But, what I’m familiar with is the Language Arts Cadre, which we only had in District 3. Eighty-ninety teachers. Sometimes coaches, sometimes administrators. I know the schools had to pay for the substitute, but they were willing to pay for the substitute, and sometimes they sent more than one teacher. So, if there were 20 schools in the Venice-Westchester, how many schools were there in District 3? Many more. And if the coach and a teacher came from every single one of those schools, and they did, that room down in Pepperdine was full. Mostly secondary but there were elementary teachers, too. They were all there.

SS: Please say more about the Language Arts Cadre.

JH: Sometimes the Language Arts Cadre was where teachers and coaches were just writing together. Everyone was a learner together. And that doesn’t happen in all coaching situations as far as I know. But, that was the good thing about it, the difference between District 3 and the other partnership with District 7, which started up right after that. I don’t think they had that opportunity to be a student along with their coachee the way they did in District 3. I mean you were all getting ideas from me, and then you were working things out together as colleagues, or as learners together, and I think that was a good thing. But, is that necessarily a part of coaching? It was a part of what we did in District 3. So I have to use District 3 as the model.

SS: What were the essentials in getting a coaching community started and maintained?

JH: I think having the support of Venice-Westchester as well as Center X. I don’t think we could have done it if we hadn’t had the support of the entire collaborative. It wasn’t called a district at that time.  They had funding. Their goal was “Everybody goes to college.” And that is not necessarily the goal of coaches. And so our coaches had to do a lot about college. Even the little kids wrote their college statement. They did the trips to UCLA. Sometimes they got to sit in and observe actual classes.

SS: What might be some of the highlights of coaching?

Everything about it was a highlight. It’s something I’m really proud of. We started with nothing. We knew nothing. We put on a conference where we shared our nothingness with other people who knew nothing. We had a workshop where we had scenarios, things that could happen in the classroom. And we acted them out. We had Dennis Parker, the UCLA School of Management professor, who dedicated his work as an educator to “closing the achievement gap.”

Everything was exciting because everything was new and exciting. Each school had a Literacy Cadre where content area leaders met to share literacy strategies and have the strategies fan out through the subject areas. Literacy Cadres. The Language Arts Cadre. Open Mic night. Anthologies. It was all about literacy.

SS: Although Center still has coaches, what has changed?

JH: The districts decided they could do what we did. So they got their own coaches. And their own coaches’ jobs were to see that kids passed the test and to support the Framework. The job of our coaches was to further the goals of the Projects at Center X. So literacy was my goal. At first the other projects were not involved, but before long they came on board.

Then, in 2008, we lost all of our coaches. It coincided with the economic downturn so it had something to do with dollars and the idea the district can do their own coaching. They probably can, but if so, why is it when I did workshops, the people in them told me, “We’ve never had workshops like this before!”

SS: Coaching has changed over the years, in many ways for the better because this time we don’t have to start from scratch. Things had to change, but what is it that remains?

Social justice. Equal opportunities. Reading and writing.

JH: In my opinion, once you teach people to read and write, they can learn. And love it. And are eager for it. Literacy. To me that’s the key. It was all about literacy.

Susan’s interview with Jane Hancock is a personal account of the beginnings of coaching at Center X.

Reframing the Narrative: Exploring Issues of Social Justice in the Math Classroom
Reframing the Narrative: Exploring Issues of Social Justice in the Mathematics Classroom

By Janene Ward and Theo Sagun

In our work with the UCLA Mathematics Project (UCLAMP) as teacher educators, we are committed to providing professional development opportunities that strengthen and deepen content knowledge, advance and emphasize practices that promote equity and access for all students, enhance and expand teaching strategies, and develop the leadership capabilities of mathematics educators in the Los Angeles basin.  Our goal is to provide a variety of sustained and systematic opportunities for pre-K through 12th grade teachers and leaders to build their competence and confidence with not only mathematics content, but also with research-based practices that support student access to and understanding of mathematics content.  Therefore, we assume various roles in our work with educators – facilitator, consultant, mentor, coach, and disruptor.

We understand the great responsibility we have in our collaborative efforts with teachers and are honored to engage in the work.  Therefore, in the beginning of partnerships with schools and districts, we focus on understanding the school site’s culture, develop relationships to establish trust and rapport, and construct norms for collaboration.  Collaboration is not only “integral to the cultivation of new modes of teaching and learning” (Hadar & Brody, 2010), but also helps to create and sustain trust and a safe space for inquiry into practice.  Collaboration also increases individual and group efficacy, which are both positively correlated with student success (Bandura, 1993; Tschannen-Moran & Hoy, 2001; Whalan, 2012).

Teaching is a very personal act and is inherently intertwined with self-perception, experience, teaching and learning paradigms, attitudes, and beliefs.  Opening one’s practice to others is not easy.  Additionally, changing one’s practice can prove to be even more challenging, particularly when grounded in deficit thinking and discourse.  With that in mind, our goal of creating a safe, collaborative space for teachers is not simply to focus on developing content knowledge and practice, but to also disrupt practices grounded in deficit thinking that privilege some students over others.  Therefore, we purposefully engage with the community to co-create a different narrative around what kids can do in the mathematics classroom to ensure that the needs of all students are met and to push back against deficit thinking models and “labels that bestow privilege and marginalization”(NCSM & TODOS: Mathematics for All, 2016).  To that end, we have found Lab Sites to be a high leverage structure that supports the transformation of teacher practice and beliefs.

 

Leveraging Lab Sites.

Lab Sites are collaborative classroom-embedded professional learning opportunities where the “complexity and subtlety of classroom teaching [can be explored and refined] as it occurs in real time,” (Brophy, 2004, p. 287).  Within the context of a Lab Site,

…teachers are engaged directly with practice, not only through observing live teaching,but also co-planning it… Teachers’ participation in the laboratory setting that involves co-planning the class, observing the enactment, and reflecting on the enactment in collaboration, proves to be authentic in teachers learning to notice mathematically and pedagogically significant phenomena in the classroom interaction and especially in students’ responses. (Naik & Ball, 2014, p. 42).

Houk (2010) likens lab sites to surgical theaters where doctors observe operations to hone their practice. Within the Lab Site structure, we engage teachers as learners, as practitioners, and as leaders through sense-making experiences with content, applications to practice, and reflection.  As teachers participate, they have the opportunity to refine and deepen their content knowledge, knowledge of student thinking and the instructional practices that support, elicit and extend student thinking.  And, it is through this reflection and conversation that deficit perspectives are often brought to light.

The following narrative is taken from a Lab Site conducted in an elementary school located within the greater Los Angeles area.  Lab Site participants include the regular classroom teacher, one of the authors of this piece, and a fifth grade teacher as an observer.  An overarching goal is to provide both teachers the space to observe and interact within the Lab Site to make the process a normative practice within the school.  The following is generated from the perspective of the aforementioned author and his interaction with the regular classroom teacher and one of her students.

“I didn’t think she would be able…She’s my ‘low’ student.”

In a 4th grade class, a student named Helen sat in the rear reading a comic book.  I approached her while her teacher, Mrs. Lee, conferred with other students.  Mrs. Lee and I had co-planned problem solving activities for the students in her class.   The primary intention was to the utilize the classroom as a  Lab Site to engage Mrs. Lee around students’ strategies for solving a ‘multiple groups’ division problem.  We also planned to examine student thinking and discuss prevalent or common strategies students used to solve the following:

There are 9 footlong sandwiches.  If everyone gets ⅓ of a sandwich, will there be  enough to feed the class?

I planned to engage Mrs. Lee around the idea that her students would generate multiple strategies without explicit direct instruction. This would be a new learning for Mrs. Lee who was pleasantly surprised by the diversity of student strategies without prompting or teacher modeling.  Lastly, in order to address inequities within the classroom, I sought opportunities to highlight students’ thinking that might disrupt any deficit notions regarding which students were viewed as “math capable” and who might be viewed as “incapable.”

I then engaged Helen about the explanation she had written on her paper.
Her response was, “…because if you add 9 and 9 ⅓ and divide by 2, it has enough.”

Helen sheepishly smiled at me as she slowly put the comic book back in her desk.  I asked her to read the story problem with me while I asked her what the story was about and what the quantities in the story represented.  I asked her if she knew the number of students in the class, including the teacher, to attend to the question of “Will there be enough to feed the class?”  Helen told me there were 21 students and 1 teacher, so there are 22 people in the class.

She slowly began drawing a rectangle and drew 3 columns with 9 rows.  I asked her what the picture represented, and she said that her rectangle represented 9 footlong sandwiches split into thirds which made 27 thirds (27 sandwiches).  She even indicated on her picture the number of leftover sandwiches (she shaded 5 thirds, which represent 5 sandwiches that were not assigned to anyone in the class).

I told Helen that I appreciated her thinking, her perseverance, and her explanation of the number of leftover sandwiches.  I invited Mrs. Lee to notice the details of mathematical modeling on Helen’s paper and to examine Helen’s thinking.  Pleased and excited, Mrs. Lee said, “I didn’t think she would be able to solve the problem.  I didn’t think she would be able to do anything.  She’s my ‘low’ student.”

Co-constructing a Narrative.

Our approach to work with teachers is rooted in a firm commitment to equity and access.  Additionally, we understand the tremendous impact teachers have on the reframing, reconceptualizing, and transformation of mathematics education policies and practices that promote equal learning opportunities and outcomes for all (NCSM & TODOS, 2016).  As social justice educators, we recognize the need to co-construct counter-narratives to disrupt the historical and institutionalized inequities and definitions of who can succeed in mathematics.  The structure of the Lab Site positions teachers as reflective practitioners.

The interaction above with Helen and Mrs. Lee provides one snapshot of a lab experience that allowed a teacher to reconstitute her perspective on who can do mathematics.  Additionally, the lab site provided an opportunity for the teacher to make sense of the mathematics by examining student strategies and the thinking students used to make sense of the problem.

Typically, teachers might approach the multiple groups problem in an abstract and rote way by simply introducing the “invert and multiply strategy.”  Mrs. Lee’s interaction with students allowed her to generate more concrete ways of approaching a multiple groups problem with sense making.  By examining students’ thinking and the details of their strategies, she made connections between students’ strategies as well as reframed how students are viewed as capable in her classroom.

After her math time, Mrs. Lee confided in me that “The kids who typically use the algorithm had trouble with making sense of why ‘inverting and multiplying’ makes sense in the story. The other students, who I thought would struggle, came up with a lot of different ways to solve the problem — but they could make sense of it.”

Mrs. Lee’s reflection is so important and allows us to press into teacher and student beliefs around what a “successful” and “good” mathematician looks like.  Traditionally, students who are quick, who get the right answer, and who use the standard algorithm, are positioned as being good at mathematics.  By highlighting the thinking and multiple sensemaking strategies of students, we generate an opportunity for the teacher and students to redefine what it means to be successful in the mathematics classroom.

The interactions with Helen and her teacher provide an example that focusing on what students are able to do and engaging with their thinking can be a way to push back against negative labels and dehumanizing language used to describe students.  Openly challenging deficit thinking and eliminating deficit discourse requires trust, collaborative classroom-based professional development, and tact (NCSM & TODOS, 2016).  For example, the act of conferring with Helen, discussing the details of the story problem, and giving her an opportunity to make sense of the mathematics, was the vehicle for reframing her competency in her teacher’s eyes.

We believe that all students must have access to multiple meaningful mathematical experiences that allow them to make sense of the world through mathematics.  By positioning students as active participants in the co-construction of knowledge and understanding, we transform the traditional paradigm of mathematics learning and instruction.  As students individually and collaboratively problem solve, they have the opportunity to engage in each other’s ideas, construct and critique arguments, and develop efficacy as a mathematician.  Unlike the traditional orientation in mathematics professional development that places most emphasis on content and pedagogy, our work demands that we partner with educators to co-construct a narrative that tells an asset-based story of student success, ensuring equity for all.  We believe we must go beyond this approach to professional development and ensure there is a place for themes regarding equity and access.  Although there is little evidence in the research for how to seamlessly integrate issues of equity within a professional development setting for mathematics educators (Battey & Franke, 2015), the Lab Site setting allows us to reframe the narrative, in a safe space, by focusing on student thinking and what students can do (Jacobs, et al., 2007).

 

References

Bandura, A. (1993). Perceived self-efficacy in cognitive development and functioning. Educational Psychologist, 28 (2), 117-148.

Battey, D., Franke. M.L. (2015).  Integrating professional development on mathematics and equity:  Countering deficit views of students of color. Education and Urban Society, 47(4), 433-462.

Hadar, L., Brody, D. (2010).  From isolation into symphonic harmony:  Building a professional development community among teacher educators.  Teaching and Teacher Education, 26 (2010). 1641-1651.

Houk, L.M. (2010).  Demonstrating teaching in a lab classroom.  Educational Leadership.  Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/summer10/vol67/num09/Demonstrating-Teaching-in-a-Lab-Classroom.aspx

Jacobs, V.R., Franke, M.L., Carpenter, T., Levi, L., Battey, D. (2007). Professional development focused on children’s algebraic reasoning in elementary school.  Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 38(3), 258-288.

Mathematics education through the lens of social justice: acknowledgement, actions, and accountability. (2016). Retrieved May 3, 2017, from http://www.todos-math.org/socialjustice

Naik, S.S., Ball, D.L. (2014).  Professional development in a laboratory setting examining evolution in teachers’ questioning and participation.  Journal of Mathematics Education, 7(2), 40-54.

Tschannen-Moran, M. & Woolfolk Hoy, A.  (2001).  Teacher efficacy:  capturing an elusive construct.  Teaching and Teacher Education, 17(2001), 783-805.

Whalan, F. (2012).  Collective Responsibility.  Towards a model for the development of collective responsibility.  Sydney, AU:  Sense Publishers.

Theo and Janene’s article captures how classroom-embedded professional development becomes a “lab site” for reframing what students can do in math.

Video of reflecting questions/paraphrases)

Natalie Irons and Damon Goar’s video shows how coaches coach each other.

Reflection – “What we are learning?”

This continuum illustrates our learning regarding the scope of “who” benefits from coaching. In the beginning of our coaching work, coaches worked almost exclusively with teachers. As we’ve developed as coaches and try to remain adaptive to the communities we support, we acknowledge that our coaching work is for everyone – teachers, administrators, students, colleagues, and each other.

CONTINUUM OF COACHING:

  • leaf

    Coaching Happens in the Classroom

  • trees

    Coaching Extends to All Areas of a Community

This continuum addresses “where” coaching takes place.

Articles – “What We Do?”
Articles – “Why we do this?”
How Coaching Impacts Teachers – Monica Williams
How Coaching Impacts Teachers

By Monica L. Williams

In sports, every team has a coach.  A coach’s primary responsibility is to make sure all team members have an understanding of their individual roles and a clear understanding of how to execute those roles with precision. Coaches provide the encouragement and support necessary for each team member to play in their respective positions at an optimal level of performance whether on the court or on the field.  The impact a coach has on a player, good or bad, can last a lifetime.  John Wooden (UCLA), for example, is regarded as one of the best basketball coaches in history. When commenting on the role of patience in achieving progress, Wooden noted, “We can have no progress without change, so you must have patience.”

Drawing a parallel to the field of education, effective instructional coaches are instruments of progress and have an enormous impact on teachers — which, in turn, maximizes a teacher’s impact on students.  In collaborating with a teacher, an effective instructional coach serves as a mirror. This mirroring process assists the teacher in recognizing needed adjustments to methodically implement in order to perfect the reflection shown. Patience is a critical factor to this reflective development process.

In my experience, teachers want to make sure their students are achieving academically, socially, and personally. Making the appropriate instructional adjustments with a coach can ensure those adjustments are advancing the teacher’s instructional development skills while facilitating student achievement.

There are three areas in which an instructional coach can assist a teacher tailor their methods and, ultimately, position a teacher to execute at their optimal level of performance, each of which could translate to improved student learning:

1) Creating a safe, non-evaluative environment for collaboration
2) Assisting with the process of reflection
3) Providing constructive feedback throughout the process.

Once the coach and teacher build a trusting relationship, one that is supportive and non-evaluative in nature, both the coach and teacher operate with a mutual understanding that there is a delicate level of confidentiality between them.  This relationship creates a synergy that spills-over into the classroom to empower the teacher to impact students.

 

1) Let’s examine the safe, non-evaluative teacher/coach environment…

This is the space where teachers feel safe to have a collaborative conversation with the coach.  In this space, needs are openly discussed, frustrations with strained resources are confessed, and goals – but more importantly the application steps needed to achieve those goals – are outlined.

As a first step, the coach has to observe the teacher in action to collect data, which will assist the teacher sketch his/her goals.  To clarify, a coach should not use collected data against a teacher to belittle, criticize, or reprimand. Instead, collected data is a tool used to qualify the mirroring process. This way, the teacher can see concrete examples of what was done well, what warrants improvement, and what next steps are needed. This is the beginning of established trust in the teacher/coach relationship.

Building on that trust, the coach then offers support through a needs/goals assessment.  The needs/goals assessment should be a conversation that invites a dialogue and takes the teacher through a series of questions to pinpoint potential needs and goals.

Sample questions that identify needs might be:

  • What concerns might you have about of your instruction?
  • What have you observed your students require to learn at their best?
  • How might I support you in meeting those needs?

Sample questions that identify goals might be:

  • What are three goals you have this year?
  • How would you like to see these goals prioritized?
  • What expectations of a time-line might you have for these goals?
  • Have you taken any first-steps? If not, when would you like to?
  • Can you name a past success you had that we could use as a point of reference?
  • What type of support might I provide to help you reach these goals?

Once the needs and goals are established, the coach can then guide the teacher through a collaborative conversation to help the teacher focus on outlining an action plan.

 

2) How a coach assists a teacher with processing the reflection…

The coach begins the process of “holding a mirror” by fostering an introspective conversation that helps the teacher assess whether the top-priority goals are being met and, if not, what adjustments should be made. It is through this collaborative process that teachers become more empowered to achieve their goals and become more focused and self-directed in their development.

Have you ever struggled with the following dilemma: “I need time to analyze if what I’m doing with my students is working.” According to Dr. Jane Bluestein in Why Teachers Quit, part 3 (2013), “Teachers have come under heavy scrutiny and there is tremendous pressure on teachers to ‘get it right,’ and in many settings this has come to mean having their competence reflected in test scores.” I submit that coaches have the ability to ease the tension and pressure teachers are facing through the collaborative mirroring process.

In other fields, including the legal practice, financing industry, and sales, mentors and advisers are offered, if not required through mandatory pairing, in order to encourage an atmosphere where ideas are shared and non-evaluative feedback is offered in a safe-zone relationship.  Why should teaching be any different, especially when one considers the very fragile client teachers serve — students?  Our children deserve teachers that provide high-quality instruction and offer engaging classrooms.  When teachers are provided effective coaching, they can devote more concentration to their craft and to their students. To clarify, teachers can, and have been, perfecting their skills on their own for some time – but the question is, should they have to? As Dr. Bluestein highlights, teachers are often left alone, forced to figure out and strategize by themselves, with little feedback, and while processing fears of being perceived as incompetent (Bluestein, 2013).

            Reflection is the key to change…

Depending on the school, teachers are sometimes given time for grade-level meetings and again, depending on the campus; there are also the mandatory weekly Professional Development (PD) meetings. The growing frustration with these meetings, however, reveals the following teacher sentiment, “The discussions in our PD have little to do with ‘my work’ with ‘my students’.”  By contrast, with a coach, teachers receive the one-on-one or small group attention they need to specifically and poignantly address their students, improving their practice, and ensuring their identified goals are met:

Having a coach has helped me see the areas where I need to improve.  We can sit down together to set goals and make adjustments to my lessons using the standards, student data and the evidence from the coach’s observations.  I had no idea I would need this type of support.  It has made a difference in the way I teach.

(New teacher, Los Angeles Unified School District (2017)).

Reflection is a cognitive process that calls for introspection, but also requires action.  It requires more than just remembering what was done.  It also requires using a series of questions to “track your steps.”  In the remembering process, reflection is achieved when a teacher thinks critically in determining whether proper steps were taken to reach the identified goal.  Reflection is making sure the “in the moment” adjustments are made in order to solidify immediate progress during the teaching process. Finally, effective reflection requires documenting those changes-made in order to refine the teaching the next time around.

Teachers are so busy with day-to-day demands; they rarely, if ever, get to review what they did and, more importantly, how they did it. In “The Reflective Teacher” (Part 3, 2010), Peter Pappas developed a reflective sex-level process that helps teachers create an environment of reflection that takes this cognitive process to a new dimension. These six levels are helpful for teachers to engage in during the reflective process. Pappas derived the levels from Bloom’s Taxonomy (how teachers question students) and subsequently applied each level to teachers reflecting on their practice.

Within this process there are six-levels of critical thinking questions that teachers must ask themselves in order to better their process of teaching.   Please see peter.pappas.com (The Reflective teacher: A Taxonomy of Reflection, part 3) to learn more.

 

3) The critical role and function of feedback…

According to Grant Wiggins in Educational Leadership (September, 2012), “feedback is information about how we are doing in our efforts to reach a goal.” While some would regard feedback and commentary as synonymous, feedback goes beyond providing mere commentary and requires a more directive, yet balanced approach. These seven points are essential in order for feedback to be effective.

If our feedback is going to make an impact, it must be:

  • Goal referenced
  • Tangible & transparent
  • Actionable
  • User-friendly (specific and personalized)
  • Timely
  • Ongoing
  • Consistent

Goal referenced: The coach makes sure the teacher is remembering the goals they set together from the goals assessment.   It is incumbent upon the teacher to re-visit the goals to have successful outcomes with students.

Tangible & transparent:  The way a coach can provide tangible feedback is providing notes that the instructional coach took on a specific lesson.  Teachers can also video tape themselves to see if they are meeting their goals.  The idea behind tangible and transparent is the fact that changes are necessary in order to improve.  Many times we are too busy performing to see if we are meeting our goals.  So looking back on our performance through video/audio taping, or reviewing coach notes allows teachers to analyze what they are doing even after its done.

Actionable:  It is always more useful for a coach to be specific, concrete and useful according to Wiggins.  When the feedback is actionable it is specific to what the teacher wants to happen.  It is not vague, and it has to be accepted by the teacher.  When a teacher is asked, “what would you like me to look for?” the teacher is in total control of the outcomes, and everyone involved is clear as to what action should be taken.

User-friendly:  This is very important to teachers because of the on-going demands with possible behavioral problems, assessment deadlines, grading, meetings etc.…This type of feedback must not be too technical that could cause confusion.  Coaches must also remember to give feedback in small increments of information, providing one or two key points so not to overwhelm the teacher.  Keep the feedback clear, simple, with few key points and not too technical and the feedback will be welcomed.

Timely:  Timing is everything!  It is important to give feedback as soon as possible.  It is not as effective if teachers receive feedback weeks or months after the performance.   It really has no effect if the feedback is received late.  It is better if the feedback comes a day or two after the lesson while the actions are still fresh in the teacher’s mind.

On going:  How often do teachers get to use the feedback given?  If I get feedback often, I am able to make the necessary adjustments to my actions and ultimately get better results because I have more opportunities to try the new suggestions from the feedback, and learn from it.

Consistent:  For feedback to be consistent teachers must have a mutual understanding about what highly-effective teaching is and what the expectations are for high quality work.  To sustain consistency teachers must use rubrics, anchor papers, and exemplars, so that we are all consistent with the feedback we give.  If teachers want our students to be able to give productive feedback, we as teachers must know how to provide structures in our work of that same feedback to our students and coaches to teachers.

In light of these seven essential factors of feedback, it is imperative that coaches be in position to identify ways to help teachers make improvement possible.  According to Wiggins, it depends on one being able to adjust their pace when receiving on-going feedback while moving toward a concrete, long-term goal.  In other words, for coaches to be impactful we must give on-going feedback regularly, which allows teachers to make necessary adjustments and then provide continuous feedback through the adjustments, in order to propel them to the anticipated goal.  It is the non-evaluative environment, reflection and feedback that gives teachers the platform to improve their practice, which will directly affect how our students learn.

Monica’s article illustrates how coaches can support teachers in the classroom through questions and feedback.

Diary of a Not So Wimpy Coach – Damon Goar

Damon’s article illustrates the day-to-day complexities of coaching work and how it extends beyond the classroom.

Five Tips for a Better Professional Development – John Landa

John’s slideshow presentation offers quick and easy considerations when leading professional development.

Reflection – “What we are learning?”

Some of the most direct support of teachers happens when coaches are in the classroom with teachers; planning, observing, reflecting, and collaborating. And in order to support the types of whole school transformations many schools desire, coaching needs to extend beyond the classroom to all parts of the school.

CONTINUUM OF COACHING:

  • leaf

    Coaching is for Content and Pedagogy Development

  • trees

    Coaching is for Identity Development

This continuum addresses models that include instructional and content focus, other frameworks of reference, such as equity and diversity and Cognitive CoachingSM which addresses identity, particularly as a mediator of thinking.

Articles – “What We Do?”
Articles – “Why we do this?”
“Writing as a Utopian Concept” – Literacy Cadre – Susan Strauss
Writing as a Utopian Concept

The UCLA Writing Project’s Language Arts Cadre (2001-2008)

– Susan Strauss

As a UCLA Center X ELA coach at an LAUSD secondary school, publishing student writing and supporting author celebrations are one of my favorite things to do thanks to the inspirational model presented by Jane Hancock, the Co-Director of the Writing Project. From 2001 to 2008, the UCLA-District D Language Arts Cadre, consisting of Jane and local district writing coaches and teachers, met on the first Thursday of the month in an overcrowded room on Pepperdine’s Culver City campus. In collaboration with the local district’s Secondary Literacy team, Jane formed the cadre to create a model for teaching successful writing lessons for teachers and coaches to transfer to the classroom and ultimately improve student achievement. Since making writing public is the best motivation for improving writing, at the end of each school year we submitted student, teacher, and coach writing to be published in an anthology. Following publication, Center X’s Writing Project celebrated the authors’ published writing on campus with an open mic for students, teachers, coaches, and administrators to share their work. Thanks to Jane’s inspiration, ten years later, I am still teaching, publishing, and sharing student writing. In fact, as I write this story of the Language Arts Cadre, it is the last week of school and I am preparing for an eighth grade author celebration called “Poetic Justice” on Thursday followed by a sixth grade one called “Personal Narrative as Selfies” with students and teachers reading from their respective anthologies. Capturing the story of Jane Hancock and the Language Arts Cadre is like trying to grab hold of the live sparks of inspiration, but in the hopes that invaluable history really does repeat itself, here it is.

Every so often some kind of idealized situation enters your life, and if you’re lucky, it plays a recurring role, and if you’re beyond fortunate, it continues. During my first year as a UCLA Center X Literacy Coach, experienced writing teacher utopia in the form of the Language Arts Cadre, a monthly meeting of English teachers and coaches, led by Jane Hancock in partnership with LAUSD’s Local District D, Jane, Co-Director of the Writing Project at UCLA’s Center X, created this writing collaborative as an opportunity for all of us to learn her genre-specific and blended genre writing lessons by rehearsing it as if we were her students, which in fact we were. Next, we collaborated with a teaching colleague to transfer the lesson to the classrooms at our school sites. Her approach to teaching the genres of writing was so original it was as if someone had thrown open the doors of the writing classroom and a brilliant gust of engaging and highly literary writing lessons pumped new oxygen into our tanks and we wrote like crazy during every meeting for seven years. It wasn’t hard to realize that my life as a writing teacher would never be the same. Those particular Thursdays where we spent the entire morning writing and talking about writing easily became my favorite day of the month.

As one of the founders of the UCLA Center X coaching network in the late ‘90s, Jane understood the importance of the teacher-coach collaboration as well as the central purpose of Center X where “X” marked the spot where research intersected with practice. She continuously showcased the Writing Project philosophy that teachers should always write their own assignments by sharing her own writing along with student samples or by writing right alongside us as we responded to her prompts. In order to construct a model environment for teachers and coaches to write side-by-side, she created the Language Arts Cadre where we spent the entire morning writing in response to one of her compelling lessons, always simulating a writing classroom where we were the students, and Jane was our teacher. For this particular coach, having a front row seat to Jane’s highly engaging writing lessons, the opportunity to write to her assignments, and the ability to share the experience with like-minded people represented an ideal world.

Surrounded by about eighty dedicated writing teachers and coaches, we wrote like crazy, opening, closing, and filling up the lesson with writing. Like people on a road trip, we only stopped writing for bathroom breaks and crafting revision, such as transforming ordinary nouns for specific ones, or exchanging transitive verbs for colorful active ones. Then we jumped back in and wrote until it was time to find a place to stop. Like the classroom, we shared our writing with partners, table groups, and for those of us who were game, the entire group. Sharing one’s writing was particularly daunting in front of a room packed with masterful English teachers with the sharpest minds and pencils imaginable. But we did, sometimes voluntarily, sometimes with a friendly nudge. We often ended the writing time taking turns sharing our favorite word, phrase, or sentence like a tidal wave from one side of the room to the other. Later, teachers and partner coaches collaborated to plan ways to adapt the lesson to fit the needs of the teachers’ diverse students so we could return to campus ready to roll it out in the teachers’ classroom. We taught, often with the coach modeling the first round, usually reflecting between classes to revise the plan to fit the needs of the next students.

Our focus was always on continuous improvement. Quite often after we implemented one of Jane’s lessons, word spread around the campus that something good was happening and other teachers – English and across the disciplines — found out and wanted in on it. “It was about literacy,” Jane said. “Sure, we were teaching writing, but what we were really teaching was literacy.”

Research-based writing strategies populated all of her lessons, so up close and personal she shared a volley of them with each lesson. Some favorites were The Call of Words, Echo Poetry, Reader’s Theater, Imitation Writing, Literature Circles, Double-Entry Journals, Letter Writing Across the Genres, Say-Mean-Matter, Question-Driven I-Search, Socratic Seminars, Persona Writing, Two-Voice Poems, Random Autobiographies, Dialogue Poems, Pantoum Poems, ABC and List Poems, and Autobiographical Adjectives transformed into nouns as inspiration for Personal Narratives.

Writing assignments ranged from simulating Sandra Cisneros’ “Salvador Late or Early,” to comparing an excerpt from Farewell to Manzanar to one from Snow Falling on Cedars, to savoring, responding, and simulating a vast number of poems by Billy Collins.

There was always a goal. Certainly her lessons’ goals revolved around writing to a selected genre and multiple revisions to improve it. Did we address the California standards? Explicitly and directly. Each week we focused on a selected strategy, aligning the sequencing to follow the genre focus in the classroom. Sometimes, we engaged in genre-switching mid-lesson.

“Let’s get started,” she might begin. “It’s time to write.”

One favorite lesson went something like this: “First, draw a t-chart. On the left side, write down everything you know about war that’s positive.” Something positive about war? Already the wheels sprang to life, scratching the surface then going deeper. “Next, in the right column, write down everything about war that’s negative.” And so we did, sharing our lists, wondering why yet certain she would tell us, which she did. “Anybody here ever write a good war story?” Some sputtering in the room followed but no, not even the one person who had served in Vietnam. “Then it’s time we did,” she continued. “And if we’re going to write a good war story, first we need to study the beast.” And for that, she handed out an excerpt from The Things They Carried, the margins set Cornell-style for marking up the text. “So what did you notice?” she asked after we read and annotated the margins. Implied was a positive assumption that we had noticed quite a bit and had a lot to say about it. We would then share out collectively, establishing the criteria for a “good war story.” Next, a room full of English teachers, most of whom had never considered writing any kind of war story let alone a good one, proceeded to do exactly that.

Not only was there the immediate goal of learning the lesson by writing the assignment, but the annual goal was ultimately to make our work public, which translated into creating an anthology of coach-teacher-student work based on the lessons shared throughout the year. The collection we published each year was named “The Call of Words” after one of Jane’s favorite strategies, and once published, the event was celebrated and proclaimed with an Open Mic at a late spring Author’s Night at the UCLA campus. The first of such events was so crowded with teachers, coaches, students, as well as school and district administrators that tables in the room were carried out to make room for more chairs to seat people. Even then, the room was still so packed that people were standing outside in the patio listening to writer after writer share work inspired by one of Jane’s lessons previously showcased at a Cadre meeting during the school year.

After that first year, I caught the fever and published my first anthology of student writing at the school site where I coached. The funding came thanks to a collection of grants from the California Writing Project and the California Council for the Humanities as well as six participating students and their willing teachers: one ELD, two regular English, one ELA resource, one music, and one art. We held an Author’s Night at the school site followed by another one at the UCLA Faculty Center. I can still hear the student songwriters singing “Oh California!” to a standing-room-only crowd, still see the special education artist who designed the cover accepting a public recognition, still see the teachers up late on a school night grinning so hard and so long their cheeks probably hurt the next day.

Over the next six years, my coaching life revolved around publishing as many student writers and teachers as possible with administrators’ poems winding up in the anthologies as the fever spread. Even though I eventually transferred my role as MC to various teachers when I returned to my own students in my own classrooms, I continued to be invited back to their Authors’ Nights in the spring. My life as a teacher who publishes student writing continued during the school year and also during the summer for UCLA’s Young Writers programs. Gratefully, when I returned to coaching for UCLA, the publishing continued with five publications this year.

It all started with Jane Hancock and her beautifully-conceived and fully-realized Language Arts Cadre, and though the anthology format keeps evolving between digital and print, its contagious nature remains with Jane as my role model and her writing lessons still circulating through classrooms to teachers and students she has yet to meet. My life as a teacher has included a bounty of high points, but up at the top is my life as a student writing to Jane’s lessons one Thursday a month side by side with teachers, coaches, and often administrators as visiting dignitaries from the district, and of course, Jane. Thanks to her the world of writers is a better and ever-expanding place with the population including the English classrooms at my current school. So on Thursday I’ll be listening to eighth grade poets reading from “Poetic Justice” and Friday with sixth graders sharing their “Personal Narratives as Selfies.” Considering how the transfer to the classroom continues, is it any wonder that writing about Jane Hancock and the Language Arts Cadre winds up being an ode to writing itself?

Susan’s article describes how coaches and teachers learn side by side in a Language Arts Cadre to produce student writing anthologies.

Reframing the Narrative: Exploring Issues of Social Justice in the Math Classroom
Reframing the Narrative: Exploring Issues of Social Justice in the Mathematics Classroom

By Janene Ward and Theo Sagun

In our work with the UCLA Mathematics Project (UCLAMP) as teacher educators, we are committed to providing professional development opportunities that strengthen and deepen content knowledge, advance and emphasize practices that promote equity and access for all students, enhance and expand teaching strategies, and develop the leadership capabilities of mathematics educators in the Los Angeles basin.  Our goal is to provide a variety of sustained and systematic opportunities for pre-K through 12th grade teachers and leaders to build their competence and confidence with not only mathematics content, but also with research-based practices that support student access to and understanding of mathematics content.  Therefore, we assume various roles in our work with educators – facilitator, consultant, mentor, coach, and disruptor.

We understand the great responsibility we have in our collaborative efforts with teachers and are honored to engage in the work.  Therefore, in the beginning of partnerships with schools and districts, we focus on understanding the school site’s culture, develop relationships to establish trust and rapport, and construct norms for collaboration.  Collaboration is not only “integral to the cultivation of new modes of teaching and learning” (Hadar & Brody, 2010), but also helps to create and sustain trust and a safe space for inquiry into practice.  Collaboration also increases individual and group efficacy, which are both positively correlated with student success (Bandura, 1993; Tschannen-Moran & Hoy, 2001; Whalan, 2012).

Teaching is a very personal act and is inherently intertwined with self-perception, experience, teaching and learning paradigms, attitudes, and beliefs.  Opening one’s practice to others is not easy.  Additionally, changing one’s practice can prove to be even more challenging, particularly when grounded in deficit thinking and discourse.  With that in mind, our goal of creating a safe, collaborative space for teachers is not simply to focus on developing content knowledge and practice, but to also disrupt practices grounded in deficit thinking that privilege some students over others.  Therefore, we purposefully engage with the community to co-create a different narrative around what kids can do in the mathematics classroom to ensure that the needs of all students are met and to push back against deficit thinking models and “labels that bestow privilege and marginalization”(NCSM & TODOS: Mathematics for All, 2016).  To that end, we have found Lab Sites to be a high leverage structure that supports the transformation of teacher practice and beliefs.

 

Leveraging Lab Sites.

Lab Sites are collaborative classroom-embedded professional learning opportunities where the “complexity and subtlety of classroom teaching [can be explored and refined] as it occurs in real time,” (Brophy, 2004, p. 287).  Within the context of a Lab Site,

…teachers are engaged directly with practice, not only through observing live teaching,but also co-planning it… Teachers’ participation in the laboratory setting that involves co-planning the class, observing the enactment, and reflecting on the enactment in collaboration, proves to be authentic in teachers learning to notice mathematically and pedagogically significant phenomena in the classroom interaction and especially in students’ responses. (Naik & Ball, 2014, p. 42).

Houk (2010) likens lab sites to surgical theaters where doctors observe operations to hone their practice. Within the Lab Site structure, we engage teachers as learners, as practitioners, and as leaders through sense-making experiences with content, applications to practice, and reflection.  As teachers participate, they have the opportunity to refine and deepen their content knowledge, knowledge of student thinking and the instructional practices that support, elicit and extend student thinking.  And, it is through this reflection and conversation that deficit perspectives are often brought to light.

The following narrative is taken from a Lab Site conducted in an elementary school located within the greater Los Angeles area.  Lab Site participants include the regular classroom teacher, one of the authors of this piece, and a fifth grade teacher as an observer.  An overarching goal is to provide both teachers the space to observe and interact within the Lab Site to make the process a normative practice within the school.  The following is generated from the perspective of the aforementioned author and his interaction with the regular classroom teacher and one of her students.

“I didn’t think she would be able…She’s my ‘low’ student.”

In a 4th grade class, a student named Helen sat in the rear reading a comic book.  I approached her while her teacher, Mrs. Lee, conferred with other students.  Mrs. Lee and I had co-planned problem solving activities for the students in her class.   The primary intention was to the utilize the classroom as a  Lab Site to engage Mrs. Lee around students’ strategies for solving a ‘multiple groups’ division problem.  We also planned to examine student thinking and discuss prevalent or common strategies students used to solve the following:

There are 9 footlong sandwiches.  If everyone gets ⅓ of a sandwich, will there be  enough to feed the class?

I planned to engage Mrs. Lee around the idea that her students would generate multiple strategies without explicit direct instruction. This would be a new learning for Mrs. Lee who was pleasantly surprised by the diversity of student strategies without prompting or teacher modeling.  Lastly, in order to address inequities within the classroom, I sought opportunities to highlight students’ thinking that might disrupt any deficit notions regarding which students were viewed as “math capable” and who might be viewed as “incapable.”

I then engaged Helen about the explanation she had written on her paper.
Her response was, “…because if you add 9 and 9 ⅓ and divide by 2, it has enough.”

Helen sheepishly smiled at me as she slowly put the comic book back in her desk.  I asked her to read the story problem with me while I asked her what the story was about and what the quantities in the story represented.  I asked her if she knew the number of students in the class, including the teacher, to attend to the question of “Will there be enough to feed the class?”  Helen told me there were 21 students and 1 teacher, so there are 22 people in the class.

She slowly began drawing a rectangle and drew 3 columns with 9 rows.  I asked her what the picture represented, and she said that her rectangle represented 9 footlong sandwiches split into thirds which made 27 thirds (27 sandwiches).  She even indicated on her picture the number of leftover sandwiches (she shaded 5 thirds, which represent 5 sandwiches that were not assigned to anyone in the class).

I told Helen that I appreciated her thinking, her perseverance, and her explanation of the number of leftover sandwiches.  I invited Mrs. Lee to notice the details of mathematical modeling on Helen’s paper and to examine Helen’s thinking.  Pleased and excited, Mrs. Lee said, “I didn’t think she would be able to solve the problem.  I didn’t think she would be able to do anything.  She’s my ‘low’ student.”

Co-constructing a Narrative.

Our approach to work with teachers is rooted in a firm commitment to equity and access.  Additionally, we understand the tremendous impact teachers have on the reframing, reconceptualizing, and transformation of mathematics education policies and practices that promote equal learning opportunities and outcomes for all (NCSM & TODOS, 2016).  As social justice educators, we recognize the need to co-construct counter-narratives to disrupt the historical and institutionalized inequities and definitions of who can succeed in mathematics.  The structure of the Lab Site positions teachers as reflective practitioners.

The interaction above with Helen and Mrs. Lee provides one snapshot of a lab experience that allowed a teacher to reconstitute her perspective on who can do mathematics.  Additionally, the lab site provided an opportunity for the teacher to make sense of the mathematics by examining student strategies and the thinking students used to make sense of the problem.

Typically, teachers might approach the multiple groups problem in an abstract and rote way by simply introducing the “invert and multiply strategy.”  Mrs. Lee’s interaction with students allowed her to generate more concrete ways of approaching a multiple groups problem with sense making.  By examining students’ thinking and the details of their strategies, she made connections between students’ strategies as well as reframed how students are viewed as capable in her classroom.

After her math time, Mrs. Lee confided in me that “The kids who typically use the algorithm had trouble with making sense of why ‘inverting and multiplying’ makes sense in the story. The other students, who I thought would struggle, came up with a lot of different ways to solve the problem — but they could make sense of it.”

Mrs. Lee’s reflection is so important and allows us to press into teacher and student beliefs around what a “successful” and “good” mathematician looks like.  Traditionally, students who are quick, who get the right answer, and who use the standard algorithm, are positioned as being good at mathematics.  By highlighting the thinking and multiple sensemaking strategies of students, we generate an opportunity for the teacher and students to redefine what it means to be successful in the mathematics classroom.

The interactions with Helen and her teacher provide an example that focusing on what students are able to do and engaging with their thinking can be a way to push back against negative labels and dehumanizing language used to describe students.  Openly challenging deficit thinking and eliminating deficit discourse requires trust, collaborative classroom-based professional development, and tact (NCSM & TODOS, 2016).  For example, the act of conferring with Helen, discussing the details of the story problem, and giving her an opportunity to make sense of the mathematics, was the vehicle for reframing her competency in her teacher’s eyes.

We believe that all students must have access to multiple meaningful mathematical experiences that allow them to make sense of the world through mathematics.  By positioning students as active participants in the co-construction of knowledge and understanding, we transform the traditional paradigm of mathematics learning and instruction.  As students individually and collaboratively problem solve, they have the opportunity to engage in each other’s ideas, construct and critique arguments, and develop efficacy as a mathematician.  Unlike the traditional orientation in mathematics professional development that places most emphasis on content and pedagogy, our work demands that we partner with educators to co-construct a narrative that tells an asset-based story of student success, ensuring equity for all.  We believe we must go beyond this approach to professional development and ensure there is a place for themes regarding equity and access.  Although there is little evidence in the research for how to seamlessly integrate issues of equity within a professional development setting for mathematics educators (Battey & Franke, 2015), the Lab Site setting allows us to reframe the narrative, in a safe space, by focusing on student thinking and what students can do (Jacobs, et al., 2007).

 

References

Bandura, A. (1993). Perceived self-efficacy in cognitive development and functioning. Educational Psychologist, 28 (2), 117-148.

Battey, D., Franke. M.L. (2015).  Integrating professional development on mathematics and equity:  Countering deficit views of students of color. Education and Urban Society, 47(4), 433-462.

Hadar, L., Brody, D. (2010).  From isolation into symphonic harmony:  Building a professional development community among teacher educators.  Teaching and Teacher Education, 26 (2010). 1641-1651.

Houk, L.M. (2010).  Demonstrating teaching in a lab classroom.  Educational Leadership.  Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/summer10/vol67/num09/Demonstrating-Teaching-in-a-Lab-Classroom.aspx

Jacobs, V.R., Franke, M.L., Carpenter, T., Levi, L., Battey, D. (2007). Professional development focused on children’s algebraic reasoning in elementary school.  Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 38(3), 258-288.

Mathematics education through the lens of social justice: acknowledgement, actions, and accountability. (2016). Retrieved May 3, 2017, from http://www.todos-math.org/socialjustice

Naik, S.S., Ball, D.L. (2014).  Professional development in a laboratory setting examining evolution in teachers’ questioning and participation.  Journal of Mathematics Education, 7(2), 40-54.

Tschannen-Moran, M. & Woolfolk Hoy, A.  (2001).  Teacher efficacy:  capturing an elusive construct.  Teaching and Teacher Education, 17(2001), 783-805.

Whalan, F. (2012).  Collective Responsibility.  Towards a model for the development of collective responsibility.  Sydney, AU:  Sense Publishers.

Theo and Janene’s article captures how classroom-embedded professional development becomes a “lab site” for reframing what students can do in math.

Interview with Natalie Irons – Susan Strauss

Susan’s interview with Natalie highlights the role of a coach and what can be impactful in a coaching relationship.

Interview with Natalie

By Susan Strauss

May 3, 2017

Today I’m having a conversation with Natalie Irons. Both of us have a history as Center X coaches going back to 2002. I’m particularly interested in Natalie’s experiences as a Cognitive Coach since she’s really taken it further than anyone I know.  

SS: First off, what kinds of things appealed to you about collaborating with teachers and educators, especially back at the beginning?

NI: That question actually pulls me right back to my first experiences as a coach. And I think the shift for me was opening up this whole world of working with adults that was similar in some ways but very different from working with kids in the classroom. And there was something I guess impactful for me. I was learning about what it meant to be an educator. And starting this journey to being a Cognitive Coach and being a trainer of Cognitive Coaching is really feeling more like a calling, both personal and professional at this point.

SS: So, quite often people say they were called to teaching, and you’re also experiencing the call to be a Cognitive Coach.

NI: Yeah.

SS: So in that respect, what if we talk about your early connections to Cognitive Coaching, and why it might be important to coaching itself?

NI: I think that first connection, the experience I had with teachers and administrators, and with adults, I think the thing I recognized as a coach at the beginning is that the adults needed, even relished, the opportunity to be supported. To feel listened to, to know that they had an ear, somebody they could go to, to share experiences and have some feedback, that I think maybe in many schools might be missing, to know that they have a safe place where they can go to someone and not be evaluated in a punitive way. That’s vital to me, that’s a real critical piece that adults feel that they have that place with a coach to get that kind of support.

SS: So your experience as a Cognitive Coach was that you could tell that teachers valued the opportunity to have a safe place to take a chance, to take a leap, and find out more about themselves, their goals, and what they might like to do with them.

NI: Yeah. And just the other day, I’m working at a school site, and the other day a teacher said you are the only one, the only person, on this campus that I can go to and get that support.  Boy, and I felt it. That was a really significant thing that she’d shared with me that indicated to me that there was this pretty strong level of trust for her to be able to share that vulnerability, for her to be able to say, “I’m willing to be vulnerable with you about my practice.

SS: And it also underscores the need. You are the only person.

NI: Yeah. It’s a really pretty much reinforcing the need.

SS: She articulated it so succinctly, and it probably represents how many people feel.

NI: I think so. That’s been my experience.

SS: We talked earlier about social justice and I’m wondering what kinds of connections there might be between Cognitive Coaching and being a social justice coach?

NI: The mission at Center X is a social justice mission and advocacy for kids, and I think that extends to teachers as well. I’m thinking about examples of teachers in the schools we support that maybe they may not feel that they have equity and access to all that they need to be to provide equity and access to their students.

SS: Yes, so you see the parallels.

NI: Yeah.

SS: Social justice for both teachers and students.

NI: And when I’m having a conversation with a teacher around their practice and they know that I’m not in there having this conversation to tell them what they’re doing and not doing, they’re more likely to engage in trying some new ways of thinking and having some new perspectives because I am holding on to the identity of being a Cognitive Coach, which is a little different from a coach that has a set agenda. My agenda is the teacher’s agenda.

SS: Yes, your agenda is their agenda, which is a leap.

NI: Yes, in some ways, I think that the hope is that the teachers recognize in some ways that in their classroom, their agenda is meeting the needs of the kids, to have faith that they have their own needs and that they are negotiating their space.

SS: So you see the possibilities of the transfer from the moment, the conversation itself, and the teacher that might find its way into the classroom whether consciously or unconsciously.

NI: I think it’s something we know about good teaching is that we’re good models. And if we’re not modeling those things we want to see happening in the classroom, then they might not be happening. I hope that I’m modeling a stance that says I value where people come from, wherever they might come from, and that I’m an advocate.

SS: You said that word before and I was thinking about it. Now, thanks for saying it again. You’re an advocate. Would you like to say more about that?

NI: There’s a bit of a tension because in some ways being a Cognitive Coach has the assumption of some neutrality because I’m not evaluative, I’m not placing any judgment on what we might be talking about in terms of the practice in the classroom. I think that inherent in some of that is the advocacy is about that individual being the best of who they can be in the classroom. There’s some complexity to the language and the nuance and I really believe that I can advocate and hold a non-evaluative, non-judgmental stance.

SS: So non-judgmental advocacy may very well lead to some liberation on behalf of the teacher. Maybe I’m taking that too far?

NI: There’s a hope. I like the sounds of that.

SS: Liberation is a good word. It’s liberating in itself.  So we can always keep weaving in Cognitive Coaching and social justice as it comes up. But, in what ways has your work as a Cognitive Coach trainer affected your work with teachers and administrators. Or, if you want to go there, perhaps within the Center X community? Or perhaps one or all?

NI: Yeah, I’ve trained a lot of groups in different places and I have really hoped that I’m always a learner. I’ve had some interesting experiences that I’ve had people call me out on some things. I had a colleague call me out on a statement I made saying it was a biased statement about women. I was saying something about my being a woman. And she called me aside and said, “I’m not sure you want to say that.” And I really valued that because I value this colleague and her perspective. That might seem a little tangential but my hope is that I am learning in every seminar, in every training that I do. I can take an instance where I can say something off-the-cuff, and I get a chance to reflect on it. Am I going to want to say it in that way the next time. Not unlike how it is in the classroom. Like as a secondary teacher you try something out first period then by sixth period you’ve got it made. You try. I hope that I’m being reflective all the time where when people say, “That didn’t sit right with me.” In the seminar we’re doing so many model conversations, like we’re having now actually, it’s open to everyone to have their own learning, their own interpretation of that, that I’m putting myself in a vulnerable situation, the coachee is putting themselves in a vulnerable position, and I’m just hoping that those situations are opportunities for all of us to learn together. They are always unique so that by Day Eight, I’ve learned so much about everyone, and I always feel like I know how each one was at the beginning of the seminar and how they might be as they’re leaving the seminar.

SS: Yes, as their interest continues to build and they understand the process more and more. It was interesting the parallels you made with a coachee working on improvement or a goal and how you are also looking for the opportunity to improve, which leaves us vulnerable.

NI: Yeah. Yes, I hope so.

SS: It’s humbling and admirable.

NI: It is very humbling.

SS: Moving a little bit forward then, what might you want to stay mindful of from now on, but especially as we transition to next year. We don’t have a foot in the next year, but maybe we have a pinkie.

NI: Yeah, that says so much about the transiency, or maybe that isn’t the right word. It’s a little unpredictable—

SS: Instability.

NI: Yes, instability. That says a lot about our work at Center X that I want to always be mindful of, that it’s tenuous work we do and be empathetic to that. Also, in particular, at this year at this time, I think there’s something real personal that all the coaches here have had a chance to explore in their journey as a coach in their own work. I want to hold on to how that experience is impacting them and I’ve learned a lot from them in reinforcing that people really need to take things and make them their own. It’s kind of like I would tell kids in Writing Workshop. You can borrow an idea but make it your own.

SS: There are again parallels with the writing process.  But, it sounds like you’re also not only thinking of your own vulnerability and an individual group’s vulnerability. Individually and collectively, we’re just constantly vulnerable.

NI: I wonder what that says about our group?

SS: Yes, that’s something to think about, and how that might be both an asset and a curse at the same time. Let’s just go with asset. But, especially as we close, we’re going to have at least one more time to meet. That’s what you’re thinking about.

NI: Yes, how to best support this group in the most meaningful and impactful way, both individually and collectively.

SS: It might be nice to get feedback.

NI: Yes, maybe I might want to formulate some way to get some feedback. I’ve been thinking about that at my school site, how I might get some general feedback. Maybe I need to think about that parallel with the school group and with my coaching group.

SS: We’ve got these parallel lives constantly going on. Well, that’s the reflective life. You’re thinking ahead. So when you think about the spotlight that we are shining on Center X Network and our coaching, what might be the best possible outcomes of making our work public?

NI: I really hope we pull together each coaches’ perspective about their own work and how unique they are, but we also see their own patterns that we’ll share with those who will see the exchange online, that there are resources to draw from., and maybe they’ll the see the work that others are doing and maybe there might be some new resources, there might be some different perspectives in looking at how we might support teachers to support kids on campuses, especially on urban campuses.

SS: So we’re opening up our work – we’re being vulnerable—

NI: Yes, yes.

SS: In the hopes that more people can benefit.

NI: We’re kind of going through our own journey to be vulnerable in what we do and hope that that resonates for an audience. And how that might resonate, I’m not quite sure, but I’m hopeful that there will be many different ways that they can use these resources for the work they do.

SS: So maybe we might want to end on the word ‘hope?’

NI: Yes.

SS: How has this conversation benefited you?

NI: It’s reminded me to stay hopeful in this challenging work. It’s reminded me that I have some purpose and clarity about my purpose because that isn’t always evident, especially on these busy school campuses. But that’s really helped me be clear about those two things. So thank you.

SS: Thank you. I know your time is precious.

 

 

Reflection – “What we are learning?”

Coaching models include instructional and content focus, other frameworks of reference, such as equity and diversity and Cognitive Coaching which address identity, particularly as a mediator of thinking. A continuum of these models would suggest that various coaching models move from external support using reference points for learning to internal support that helps a person’s movement toward self-directedness. External supports include the models for instructional, content and pedagogy while internal supports focus on the identity of educators and the why of their work.

 

CONTINUUM OF COACHING:

  • leaf

    Coaching is Utilizing a Set of Tools and Structures

  • trees

    Coaching is Navigating Among Various Tools and Structures

This continuum addresses structures and tools to support their work in order to be adaptive in their identity and form.

Articles – “What We Do?”
Articles – “Why we do this?”
“Pro Student=Pro Teacher – What I’ve learned….” – Erin Powers
Pro Student = Pro Teacher

What I’ve learned supporting public schools

by Erin Powers

 

For more than a decade, I’ve worked in urban public schools as support staff, coaching others, providing professional development, and offering support to teachers, administrators, parents, and others. Being on the ground, or “in the field” as they say, has offered me the perspective of observer, participant, and leader. It’s a combination I’m extremely grateful for because it’s given me a comprehensive view of the systems and the people in urban schools. Here’s what I’ve learned: 

1. Teaching in urban public schools is even harder than you think. If you are sensitive to the challenges of public school teachers, or if you ARE a public school teacher, you know that this job is extremely difficult. The combination of high rates of social interactions, conflicting mandates from various agencies, limited resources, children who’ve experienced trauma, and the public’s attitude that you-get-summers-off-so-stop-complaining demean the complexity of delivering high quality instruction and curriculum that meets every child’s needs. Living in the age of high-stakes testing, we have to try even harder to see all that students can do instead of what they can’t. We have to build on those strengths to help motivate students to work harder, try harder, and keep their confidence up. All this while maintaining hundreds of relationships with students, families, and colleagues.

I taught public school for more than a decade. I thought I knew how hard it was. After all, I worked countless hours designing instruction, assessing students’ literacy skills, offering feedback, and working with families and colleagues. I taught five classes a day and often worked with students before and after school. But when I was in it, I didn’t realize the toll it was taking on my health, my family, and my relationships. It wasn’t until I stepped out of the classroom and listened to all of the ever-changing demands that were placed on teachers did I realize just how hard this job is.

Teachers are expected to be miracle workers. They are required to learn complex standards, curriculum, and instructional strategies. They’re expected to keep up with new research and trends in education. They need to know their students – whether it’s 30 or 230 – in personal and meaningful ways and make adjustments to the curriculum and instruction to meet each student’s individual needs. They’re required to prepare students for state, district, and school site assessments, even if those assessments are not the most appropriate measures of growth. They deliver instruction every day, all day, making upwards of 1000 decisions during that time. They often teach students who’ve experienced instability at home, increasing what students need to be able to learn. At the same time, the public and politicians tell them they’re failing. It’s no wonder that teachers sometimes feel like they’re society’s doormats, the ultimate scapegoats for our country’s challenges and issues.

What I am surprised by are teachers who find a way to harness their efficacy, to help students find their agency, and listen with just one ear to any talk about the need to throw out everything and start all over again. They’ve figured out a way to be effective AND satisfied with their profession. They understand the importance of their work and find joy in their students’ successes, no matter how large or small. They hone in on their relationship with each child and figure out ways to make them spark with delight in their presence. These teachers are not mythical unicorns. I treasure, and secretly worship, them. I also want to do everything I can to help keep them steady at the helm of their classrooms. Over years of intense daily cognitive and emotional demands, their ___ can waiver.

As a UCLA coach, I can – through collaboration, Cognitive Coaching™, and consulting – support a classroom teacher in ways that are meaningful and personalized. Through a question, I can shift a perspective, and give a teacher a chance to see a lesson/student/conversation in a whole new way. It’s that shift, sometimes subtle and sometimes profound , that leads to renewed hope and the collaboration we share can bring true joy to teaching and learning. Teachers and students need more joy.

2. Sustainability in a single institution is unlikely in the current climate. I used to believe it was possible to support a school for a few years, step out, and watch that organization flourish with their newfound skills, knowledge, and attitudes. In our current social and political environment, I’ve learned that schools need ongoing, connected support. Sustainability is not possible when this is happening in our system:

  • High yearly overturn in teachers. When I compare our current roster of teachers to what we had just a few years ago, the changes are remarkable. We lost many to a shrinking school population, retirement, and reassignment within content areas. Some teachers chose to work in other areas or in other fields.
  • Wild variations in funding. This change from year to year means that sometimes the school receives support from the state and/or district, sometimes not. The instability in the support staff means that teachers can’t rely on others for help with new learning. It takes time for support folks to build relationships, figure out what each teacher needs, and find ways to them in groups.
  • One-Time Professional Development. This refers to a presentation or workshop that some think of as a kind of magic bullet often sought through professional development. Many leaders want a quick fix to their issues. Hiring someone from outside the organization to present one workshop to a group will not produce sustained change. If support staff and/or administration have institutional history, they can acknowledge and integrate the prior learning to help differentiate professional development and make connections for the group. If the administrators and support staff have high turnover, it’s going to be nearly impossible to do this.

Learning is not linear. Teachers’ needs change and evolve every year. What a teacher is working on one year might be completely different the next. Working with different groups of students every year impacts this, too. New research, policies, standards, and assessments drive the changes as well. This all contributes to the need for sustained, ongoing support in high-needs schools.

3. The Mind, Body, and Spirit connections are real. Without tending to each, teachers can become hollow shells. I’ve witnessed, first hand, how the constant emotional demands on teachers impact their ability to make decisions and to respond to students in supportive ways. I’ve heard the case against reducing class size, and those folks are not thinking about the cognitive and emotional demands that teachers carry. Fostering and maintaining strong relationships with each child and their family is challenging at the elementary level and feels like a pipe dream in secondary settings where teachers tend to serve 150+ students per day. Teachers need to preserve and cultivate their emotional and cognitive capacity to be able to tend to the needs of their students. As coaches, we can help teachers do this through reflecting conversations and informal outreach. We acknowledge the human side of the human beings in the system.

The demand on teachers’ health – their physical as well as mental health – is incredible. It goes beyond constant exposure to colds and training one’s bladder to hold great amounts of liquid. The daily stress that teachers experience impacts their bodies and minds, increasing the likelihood of diseases. I work with teachers who experience high levels of pain, too. I can tell by how they respond to me or to students what their pain level is like that day. It impacts their ability to think and perform, clouding their judgment. We need to create an environment that combats that stress and promotes wellbeing. Healthier teachers can provide better teaching.

4. Kindness is critical to the success of teachers and students. Recently, I saw a teacher after school, our first encounter of the day. I said, “Hello, how are you?” He seemed genuinely surprised and baffled by my question. He had to take a moment to think about it and then he smiled and said, “Good! Very well, thank you for asking.” I suspect it had been a while since he thought about himself and was surprised when someone else was interested.

I’ve learned that everyone needs a giant dose of kindness. It took a while to find my footing in this out-of-classroom role. District administrators encouraged me to be forceful in my demands on teachers. “Just tell them how to do it,” one barked at me. “MAKE THEM come to your meeting/workshop/seminar!” another demanded. I tried this approach and I failed miserably. I realized that working with adults wasn’t so different than working with students:  I can’t make anyone do anything. Whether a person is 3 or 63, they don’t want to be told what to do. What we can do is be kind. Listen. Be empathetic. Offer invitations. And when someone is ready, they will want to talk. Then they might want to learn. Without an openness to learn, to change, to grow, there’s no sense in telling teachers what to do. Because of the high-demand environment they work in, teachers are the ultimate resisters. They’ve had to be to preserve themselves against the drastic pendulum swings in education policy and leadership styles. To kindle the fire of learning, a kind and gentle approach can keep teachers coming back for more. After all, if they don’t want to work with us, they won’t.

5. Every adult can learn. There’s a common saying amongst dedicated educators, Every child can learn. It’s a mantra, a way to capture the fact that every child can grow no matter how incremental that growth might be. It gives us the hope and the stamina we need to never give up on a young person.

The fact is that every adult can learn, too. Some teachers need differentiated support, just like students. They need a different way to see the material, to learn the technique, to shift their perception. And they might need more time to learn. Some say that there is no time to wait on teachers. They need results NOW . To them, I say that teachers are complex beings. They need and deserve someone who’s going to observe, think, and interact with them closely. They need to be a part of a tight-knit, trusting group where they feel safe to take academic risks and share their challenges. Urban teachers need meaningful, differentiated support. They can learn.

When I was teaching at a middle school and we started to feel the effects of No Child Left Behind, meaning, we started feeling like the tremendous efforts we were making to support every child were not enough to keep up with the requirements of NCLB, an English teacher joked, “What about no teacher left behind?” Back then, we laughed softly. The strategic support we were trying to grow during lunch and after school was not about us. It was about the students. We were willing to give our time, skills, and knowledge to help kids achieve, without any additional remuneration. Fast forward 15 years, that joke doesn’t really feel like a joke anymore. Without support for teachers, the system is creating an environment that is not healthy for anyone. There’s a connection between how teachers are treated and how students are treated. We mirror the world we live in.

I’m not suggesting we stock the teachers’ lounge with margaritas, hold up a sign that says, “Free hugs,” and promote a teach-whatever-you-feel-like attitude on every campus. I am suggesting that we recognize just how hard this job is and provide the kind of meaningful, personalized support that is going to take each teacher’s practice to the next level. Offering sprinkles of professional development is not enough. If we want equity for every child, if we want to live in a just society, we have to do a better job of supporting teachers and administrators in the field. People who are given concrete opportunities to grow and feel good about their work are much more likely to learn, take risks, and be productive, positive contributors to the world. That does not happen in isolation. Just like students, adults need and deserve respectful, humane support. It’s a key ingredient in successful urban schools.

Erin’s article describes several tenets she has learned in her work as a coach in an urban public school that are outcomes of her coaching tools.

“Coaching for Questions” – A Study on the Impact of Questioning” – Natalie Irons

Natalie’s Master’s research paper focuses on how the craft of questioning impacts students when educators think more intentionally about the questions they ask.

“A Question is not Just a Question – Posing Questions to Support Teacher Growth” – Carrie Usui Johnson and Natalie Irons

Carrie and Natalie’s blog about questions provides specific indicators for asking effective questions.

What, Why and How of UCLA Coaching framed as an iceberg – Carrie Usui Johnson
Coaching at Center X as an iceberg

The iceberg model of the UCLA Center X Partnerships visually describes the mission and vision of the Project’s work.

What UCLA Coaches Do and Do Not Do – UCLA Coaches collectively
What UCLA Center X Coaches/Professional Learning Partners Do and Do Not Do
Coaches Do… Coaches Do Not…
  • Build relationships and trust by showing respect, integrity, concern for others and competence
  • Do not fix teachers

 

  • Hold confidential the information shared between coach and coachee (ask permission to share, if necessary)
  • Share trends and patterns of strengths and challenges
  • Do not report directly back to principals on classrooms observations.  (possible exception: something that jeopardizes a student’s well-being)

 

  • Support teachers with individual and collective goal setting, reflecting and problem-resolving
  • Collaborate or consult when needed and as guided by teacher or coachee
  • Use 3rd point of reference to allow for self-assessment and self-evaluation
  • Do not evaluate teachers or function in an evaluative or supervisory role.

 

  • Support others in their unique roles, such as department chairs, coordinators and other administrators in their planning, reflecting and problem-resolving
  • Do not take on roles and responsibilities not related to supporting teachers such as, act as testing coordinator, do yard/supervision duty.

 

  • Respect and adhere to legal guidelines and limitations as an non-school employee
  • Support long-term substitutes/”guest teachers” in their position to provide continuity, resources and curriculum support to students
  • Do not substitute for classroom teachers.

 

  • Highlight strengths and “funds of knowledge” in students, teachers and school wide

 

  • Do not perpetuate “deficit thinking”

This T-chart was created by coaches from their experiences coaching in the field.

Reflection – “What we are learning?”

Coaches are conscious of how they use the tools of coaching, such as pausing, paraphrasing and posing questions. They also make clear decisions about when and how to use these tools in addition to planning, reflecting and problem-resolving structures. A continuum of tools and structures would delineate frequency and automaticity of each of these in coaching interactions and therefore show clarification of a coaching identity.

Icons made by Freepik from www.flaticon.com

Menu