“It was impossible to get a conversation going; everybody was talking too much.” — Yogi Berra
We have all been there, in the midst of a meeting that can be described as having too much talking and no conversation. We have all been in meetings, both large and small, where people are not truly listening, only waiting for their next chance to talk.
Part of an instructional coach’s role is often to facilitate meetings, whether one-on-one with a single teacher or in a grade-level meeting or PLC. These meetings will certainly vary in the quality of conversation. The coach must develop strategies to move the meeting from simultaneous monologues to true conversations. Some possible strategies include:
- Beginning the meeting with a statement of purpose and reminder of working agreements.
- Asking probing questions (Can you tell me more? Can we hear from ____?).
- Using a protocol (National School Reform Faculty offer many options @ nsrfharmony.com).
- Taking a time-out for reflection on a guiding question.
- Summarizing and paraphrasing
These conversation strategies (and many others) can be developed with patience and practice. Coaches must be prepared to utilize these strategies to improve the conversations in which they participate. If coaches improve their ability to facilitate meetings, we can bring to life the true spirit of conversation. In the words of Edward G. Bulwer-Lytton, “The true spirit of conversation consists in building on another man’s observation, not overturning it.”