And I have no privacy.
I always feel like somebody’s watching me,
Tell me, is it just a dream? -Rockwell
The lyrics from this 1980’s hit song summarizes the feeling of many teachers when the instructional coach visits the classroom. Some teachers feel as if their privacy is being violated or that they need to put on a show. As a coach, there are several critical conversations to making successful visits. (Don’t forget to approach these meetings in the true spirit of conversation!)
First, remember that you are a guest. Depending on your school and district, you may need to ask permission or alert the teacher of your plans. Also, allay concerns by setting a approximate time limit for your visit. After all, Benjamin Franklin spoke the truth when he said, “Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.”
Second, keep in mind that you cannot focus on everything in one visit. Have a conversation in advance with the teacher to establish a focusing question for the visit. A few possible focusing questions:
How does the level of student engagement change throughout the lesson?
Do the questions asked by the teacher follow a pattern?
How does the teacher support and encourage student discourse?
- How does the classroom environment support teaching and learning?
Follow the visit with another conversation. Begin by thanking the teacher. Focus the conversation on providing feedback, balancing praise with concerns, regarding the focusing question. Remember to listen and focus on your observations, not judgement. Compared to the teacher, you have as much to gain as a coach, sometimes more. Remember the words of Robert Baden-Powell, “ If you make listening and observation your occupation you will gain much more than you can by talk.”