Good coaching is not talking at people or expert-driven, but instead good coaching begins with a transparent collective vision and then is driven by questions.
For example, in short time, I will coach a small group of students online to help them complete a standards-based tech program that all fifth graders in our district engage in. While I coach, each child will take turns putting their problem on the screen and leading my coaching with questions. I will guide the students with more questions and enlist the help of the other students at the meeting too. While I am coaching one student, the others will work on their own learning efforts as well as helping out with the coaching. The coaching group has a positive, can-do attitude and we're all reaching for the same goal which is to complete this program in an effective, beneficial way.
So, the first step to good coaching is to outline a common vision for the team. This vision needs to be transparent, overarching, and agreed upon. When the vision is murky, the coaching will never be successful.
The next step to good coaching is to know the people you are coaching well with regard to the vision. For example, I've had coaches who know nothing about me project time and again what I should be doing, but they've never made the time to really get to know me with regard to the vision we are working towards together. There needs to be a thoughtful, targeted discussion about the vision with questions such as the following:
- Do you agree with the vision statement? Why or why not?
- How do you approach meeting this vision? What do you do?
- How can I help you with your efforts to meet the vision statement? Where do you need help?
Too often coaches jump in to check boxes before going deep to understand the people they coach with regard to the vision statement. Too often, coaches are not clear about the vision statement either.
As a coach and one who is coached, I think it is very important to think deeply about the vision, mission, relationships, and questions before diving into the work--that makes the learning/teaching so much richer. I'll definitely have more to say about this later on, but these are my thoughts now as I enter into a lengthy coaching session with a number of enthusiastic math students. Onward.