By Jeanne Tribuzzi
In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.
If there has ever been a time for thinking interdependently as educators within a school, it’s now! Never has there been a more important time than now when teachers, in collaboration with leadership, must work together to support students and families in new remote learning situations. Methods, routines, curriculum, and instruction have changed quickly and drastically. Despite the challenges we face as educators, this crisis also opens the possibility of immense growth for our instruction and our schools. The difficulties are real, but so are the opportunities to expand our repertoire of teaching methods, and the collaborative spirit of our expertise. Virtual learning may have started as the wild, wild, west, with everyone doing their best on their own, but schools now need to take the time to create a collaborative culture to move online instruction forward in a cohesive way for the greater good of learning.
The quick shift to virtual learning has created a meteor shower of apps, platforms, online invitations, virtual meetings and video lessons, along with the expectation and assumption that we are all ready to manage what is required for online learning. This learning curve has especially impacted teachers, who worked hard this spring to create meaningful remote lessons to salvage the remainder of the year’s curriculum. The continued uncertainties of the fall will require a less reactive and more strategic need to create cohesive instruction and curriculum to ensure that engagement and quality learning is possible in our students’ homes. There are so many layers of complexity in this challenge, that it will certainly take a village to make it work. The village begins with teachers who are being asked to enter a new world of instruction where they come to the work with a flexible mind-set of possibility!
There are several common coaching models that schools use—instructional coaching, cognitive coaching, and literacy coaching—all designed to support learning. Coaching is a way to foster change in individual behavior, and different models emphasize different ways to prompt change. Our coaching roles must be re-imagined in order to support teachers and help our families support home learning.
Effective Coaches in a Collaborative Culture
The role of leadership also changes. The definition and role of coach must be expanded to include all educators in a school. Teachers are now expected to become proficient with new methods and technologies and many need support in applying these new methods appropriately to engage more meaningful learning. The need for a team approach within a school calls for us to step up when we have expertise to share, and it also means asking for help when we’re feeling ill equipped to manage new tools and new situations. Becoming a team of interdependent coaches is crucial to the work ahead.
Here are some questions that leaders might ask to distribute responsibilities:
- Who can record and share quick tutorials on using specific apps or platforms?
- Who can collect data on where parents are with home devices and the internet?
- Who can examine the alignment across different grades’ reading curricula to devise “family” lessons for three or four children in grade-bands to do together at home?
- Who can meet online to record lessons to share with grade levels or departments?
- Who can create concise curriculum documents for online learning?
- Who can speak to parents on the phone or via video chat to troubleshoot technology glitches or other issues at home?
- Who can listen for trends in parent feedback and work together to devise solutions?
- How do we come together to use fewer platforms and apps in order to help parents and students become more competent with fewer tools?
Years ago, as an administrator in a school district, a severe weather crisis created a situation that needed to be dealt with thoughtfully, thoroughly, and immediately to ensure the safety of the district’s children. As the administrative team met to create a plan, everyone’s knowledge, talents, and community connections were considered as our plan evolved quickly to solve the immediate and longer term issues. The team approach was not only successful, but it strengthened our collaborative spirit and distributed leadership. This “team” mind-set broadened our roles and supported the idea that everyone can become a “coach” who is capable of stepping up to support the collective needs of students and teachers. The weather crisis was small compared to the crisis we face now, but educators are strong, and as a team of coaches we can face new challenges with a mindset of innovation and collaboration!
Jeanne Tribuzzi, Ed.D., now works as a literacy consultant to help schools implement and align reading and writing workshop curriculum to grow independent readers, writers, and thinkers in our schools. Jeanne has been a district administrator in schools in Western NY, and has also served as a primary teacher and a middle school English teacher. She was a member of Teachers College Units of Study Team at the Reading and Writing Project at Columbia University, and a member of the Curriculum21 faculty with Dr. Heidi Hayes-Jacobs.