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Classroom Coaching Visits: A Win-Win Guide for Teachers

You get in life what you have the courage to ask for.” - Oprah Winfrey

Curious about classroom coaching? Wondering what the hullabaloo is really all about? Peer coaching is gaining ground—and it can happen in buildings with or without a coach. Pineapple charts and #observeme are two newer peer-coaching models showing up in schools across the nation. Whether you are considering coaching or have anxiety about the concept, here are basics and benefits that will put your mind at ease.

The Warm Fuzzy Factors

Some teachers worry that it’s going to feel like public re-auditioning for your job, but like the infamous ad line, “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas,” coaching visits are confidential. It’s a time for a teacher to be him or herself as a practitioner, and reveal both hidden brilliance or areas ready to be further developed. Other boons to these in-class confabs:

  • They are non-evaluative

  • They are one-on-one private—unless you want other colleagues in the room too

  • They are teacher-centered (the hosting teacher decides the topic, focus of feedback, and type of feedback provided)

  • They help us see what we often can’t see—because we are busy working with students

  • They give confirmation of practices currently in place

  • They offer ideas for what else we can do to grow and flourish

  • They provide a “buddy” to support us as we take the risk of trying out a new practice.

The “Birds Eye View” of Formats

There are a few common models for coaching visits (which can be with a coach or a fellow teacher) Generally, you and your coach decide what suits you. The format and frequency can change over time. A coach can be seen as someone who checks in from time to time; checks up on you to see how you are doing with a current practice, or checks out something new and exciting you are trying. Here is a glimpse into the two most common coaching-visit models:

Model 1: Completely Customized

  1. The Set-Up (10-15 minutes): During this face-to-face meeting, you and the coach discuss what you are interested in working on, sharing, showing, or trying during the coaching visit. Together, the session partners (likely either a teacher/coach or a teacher/teacher team) will decide on the model of the coaching visit (see next bullet).

  2. The Classroom Visit (15-45 minutes): The three most common models used for “completely customized” classroom coaching are: co-teaching, gradual release, and observation.

  • In a co-teaching model the two educators will teach a lesson together.

  • In a gradual release model, (the I-Go-You-Go-We-Go model), the first part of the lesson is modeled by the visitor/coach, the second part is done together by the host teacher and the visitor/coach, and the last part of the lesson is done by the host teacher.

  • In an observation model, the visiting teacher or coach will observe and jot a few (informal, just-for-the-host teacher) notes.

  1. The Debrief Discussion - Includes Next Step Planning (10-15 minutes): After the classroom visit, the partnership will talk together about observations, often naming what practices are solidly in place before giving feedback on possible next steps—only in the area(s) the host teacher requested. For example, if you have asked for your partner to provide feedback on how explicitly you model a process during conferring conversations, the discussion and feedback would be centered only around this. If you have asked your partner for feedback on the questioning happening in the classroom, the discussion and feedback would focus on only that. Suggestions for next steps (stemming from then strengths observed) will be tied to these chosen topics. This laser-like focus ensures the “teacher-ownership” of this entire process.

Model 2: Camaraderie-Building Groups

  1. The Set Up (5 minutes, often asynchronous): With this model, a coach visits several teachers/classrooms in a day. Before the classroom visit, the teacher and coach touch base. This may be done in person. It might also be done via email, Zoom, Voxer, text, etc. The classroom teacher often leads this discussion by sharing his or her thoughts and preferences for the classroom visit.

  2. The Classroom Visit (15-