I’m finding that the most powerful learning experiences come when I am not quite sure how a coaching session will go. Don’t get me wrong, I like to be and try to be prepared before meeting with a colleague. Afterall, time is a limited and non-renewable resource for all of us. I’ve found, however, that I can’t be completely prepared for every coaching session I have with a teacher. Many times when I’ve sat down to co-plan, debrief, or share the conversation takes a turn or twist that I hadn’t expected. It’s during those times that learning is rich and exciting for all involved. Just as making a twist or turn in the road can offer new and unexpected adventures, a turn or twist during a conversation can be the same – a great adventure.
Today I met with a teacher who wanted to explore how to create a writing checklist that includes visual representations for each area of writing. I had a hard copy of a prototype and some ideas to share in mind. When the teacher and I started talking, I realized pretty quickly I needed to step back and wait. I thought to myself, “Before I share the prototype, let me find out what she is thinking about this.” After all, every time I meet with her, we end up discussing so much more than I had ever anticipated. Her questions, thoughts, and ideas always push my thinking. I learn so much with her and from her!
As we began to talk, I realized I had an opportunity to learn something new with this teacher. I had the technical side and an idea to share (that another teacher had shared with me), so now I needed to hear more about what this teacher’s goal was. Instead of just using the checklist as written and adding a few pictures to make it more kid-friendly, she actually wanted to “customize” her checklist to what she had taught her students AND add visuals. Very cool! We took most of the language from the Units of Study, tweaked them to meet the needs of her young writers, and within 45 or 50 minutes, we had created a customized student writing checklist AND both of us learned more about the writing resource. The conversation was rich as we talked about how kids can bring characters to life, craft moves her students have noticed in mentor texts, and how we can connect what they do in Words Their Way to spelling during writing time.
This teacher now knows how to create a customized student checklist. We both know that the Units of Study CD already have checklists with visuals. She has a document to share with her fellow first grade teachers, and I have a document I can share with other teachers and coaches. Win, win situation? Yes, yes!
Yes, it is good to be prepared, but it also good to be surprised by what can happen when you let a conversation and/or coaching session unfold in ways you hadn’t anticipated. While we both had the same goal in mind, neither of us would have predicted how much we were going to learn and discover in that 50 minutes together. This was a partnership and collaborative coaching session at its best!