The very first morning of my teaching career was unforgettable. After the hubbub of the students’ arrival, finding their classrooms, and settling in, the classroom door closed, and I stared at 30 fifth graders. I had a moment of panic: I’m alone!
I had just finished my graduate degree, spending two years in practicums and discussions about teaching and learning. I was used to having other educators nearby to reflect and problem-solve with me. But now it was just me and 30 kids!
This feeling of isolation continued through the year, although I was able to connect with other teachers in the staff lounge and before and after school. We shared events of the day and exchanged ideas.
Sometimes a colleague asked a clarifying question about how long something lasted or which students were engaged, and I couldn’t always remember. This shocked me! Years later, when my colleagues and I began to observe each other, I realized that often what I recalled from a lesson was different from what had actually occurred. A colleague would mention that a student behaved a certain way, and I would be shocked or surprised. How did I miss that?! Did my colleague and I interpret the behavior differently?
This year I began eCoaching at The Origins Program. A teacher recorded a lesson with a particular goal in mind and sent it to me. I watched the lesson carefully several times, taking notes. Then I wrote down some suggestions for her reflection and shared them with her. A little later, she and I had a conference, based on each of our reflections, about possible pathways for her professional growth, and off she went, ready, willing, and able to improve her practice.
eCoaching is different in both process and outcome from what I experienced as a peer observer and, more recently, as an on-site coach. And it’s catching on.
In the May issue of Educational Leadership, Jim Knight explores several studies of video coaching in his article, “What you Learn…When You See Yourself Teach.” He reports positive effects on teaching and learning when video is used as part of the professional development process “in a manner that respects the professionalism of the teacher.” I interpret this to mean that the video is primarily used for the empowerment of the teacher. The article describes applications for coaching and for self-coaching.
I can relate to his finding that teachers benefit from seeing themselves teach. My experience with e-Coaching supports empowering teachers to choose their own goals for growth, and observing themselves in action is a valuable aid for reflection.
One of the teachers I coached commented about the beginning of her lesson, “Ugh! I talked too much. I want to work on that.”
Consider the same lesson with the same teacher without video: as an observer, I could have reported to her that she talked for eight of the ten minutes at the beginning of the lesson, but I think the outcome would have been different: without the evidence of the video, it would have been simply my perception of what I thought needed improvement.
I would have found video for self-coaching useful when I was in the classroom. Struggling with a particular lesson, watching myself teach, then focusing on specific areas for improvement could have helped me in ways I wouldn’t have thought of, just relying on my recollection of the lesson. The video review and feedback would have been a powerful support.
Erin Klug taught intermediate and middle grades in Minneapolis for more than a decade before taking a position as Professional Development Specialist and Consultant for The Origins Program.
Posted May 2014