Laurie Clarcq joined us from upstate New York. This session was particularly exciting and, I would argue, groundbreaking, because Laurie “experimented” with a new model for coaching, one she started at the TCI Maine New England & Beyond conference in October, 2014. It is being called “Coaching from the Heart.”
Laurie wanted to see what would happen if peer coaching were based solely on affirming what the teacher did right during their practice session. First, the peer coach would ask the teachers a number of questions ranging from “what did you feel went well,” to “what did you enjoy most during your lesson?” The teacher answered the questions and reflected in front of the entire group.
Next, each of the “students” shared one thing that was positive and effective for them. For six hours of peer coaching no negative feedback was given at all. The only feedback given to the teacher was positive, what worked, and what was effective. Over the six hours it became so clear what was happening. By emphasizing the positive aspects of each teacher's session, people watching heard over and over again it became clear to all what the teachers did that was effective and what was not so effective, even thought that was never mentioned.
A-ha moments from the day included “paying close attention to student responses made lesson go more easily” and “my lesson went best when I focused intently on the students.”
The comments following the session were overwhelmingly positive. Here is sampling:
“It was great to connect with colleagues and practice teaching in such a supportive environment. Laurie never ceases to amaze me with her energy, encouragement, wisdom, and positivity.”
“Loved the whole positiveness of the group and their comments. I think keeping it all positie gives everyone a comfortable zone to practice and feel safe.”
“I just love how open everyone is. The encouragement and positive feedback is what makes us willing to take risks, laugh at ourselves rather than beat ourselves up. treating ourselves the way we treat our students, with open acceptance and love and encouragement. It is a manifestation of attention…wherever your attention is what grows, so the more we can attend to love and encouragement the more we will all grow. i know that mainstream "advice" is all about finding the weakness and working on that, but i really think this happens naturally as we focus on what we are good at and expand that. THANK YOU ALL SO MUCH !!!”
I benefited greatly by the peer coaching training session. I am looking forward to running a similar session, based on Laurie's Coaching From the Heart, at the FLAME (Foreign Language Association of Maine) in March.
I am convinced that NOTHING will improve teacher effectiveness in the classroom than practicing in front of a sympathetic, supportive group. It seems to me that Laurie's idea of ONLY providing positive, what really worked in your lesson” feedback should be the focus in the future of peer coaching.
This may seem like we have fallen victim to the reigning philosophy of the day that everyone is a winner and negative feedback must never be given. I would argue that teachers already know what we do wrong...it is pointed out to us every day. How much more effective it is to show us what we do right/well than to show us how to fix what isn’t. Teachers came away with a confidence and enthusiasm for practicing the method than I had ever witnessed before. Comment after comment on the day reiterated the power of the positive. Only one teacher asked for specific constructive feedback on what could have been done “better.”
Might we be close to a new paradigm for peer coaching? I think so - I think it's being called “Coaching from the Heart.” Thanks Laurie Clarcq!