Through the eyes of an early math coach

by Liz Avila and Cody Meirick

The coaching experience is an integral part of programming for the Early Mathematics Education Project. “Coaching” means many things, but what sets the project apart from others is its intentional and focused approach. No one knows this more than the coaches who perform this coaching model, and particularly, when they reflect on the first one or two coaching cycles of the year.

“I think that now that our first coaching cycles are complete,” says Veronica Castro, a coach with the Early Math Project’s Innovations program, “and teachers have a feel for what our coaching cycle is like (as opposed to other coaching they may have received in the past), they feel more comfortable sharing their thoughts and ideas about the lessons and what they want their students to learn.”

She adds, “I feel like most of them are not waiting for me to give them the answers so much anymore but instead are throwing their ideas at me and looking for feedback. For me, that is important. I want my teachers to feel like I am a partner in their classroom, not an inspector, evaluator, etc. I don’t feel like that happens enough in the teaching profession.”

The coaching cycle is a three step process. It begins with a planning conversation in which the teacher sets goals for the students’ learning and for the teacher’s practice. The second part of the cycle is the classroom observation of a lesson, usually videotaped, while the coach takes notes that will allow the teacher to see progress toward the goals set in the planning conversation. The final component of the cycle is the reflection. During this conversation, the coach and teacher reflect on the video of the lesson as well as the notes that were taken.

Jill Sapoznick, another Innovations coach,┬ácomments on both creating those moments of learning and merely being an advocate for learning. “From my point of view, the coaching cycle allows for some intimate discussions regarding teaching and allows for each teacher to think through his or her process,” she says. “The most interesting and useful part is being the sounding board and catalyst for growth, all at the same time. Each component of the coaching cycle provides an opportunity to examine one thought, one moment in time, in depth. This is a rare privilege that all educators should get.”

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