Whether you are an Instructional Coach or an ESL Teacher, coaching conversations are part of the job in order to support our Newcomer students. If you are an ESL or ELD Teacher, you may not have realized that this was going to be a part of your job! This comes with part of the territory as you realize that advocating for your students could become a full-time gig rather than actual teaching.
Inside of our ESL Teacher Membership, we chatted with Sarah Ottow of Confianza about what it means to take on this coaching role and some basic coaching conversation tips for when you have those impromptu conversations at your school. We even got to do a little role-playing! If you are a member, don't forget to check this out! Here is a piece of our chat below.
Focus on the Evidence in the Moment
It's easy to think of our Newcomers and imagine the ways your student is not getting the support they need. We might tell ourselves, "Oh, it's US History and I already know this teacher. I know my student isn't getting the scaffolds they need." However, I have been surprised many times and have learned new things as well from our awesome content teachers!
Whatever the content teacher is telling you in that moment, that is what should be the focus of the conversation. You may have a million other questions and comments and that's okay- keep them on the backburner and focus your attention so your teacher feels supported and therefore, can support your students with you. You are a team and the goal is to discuss ways to assist your students to thrive and access grade-level content.
Since you are the language expert, as you are listening, think of the what the teacher is saying with your language lens on so you can be prepared to provide inquiry-based questions for the teacher that might lead to more language support for the student.
For example, if a teacher is talking about supporting the student in math and is saying that they are having difficulties understanding simple directions, your questioning might be first in your mind:
Practice Active Listening
Being an active listener means focusing on what the teacher has to say and doing so by making eye contact, nodding, asking questions, and making the teacher feel validated and supported. This also means minimal interruptions unless asking for clarification. When the teacher feels like you are seeing from their point of view and you are keeping an open mind, they are more likely to collaborate with you in the future. It also means that they will tell your colleagues about the positive experience and others may be more open to collaboration too! When teachers are collaborating together for student success, our students win!
Use Language of Collaboration
Some simple language stems to use while having impromptu or planned coaching conversations include some of the following stems and statements from our coaching chat:
Inquire: Have you thought about trying...?
Clarify: Tell me more.
Validate: I hear you.
What other phrases can you use to support inquiry, clarification, and validation?
These conversations don't have to be well-planned to be impactful. Our coaching scenario was based around a 5-minute class change chat on the way to the restroom. That's the beauty of coaching! Even if we do plan, we never know how coaching conversations will go. What we do know is that we keep our students at the heart.
I teach high school ESL and peer coach high school ESL teachers in my district. I enjoy sharing my strategies and materials online and love learning new things from other teachers of Multilingual Learners/English Learners! Let's learn together in my high school teacher membership just for Multilingual Learners!