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Two creepy new coaching approaches

favicon Instructional coaching is all the rage in education right now. That’s good for me because it means that I have a job. (Don’t worry, I’m a pretty good coach.)

There are definitely some best practices that I’ve learned over the past year and a half. Some of them are:

  • You have to develop a trusting relationship,
  • Meetings and observations must happen at least weekly,
  • Quick and specific cycles of inquiry are best,
  • You have to believe in the teacher.

Today I watched this video at Teaching Channel. It outlines two innovative approaches to coaching: “virtual” and “real-time.” Both are a bit creepy to me. Take a look:

The first approach, virtual, involves the coach watching a video of the class and typing comments that the teacher can see later. My feeling is that the coach is not in the room live when this is happening. She is watching this video later in the day, off site. At first glance, this seems perfect, right? The coach doesn’t even have to leave the office!

Unfortunately, the whole point about coaching is the personal relationship. There’s nothing wrong with commenting on video. It’s actually good practice, especially with teachers and their colleagues. You can pinpoint specific teacher moves and make quick changes to practice. And there’s also nothing wrong if a teacher wants to send her coach an additional video to look at. But virtual coaching should be an add-on, not the primary method of working with a teacher.

OK, then comes the real-time approach. That is one of the strangest things I’ve seen in a long time. The coach sits in the back of the classroom and tells the teacher what to do? With a walkie-talkie? And the teacher hides her earpiece with her hair so the students can’t tell that she’s saying exactly what the lady in the back is saying?

Though I understand the intention, this real-time coaching is madness. There’s nothing wrong with a coach showing the teacher a new skill. But this could be done alongside the teacher instead of clandestinely twenty feet away. And I’m not exactly sure how this helps the teacher; after all, she’s just repeating what the coach is saying. It’s true that having teachers practice in the moment and participate in role plays does help, but above all, this method is very strange.

Random Thought: What if you combined both approaches? As in: Your coach is not in the room and she’s telling you what to do? Hilarious (though more appropriate, actually, than being in the room).

Maybe I’m just protecting my job, or maybe I’m just old-fashioned, but what’s wrong with working with your teacher to set goals, then observing a class, then talking about it and making next steps?

Please let me know your thoughts. Teachers, would you like virtual or real-time coaching? favicon


  1. Thuy

    HI Mr. Isero I too, think this is a strange method. But maybe that’s because I’m an old soul and old fashioned.. I think the traditional way is extremely beneficial for both teacher and student. In this way it instills confidence for the teacher who is continuing to learn methods that work best for their students, that’s why collaborative work is amazing when done right.

    • Mark Isero

      Hi Thuy! I entirely agree with you that collaboration is the most important. People learn through real relationships. It doesn’t matter if you’re a teenager or an adult. Thank you for being a loyal reader of Iserotope!

  2. micheleg

    I like the idea of wearing a hidden ear piece, because I like spy stuff. But I like to keep the spy stuff at home. So I vote “NO!” to the ear piece!

    • Mark Isero

      Astute commentary, Michele. I’m personally OK with an earpiece (given that I’ve worn earmuffs before while teaching), but I say “NO!” to talking at a normal volume 3 feet away from children and 10 feet away from the teacher. Perhaps the coach could fill out cue cards instead?

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