Teacher as a coach

Empty Minds

Far too often teachers assume students entering the classroom hold little to no knowledge of the content.  These teachers view students as empty vessels while they view themselves as dispensers of content knowledge.  This teaching philosophy is quite interesting especially at the secondary level.  Education curricula in the United States tends to be quite repetitive lending only minute topics to be added year to year.  With this repetition, one may question why teachers might approach a class as though the students have no knowledge of the subject.

Going Beyond

Recently, an article from CNBC, “The death of the classroom as we know it,” mentioned the passive learning that has continued since the Industrial Revolution.  Although the article was based primarily on higher education teaching practices, it does state that when students are participants of active learning, exam scores increase.

So, what is active learning?

I believe that successful active learning comes about when the teacher is a coach rather than a dispenser of knowledge.  As a coach, rather than holding class as though they are the only ones that hold any content knowledge, the teacher may tend toward Socratic questioning.  This teaching practice challenges student understanding and adds to their previous experiences.  An effective coach will pose a broad question or problem to the class.  This allows students to become engaged, provides them ownership of the learning and opens discussion of alternate views of the content.

More likely than not, many of us have encountered the idea that “once you teach it, you know it.”  If this is true, why not provide students support through coaching them through a realistic problem that allows them to teach each other?  Why would we not want our students to have a better, deeper understanding of the material that is based on their own experiences?

Graduation 2014

Attending graduation for me is like assembling a vehicle.  Starting with pieces and parts, some align easily while others take some elbow grease to finally fit.  But, in the end, you are polishing the brilliant paint while you hear the engine roar.

The same holds true for me as an administrator.  There is quite a bit of growing and maturing in four years.  Graduation is that end product performance that is always gratifying.  The smiles, handshakes, and hugs make the job worth while.

My wish for the graduates of 2014:  Always be persistent in working towards your dreams, never give up.  Always be humble, do not expect people to do/give you something for free.  Always work hard at whatever the job holds.

Congratulations Class of 2014!

Dr. Matt Covington’s Blog 2014-05-06 16:41:05

Far too often, educators are on one side of this picture, or the other.  I have always understood and experienced that as a student, if you can “teach” it you’ll “know” it.

Unfortunately, teachers have been more of the one-way communicators with few questions along the way.  However, I feel that the answer is not to travel to the other extreme either.  The best teachers I have seen, and learned from, have excellent two-way communication skills and are willing to collaborate with students.  Teachers need to explain the necessary knowledge and then bring students into the conversation and provide them an over arching question.

It is through this pedagogy that the teacher can assess student understanding of the concepts, challenge their thinking, and finally have them teach each other what they have learned.  We are definitely away from the “sage on the stage” (or at least we should be) but we also should not just throw a project at students without definition or relationship to the content.

picture from Interlinguals.com

Education: Are we ready?

I heard someone say that this generation of students will have 9 careers and 21 jobs before they retire.  Some of these jobs are not even available as of today.

The students that will graduate this school year, are they ready for the real world or are they ready for the present day?  Are they ready to move on, or are they just ready for regional careers that they may have been able to begin years ago?  What do these students know about the career needs in Washington state, in Germany, or in Northern Virginia?

In order to ensure our society remains solvent and the U.S. remains a leader in the World, education must transform.  We must begin to model the pathways we mention to our students.  Pathways that are career and college based.  We must add to our partnerships with businesses, universities, community colleges and parents.  We must offer students a new way of looking at curricula, beyond standards-based.

Students need to be engaged in class, we all know that.  What they really need, is a global sense of who they are, where they want to go, and what they plan on doing in the future.  And education must support this exploration rather than stifle any sense of personal educational freedom.

By the time students in Kindergarten today graduate, in the year 2026, nanotechnology has the potential to be commonplace rather than the exception.  Will it take those of us in education that long to figure out that we need to have a mind-shift in what education really needs to look like?  I, for one, hope not.

MP Goals

In both the middle and high school ESOL classes, I asked students to write their MP2 goals for the next 9 weeks. Students completed a reflection journal in which they discuss three specific things that they are doing well in at school and three specific things they need to improve.

Prior to writing the journal, I printed out a report of student grades in each subject area. We conferenced together and reviewed teacher’s comments under each final MP grade. Next, we had a whole class discussion in which we brainstormed and shared ideas that we thought would help us improve (i.e. using a dictionary more to look up words, using test taking skills like underlining key words or using acronyms to memorize, reading more at home, and taking responsibility and not “passing the buck.” *We discussed the meaning of this idiom since it was unfamiliar to my ESOL students:)

I used this journal writing assignment to also go over the format of a “well written” paragraph. We discussed the fact that a good paragraph has a title, a topic sentences, and concluding sentences.

Finally, I conferenced one more time with students to review their grammar and punctuation. Students rewrote their journals with these final revisions.


Keeping My Kids Out of My Basement

That is a goal for education… yes, I want my kids to finish school and move out and find success as only they can define it.  I don’t want them in my basement!

This was one of the messages from Dr. Yong Zhao’s presentation last week at the Region I Superintendent’s study group.  Dr. Yong Zhao is an internationally known scholar, author, and speaker. His works focus on the implications of globalization and technology on education.

Although the goal of education to “keep my kids out of my basement” was said with humor, we all understood his message.  Sometimes it is hard to define what we want out of our educational system.  When we say we want our students to be successful, what does that mean?  Dr. Zhao convinced me that promoting creative entrepreneurship can be a positive outcome, and may well happen, if we pay more attention to the child than the content.  Mastering tests is all well and good.  We want mastery.  At the same time we need to build relationships, foster engaging and inquisitive study and promote growth.  As I continue to think about what I want for Goochland school students (and  for my own grandchildren) out of an education system, I am thinking about these three pillars: growth, relationships and engagement.  We have been talking about this in our leadership team meetings since July.  Dr. Yong Zhao reinforced this idea or ‘movement’ to go beyond test scores as a measure of our schools’ success.

I have asked a number of our GMS & GHS teachers to tell me what engagement looks like from their point of view.   For me, this is not engagement devoid of content but rather engagement encouraged by the relationship the teacher has built with each child and engagement created with the purpose of fostering growth in student thinking, content knowledge and self-awareness. In the next few weeks, I will share in this blog what our secondary teachers have told me.