Coaching Conversations Don't Always Fit a Protocol

If blogging along with TWT has taught me anything, it is the power of audience, no matter how small, to motivate and give purpose to writing. During a recent discussion with a teacher I am working with, she mentioned wanting help with publishing with her students. At the beginning of the school year, when I met with this teacher to plan for the trimester, it was sort of a flop. I had to let go of my protocol and honor her current practice. This was one of those unplanned conversations. As a coach who is more comfortable with nudging than pushing, I knew this was an opportunity that had to be seized. She was ready and open. Here is an edited summary of the exchange that took place:

I need your help with publishing.
How many times would you like them to publish by the end of the month?
At least once.
Do you want the piece to be something of their choice or an assigned piece?
If you want to be able to attach some kind of grade to the piece, you’ll need an instructional rubric so the kids know the expectations.
Yes, I want to grade it. I need to be able to show parents and include the points in their report card.
Planning a celebration now will give your kids purpose and an audience for their writing. It could be very simple. Nothing fancy. Maybe set something up before parent-teacher conferences.
Good, because I don’t really have time for a big party or anything like that.
You could have the kids put their pieces on their desks along with a sticky note. You could invite another class to come in, walk around, read their work, and write a comment on a sticky. After that, the kids could share their comments. You could even have the parents write comments on a sticky note too.
I could ask one of the other 3rd grade classes in the hallway.
Let the other teacher know what you would like her class to notice about your kids’ writing. How could we make sure every kid gets a comment?
Maybe have them write one comment per sticky note or partner them with the writer they will comment on prior to the walk through.
That might speed up the process and help the commenters be more specific.

The conversation I summarized above would never have happened if I would have put filling out questions on a coaching protocol before the need to establish trust with this teacher. Before the end of the trimester, I will attempt to re-visit the coaching protocol but then again maybe I won’t. Sometimes using a coaching protocol feels a bit like forcing a writer to use a graphic organizer to write. Sometimes it makes sense. Sometimes it doesn’t. Protocols are tools, nothing more.
This is a writing folder from one of the teacher's students. One pocket is
labeled still working on and the other is labeled finished. The teacher is
just beginning to play with the idea of writer's notebooks.


  1. So cool that you have the conversation documented Diane. You have it and you shared it with us.
    It will be great to document this experience for the teacher,

  2. You are wise, your teachers are lucky to have you to turn to for guidance. It will be interesting to see how this develops.

  3. Thank you Diana for showing exactly what you did and said. I value the advice. And, big pat on the back for you for following your feelings about this.

  4. It is so like teaching kids, too! You have to know that you know how to teach and then go with it. Stop reading the manual with one eye and trying to listen to answers with one gave it your all, and consequently, the teacher got what she needed, not what "everybody" gets.

  5. Sounds like you are such an encouraging and effective "coach", in the true sense of the word; you are meeting that teacher's needs and guiding her toward something new! She and all the teachers in your building are lucky to have you!

  6. I love the line about being comfortable nudging rather than pushing. It is so true that nudging is much more likely to achieve the desired result in the end. Even if you get there more slowly, at least you are working in the right direction to eventually get there!

  7. The SOL community gives such great opportunities to learn about teaching and coaching. I look forward to your posts about coaching. I appreciate that you trust your readers to let us see your work and thinking.
    Thank you,


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