Stephanie Affinito, Staff Associate in the literacy department at the University at Albany in New York, shares how coaching launchpads can help shift your focus from reactive to proactive coaching.
t's safe to say that 2020 has been a complex, challenging, and innovative year. At the beginning of the pandemic, we focused on how we could best support teachers and students as they found themselves in new teaching and learning scenarios. Without warning, though, we quickly left our traditional coaching positions behind to support teachers wherever and however we were needed.
We asked questions like: What do they need? How can we help? What can we do? Then, we curated resources, searched for new tech tools, helped put out instructional fires and in some cases, even returned to the classroom ourselves. We reacted to whatever situation we found ourselves in and tried to make the best of it, never imagining we'd still find ourselves coaching through a global pandemic nine months later.
Now, as the year comes to a close, I'm finding that the conversations I have with other instructional coaches are changing. Yes, we want to support teachers however we can, but we also want to shift back into the more proactive coaching roles we used to have. The ones where we invite teachers into professional learning and coaching cycles that fuel teaching and learning in a school. But how can we do this, especially since we are still in the midst of the pandemic? My suggestion: coaching launchpads.
A coaching launchpad is an online space that invites teachers into your digital learning community, links them to resources they need, and plants the seeds for future coaching cycles. Creating a central spot for all of your coaching materials makes it easy for teachers to access what they need when they need it most. If your launchpad is created strategically to include multiple invitations to continue learning, you can use it to shift the focus from reactive to proactive coaching!
Let me give you an example: Let's say a teacher sends you an email asking for suggested websites with digital texts for her students. You respond with a link to a Padlet wall on your launchpad. She heads to your link and browses your resources. While she's there, she sees your 5-minute on-demand video on how to create a virtual classroom library and reaches out to you to help her create one! What could have been a simple exchange around a collection of websites reacting to a current need becomes a more proactive conversation around instructional practice as a result of your launchpad.
Creating your launching pad
Your launchpad can be anything that successfully curates and organizes your coaching resources: a website, a shared Google Drive, a Smore, a Padlet wall, a Wakelet collection or any other platform (like TeachBoost Coach!) that works well for you and your teachers.
Just as you would fill your in-person coaching spaces with professional books, anchor charts, teaching resources and spaces for collaboration, you can do the same with your virtual launchpad too.
Here are some examples of what you might include:
- A coaching menu with invitations to partner together.
- Curated resources for teaching and learning, like this Padlet wall of websites for digital texts.
- Materials and resources from past professional learning sessions.
- Important curriculum and district documents.
- Downloadable lessons and materials to support teaching and learning.
- Assessment calendars and materials.
- Coaching cycle resources.
- On-demand professional learning sessions.
- Pictures and videos celebrating teaching and learning.
Top tips for success
As you create your launchpad, it's important to keep the following in mind:
- Easy to access. Choose a platform that integrates with what you already use in your district. Make accessing your launching pad quick and easy: consider linking to it in your email signature.
- Inviting. The colors, pictures, and layout of your site are all important elements to consider. You want this space to be just as inviting as your in-person coaching space so that teachers want to "drop by" digitally.
- Organized. Make it easy for teachers to find your coaching materials and instructional resources right when they need them. Experience your launchpad as a teacher to ensure it’s intuitive to navigate, and that the links are working correctly.
- Celebratory. Inspire teachers by sharing images—and even video clips—of innovative practices their colleagues are exploring.
We all need a command center for our work, especially as we are all teaching and coaching in new ways. And this launchpad has the potential to shift our coaching from reactive coaching supports to more proactive coaching innovations over time.
About our Guest Blogger
Stephanie Affinito is a Staff Associate in the Department of Literacy Teaching and Learning at the University at Albany in New York. She has a deep love of literacy coaching and supporting teachers' learning through technology. Stephanie creates spaces for authentic teacher learning that build expertise, spark professional curiosity, and foster intentional reflection to re-imagine teaching and learning for students.
Additionally, she presents regularly at state and national conferences on literacy coaching, teacher collaboration and supporting teachers' reading, writing, and learning through innovative technology.
Be sure to check out her recently published book with Heinemann Publishing, Literacy Coaching: Teaching and Learning with Digital Tools and Technology.