Opinion
Education Opinion

Coaching New Teachers: The Importance of Modeling

By Elena Aguilar — September 23, 2013 5 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

A couple weeks ago I offered some tips for coaching new teachers. In addition to those suggestions, I want to make one more that is super high leverage and I can almost guarantee that it’ll shift a teacher’s practice. Here it is: Get in there and do some model teaching.

It’s very likely that new teachers have never seen exemplary teaching. If they were lucky, (and selected a traditional teacher preparation path) then perhaps they saw some strong teaching from their master teacher. In the context I work in, most of our new teachers haven’t been in a K-12 classroom since they were grade school students. Even if they had incredible professional development in the summer or since starting teaching, they need to see the skills and moves of a master teacher, and they need to see those delivered in their own classrooms, with their own students.

As I write this, I can imagine that many of you are nodding your heads in agreement. Maybe you’ve been wondering if you should do this and you’ve had some questions. Here’s what I often hear from coaches when I suggest/nudge/tell them to do some model teaching, which is followed by my response:

1)"Won’t I take away the teacher’s authority by teaching a lesson? Shouldn’t I wait till later in the year when she’s established herself as the authority?”

No and No. By doing one model lesson (or a few) you won’t subvert a teacher’s authority. If it’s so extremely fragile that you suspect this then that needs to be addressed. While you might model a classroom management strategy or a routine such as entering the classroom, you are not becoming the authority in the classroom. Furthermore, when you are in the classroom observing your teacher, you probably shouldn’t be redirecting students or helping manage the class. If you do that, you could disrupt the teacher from developing her skills at managing her kids.

Even if you are concerned there’s a risk of messing with the teacher’s authority, do a model lesson anyway. The benefits to the teacher are so potentially great that it’s worth taking the risk.

2) “What should I model? Should I do my best lesson ever?”

Model a specific instructional practice that the teacher has identified wanting to work on or that you know is high leverage. Of course, you’ll be modeling other practices as well because teaching is complex, but it’s important to name one practice you’ll be doing well. For example, you could model checking for understanding every 5-7 minutes, or introducing the day’s learning target, or circulating through the classroom, or a structure for collaborative group work. Make a decision with the teacher about what you’ll model.

And don’t do your best lesson ever--in fact, tone yourself down. It doesn’t really help a new teacher see a phenomenal lesson from which they leave saying, “Wow, well, I guess after 15 years of teaching I might be able to do that...” This isn’t the time to impress your new teacher with your mastery of the profession in this way. You also don’t want to hear a teacher say, “Well, that’s your personality. I’m not like you.” If they say something along these lines, that means your charisma might have been cranked up too high. While you might be a charismatic teacher, you need to highlight the replicable skills to which your new teacher can add her own personality. When modeling a lesson, you want the new teacher to say something like, “Oh, that was so helpful to see you do that! I can do that too!”

3) “What do we tell students?”

This is a great opportunity for the new teacher to show up as a learner. Of course, what she says needs to be age-appropriate, but it can sound like, “My coach is here today to teach a lesson on...She’s been a teacher for many years and I’m excited to see how she teaches you this material. I’m hoping to learn from her and become an even better teacher.”

4) “I’m nervous I won’t do a good enough lesson or that she’ll see that I’m not a great teacher.”

I always appreciate this comment because I know it reflects a coach’s commitment to her coachee and to her practice. Being nervous is ok as long as it doesn’t stop us from doing something. So we learn to manage our emotions, to put aside our performance anxiety, and then we do the necessary and lengthy planning that will allow us to successfully teach this model lesson.

Sometimes lessons bomb. And if the lesson you’re modeling does so, then it can still be a powerful learning opportunity for the new teacher--as long as kids aren’t blamed for what happens. If the lesson doesn’t go well, then engage the teacher in a thoughtful conversation analyzing what happened--maybe you over estimated the skill level of the students; maybe you forgot that if kids don’t trust their teacher, they can be challenging to work with--and as a stranger, that might be the case. (Last year I taught in the classroom of a new teacher and that’s exactly what happened. I wrote about that experience here.)

Be open to whatever happens and just make sure that your own nervousness doesn’t get in the way of what can be a powerful learning opportunity for your coachee.

5) “What if the teacher doesn’t pay attention and starts filing papers/checking email/organizing stacks of homework/etc.?”

If you make an agreement with a new teacher to teach in his classroom, then make sure you make agreements about what he’ll do during the model lesson. After you decide what the focus of the modeling will be (which management or instructional practices you’ll model) then decide what he will do during the lesson. Perhaps he documents the questions you ask of students, or how you move through the classroom, or perhaps he scripts what you say. The new teacher must have a way of documenting what he observes and if you have any concerns that he might file papers/check email/etc. then make sure to address those before doing the lesson.

6) “I’ve done model teaching before and afterwards the teacher says thank you but that’s about all that happens. I never see her do what I modeled.”

Model teaching is extremely useful to help a teacher see an instructional practice delivered well, but there’s more than a coach needs to do in order for a teacher to internalize what she’s observed and be able to implement it. Think about using a gradual release framework: you’ve just done the “I do” part of a lesson, you’ve modeled. Now you need to help the teacher break down the skills and knowledge you employed, help her determine which ones she needs to refine, and then gradually help her practice those elements. She can’t just see you do something and turn around and do it alone the next day. You need to help her bridge that knowledge and skill gap.

And by the way, in case there are any administrators reading this, principals, assistant principals and deans can also do model teaching for new teachers!

What other questions do you have about model teaching? What benefits do you see to modeling for your new teachers?

The opinions expressed in The Art of Coaching Teachers are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Data Webinar
Education Insights with Actionable Data to Create More Personalized Engagement
The world has changed during this time of pandemic learning, and there is a new challenge faced in education regarding how we effectively utilize the data now available to educators and leaders. In this session
Content provided by Microsoft
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Accelerate Learning with Project-Based Learning
Earlier this year, the George Lucas Educational Foundation released four new studies highlighting how project-based learning (PBL) helps accelerate student learning—across age groups, multiple disciplines, and different socio-economic statuses. With this year’s emphasis on unfinished
Content provided by SmartLab Learning
School & District Management Live Online Discussion Principal Overload: How to Manage Anxiety, Stress, and Tough Decisions
According to recent surveys, more than 40 percent of principals are considering leaving their jobs. With the pandemic, running a school building has become even more complicated, and principals' workloads continue to grow. If we

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education California Makes Ethnic Studies a High School Requirement
California is among the first in the nation to require students to take a course in ethnic studies to get a diploma starting in 2029-30.
4 min read
FILE - In this Jan. 22, 2020, file photo, Democratic Assembly members, from left, James Ramos, Chris Holden Jose Medina, and Rudy Salas, Jr., right, huddle during an Assembly session in Sacramento, Calif. Medina's bill to make ethnic studies a high school requirement was signed into law by California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday, Oct. 8, 2021. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)
Education California Requires Free Menstrual Products in Public Schools
The move comes as women’s rights advocates push nationwide for affordable access to pads, tampons, and other items.
1 min read
Tammy Compton restocks tampons at Compton's Market, in Sacramento, Calif., on June 22, 2016. California public schools and colleges must stock their restrooms with free menstrual products under a new law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, Friday, Oct. 8, 2021.
Tammy Compton restocks tampons at Compton's Market, in Sacramento, Calif., on June 22, 2016. California public schools and colleges must stock their restrooms with free menstrual products under a new law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, Friday, Oct. 8, 2021.
Rich Pedroncelli/AP
Education Florida to Dock School District Salaries for Requiring Masks
Florida is set to dock salaries and withhold funding from local school districts that defied Gov. Ron DeSantis' ban on mask mandates.
2 min read
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks, Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021, at the Doral Academy Preparatory School in Doral, Fla.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks, Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021, at the Doral Academy Preparatory School in Doral, Fla.
Wilfredo Lee/AP
Education More Than 120,000 U.S. Kids Had Caregivers Die During Pandemic
The toll has been far greater among Black and Hispanic Americans, a new study suggests.
3 min read
FILE - In this Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021 file photo, a funeral director arranges flowers on a casket before a service in Tampa, Fla. According to a study published Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021, by the medical journal Pediatrics, the number of U.S. children orphaned during the COVID-19 pandemic may be larger than previously estimated, and the toll has been far greater among Black and Hispanic Americans. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara, File)