Classroom Coaching Conversations

Audie Confesor
Principal, Deerwood Elementary School, Osceola County, Florida

Contest Winner: Best Professional Growth Story

In 2017-2018 Deerwood Elementary was the lowest performing school in Osceola County. In fact, out of all 1800 Elementary Schools, Deerwood only outperformed 50 schools in Florida. I was sent to be the Principal to “fix the problem” at Deerwood.

This story was shared with me by my current Literacy Coach, Jessica Freeman:


Coach: “How are your students collaborating?”

Teacher: “Look how I put their desks together in quads!”

Coach: “How does student discourse contribute to their comprehension?”

Teacher: “Well, we have a Partner A and a Partner B! Clearly they’re collaborating!”

Coach: “When I entered the room, the students appeared to be working independently, what would be the benefit of placing them in teams to achieve the learning target?”

Teacher: “They weren’t working independently, they were sitting beside each other!”

Coach: “So how do they get support from each other?”

Teacher: “They raise their hand and ask me for help and then they ask me if they can ask their partner for help. I let them whisper only.”

Coach: “What is your role while this is taking place?”

Teacher: “I am conducting Guided Reading at my small group table, so I check their work at the end of the day after the bell.”

Coach: “Is there any support I can provide to you? What should our next steps be?”

Teacher: “Everything is great! My students worked quietly and got the assignment done. No next steps, you can go visit other teachers instead.”

On August 15, 2018, Deerwood received a surprise visit from the Chief of Staff of Osceola County. It was the third day of school for our students. Despite the work my leadership team did over the summer to put systems in place, he and I walked into classrooms where students spent time coloring worksheets. We were appalled to enter classrooms where students were staring into space and disengaged with instruction. Finally, we walked into rooms where students were serving as furniture partners and drawing pictures that were not relevant to the standards. It was the lowest I have ever felt as a Principal.

As the year progressed, we worked with LSI and our staff was trained to implement teams as a technique for instruction. One year later, here is how the conversation with the same teacher went with Mrs. Freeman:

Coach: “How did you prepare your students to use teaming structures and share their thinking with each other as they worked?”

Teacher: “The Teacher Prep phase is crucial! I planned for student teams, taught the students structures for teaming, and taught students how to share their own thinking with each other as they work!”

Coach: “How did your students understand their roles and responsibilities for interacting with each other?”

Teacher: “The students actually plan their interaction using teaming structures for 1-3 minutes first, while I monitor that the teams are discussing their roles and responsibilities.”

Coach: “During the task, how did the students use structures to share their thinking with each other?”

Teacher: “The trick is allowing the students to lead the conversation and respond to each other. The students remind each other to use their routines and resources and they even use their Success Criteria to determine their work.”

Coach: “How do you monitor that all of that is taking place? How do you handle those students that aren’t responding?”

Teacher: “My job is to walk around and watch/listen to confirm if students participate. I provide micro-interventions if most or some teams do not respond to each other, but I don’t rescue them!”

Coach: “As students work together, how do you verify and track if students are demonstrating the Learning Target?”

Teacher: “I identify what and who to focus on based on prior evidence. I also use Standards Tracker to verify each student’s achievement of the Learning Target based on Success Criteria. It is important that I determine and document student evidence of the Learning Target being met/not met/in progress.”

Coach: “How did you identify and facilitate support for students who are not progressing toward the Learning Target(s)?”

Teacher: “I sent you a Look and Learn invitation to visit my room tomorrow, I’d like support in the micro-intervention component of Step 3 in Teacher Verify.”

One year ago, according to the iReady Diagnostic 3 ELA Assessment, only 35% of this teachers students were at grade level at the end of the year. This year, 60% of her students scored at grade level on the Diagnostic 3 ELA Assessment. Through coaching and releasing more ownership to our students, I found that even teachers that have been teaching for over 20 years can change their old practices and do what’s best for kids.

One of our teachers, Shawna Wachter, was hired to teach fifth grad at Deerwood. She noticed that students struggled to interact. They struggled in task comprehension, but more importantly, struggled to speak to one another.

Through the scope of the LSI Teaming techniques, her class began to flourish. Based on the iReady Diagnostic 2 Reading Assessment, Ms. Wachter’s classes showed 95% growth.

Not only did her students understand particular directions, they collaborated and completely owned their roles. They knew if one team member didn’t contribute, the team would not be successful.

Our most recent 3rd Grade ELA Florida State Assessment showed that the grade level made a 9% increase. While we are still lacking proficiency, we know that if all grade levels are dedicated to making teams a part of its every day learning our students will continue to show significant growth. For it to happen, it has to be consistent from Kindergarten to 5th Grade.

Teams has changed Deerwood. In January, the Chief of Staff visited our school, and he saw such a change in the delivery of instruction in a short period of time. We are anxiously awaiting the other results of our state assessment, but we are confident that we will show growth. By this time next year, we are even more confident that we will make big jumps with student achievement.