top of page
Desert Highway
Thoughtful writing authored and shared by members of of the Thinking Collaborative community to support others on the journey.

Sustaining the Journey

Navigating Support Functions

Authored By:

Thinking Collaborative


May 11, 2015

This week, we continue to chronicle the reflections of a Cognitive Coach working with a teacher who has transformed through the coaching process. We have not included names in order to protect confidentiality. The themes of this case study reverberate through many systems and serve as important learning for us all.

During the month of January, I continued to visit the teacher’s classroom and have reflective conversations following each visit. With each conversation, she identified personal areas of learning and established next steps for continued growth. There continued to be hurdles and I navigated all support functions at one time or another. One day in early February, I met with her before the lesson and she showed me a video she planned to use. Within seconds, I realized that the intended student audience was well above the level of her first graders, and that her lesson plan was focused on an objective that was not in our curriculum. I told her I needed to be direct with her. My words were that unless she followed the curriculum for the school division, she didn’t have a leg to stand on and neither I nor anyone else could back her.

Visibly concerned, she asked what she would teach since the lesson was wrong and her students would be returning in 10 minutes. I pulled a lesson, literally out of the air. I found a set of cut-outs from her resources that were appropriate to the lesson, and told her exactly what she would do, how she would question the students, and how she would script their sentences after a turn-and-talk. She would emphasize their use of any key vocabulary from their responses and from there, we would tag-team the lesson. She was hesitant and asked what if she didn’t remember everything. I told her she could lean on me as we were in this lesson together.

Her experience with the lesson and her observation of what I contributed, and how the lesson built upon her students’ prior knowledge and experiences supported a huge cognitive shift that happened as she reflected on the lesson and her observations of her students. Since that visit, I noticed continued positive changes in her lesson design and the inclusion of engagement strategies for her young learners.

The first week of March I was present for another lesson. It was amazing! She focused on her students, their thinking, their sharing, capturing their thoughts in writing, good questions, hands-on learning and inquiry. I was absolutely thrilled and stunned at the same time. When I entered her room that day, she was smiling, she was energized and I could feel the energy in the room.

The reflection that day was more coachee talk than ever. She realized things about herself and about her students. She verbalized that she wasn’t giving her students credit for all that they were capable of doing. She was too focused on their behavior instead of their talk and she now knew her curriculum and that connection had made a huge difference. She had been focused on the skills of the older students she had previously taught and knowing first grade curriculum had made planning much easier. She said she was too focused on telling her students everything instead of letting them share their thinking and building on what they knew.

She mentioned that in her team meetings she had called the team’s attention to things they talked about including in lessons that weren’t in the curriculum. She then began elaborating about how she was making adjustments in some of the tasks she was including in her lessons. She talked about changes she had included to meet the needs of her struggling learners and those students who always finish quickly. My paraphrase acknowledged her differentiation for the range of learners in her room. She experienced another major cognitive shift and shared that she had been making differentiation way too difficult. Differentiation was an area where she struggled when we first met, but was a targeted area for growth. Our team taught lesson, collaboration, and all the reflective conversations had impacted her thinking about the needs of her students.

She told me about how she had approached her principal after our last conversation and how she began the next meeting with her by focusing on all the positive changes in her room, herself, and in her students. She said it changed the way her principal talked to her, even to the point that the principal changed the reflection form she had asked her to complete before their weekly meetings. Instead of going through all the changes that were needed and what had been wrong, the form started with all the positives about her week and the learning of her students.


How did the coach navigate support functions?

What might have been some of the internal thought processes of the coach in doing so?

How did the coach use States of Mind in developing this teacher?

What learnings are you taking away from the coach’s approach?

bottom of page