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One-on-one Feedback Conversations

One-on-one Feedback Conversations

The most valuable feedback I have received has always come from one-on-one conversations. Plus these build stronger relationships and connections as I model vulnerability. I started these as a routine when I first began working as a Literacy Coach. I talked through my thinking with my principal and highlighted my desire to model and build trusting relationships where we could give and receive critical feedback. She suggested I collate the feedback, connect my goals to that feedback, and share these with the team at the start of the next school year. Her point was that this would demonstrate to the team that I valued and used their honest feedback to revise my coaching practice.

Two months before the end of the school year, I sent calendar invitations to all the teachers I had coached to join me in a reflective feedback conversation. Here is a sample note:





I can’t believe we are approaching the end of the academic year already. I value your perspective and would like to reflect on our work together this year. Specifically, in my role as Literacy Coach, I would love to hear any insights you may have on my strengths, areas for growth, or ways I could revise my coaching with you. I trust your honest feedback as I work to grow. Please let me know if there is a better time for us to meet.


During the conversation, I used those same prompts to guide our conversation: insights on my strengths, areas for growth, and ways I could revise my coaching practice. After the first year, I started simply using the more simple prompts: Stop, Start, Keep. One piece of feedback I received the first year was that this conversation felt late and the teacher asked that we instead reflect at the mid-year point. From then on, we had these conversations mid-year and I was able to apply the feedback during the second part of the year. 


Once I gathered all the feedback, I sent out a team message sharing my takeaways and how I would be revising my coaching practice. Here is a sample:


At the end of the last term, you generously helped me reflect on my work as a coach, and from those conversations I have set some goals for myself Some of those goals are about being deliberate to keep doing the things you’ve found helpful and supportive. These include differentiating our coaching work based on your goals, giving you time to practice new skills and strategies, planning together, asking probing questions, classroom visits and coaching work with students, and a shared openness and vulnerability in our learning together. While the other goals are to change something in my practice such as being more clear and marking deadlines in our work together, regularly sharing coaching work in team meetings, providing condensed reading to support the work we are doing in a coaching cycle, making more use of video recording to support our work together, facilitating more teachers visiting each others’ classrooms, making connections from individual goals to our work together, and looking for new ways to collaborate during planning with other departments.


Thank you so much for helping me to better understand how I can support you. My biggest takeaway is the importance of differentiated coaching. The above goals come from my notes of all our conversations and I will attempt to tailor my applications to your individual needs and feedback. I will keep working hard to build trusting relationships and hope that you will continue to let me know how we can best learn together. 


By sharing my goals from their feedback, I found that teachers appeared more comfortable sharing critical feedback. It certainly helped build trusting relationships. Once I started working with teachers outside of the Middle School English department, I had to be strategic about the number of these one-on-one feedback conversations I was having as I balanced my time. First, I prioritized new coaching relationships. Second, I reached out to teachers who were doing new types of coaching work with me. Finally, I offered an open invitation to anyone else that would like to share their feedback with me. There were always a few teachers who took me up on this. 


When I shifted roles to K-12 Head of Digital Learning and then Middle School Vice Principal, I brought this same feedback structure to my new collaborative relationships. Again, I have seen that over time, with a few conversations under our belts, people share more feedback. My hunch is that my principal from years back was absolutely right. People see that I value their honest feedback and trust me with more specific feedback over time. 


I am preparing for my first move in eleven years and starting to sort through my classroom, office, and home looking for those treasures worth bringing across the Pacific to my new home. As I flip through my stacks of notebooks, it’s been so encouraging to see my scribbles from these one-on-one conversations. Insights on my strengths and critical feedback points have been building blocks to my continued growth as a coach and leader. 

What structures do you use for one-on-one feedback conversations? What prompts help you gather open and honest feedback?




Writing in Middle School Art – Part 2

Writing in Middle School Art – Part 2

This year, the MS Art teachers have been investigating how they can better support their students as writers about art. We worked together in the first part of the year by looking at how students learn how to write other text types in English classes with the workshop model, the writing process, and the use of mentor texts. At the end of April, they invited me back to share some work they had tried and to think through some questions.

My messy, coded notes


As a coach, I find these kinds of conversations fascinating but also challenging as I work to balance consulting and coaching. My school has done a lot of work with Cognitive Coaching and we have a culture of using those tools to help each other reflect and plan. But as a MS Literacy Coach, I have expertise that they are seeking to tap into as they work with their students. I have found using a notebook to jot notes and code those notes as I listen helps me sort the elements of our conversation that I should support with consulting or doing some background work for them and the elements I should support with Cognitive Coaching to allow them to find their own next steps. It can be easy to slip into all consulting, but my notes become a nudge to pause my busy mind as it pulls up ideas and solutions. I can then ask a probing question and move the conversation toward coaching. 

As they shared the work they had done to write their own pieces as a mentor text for the students, I was thrilled to see they were thinking about differentiating this work for their more fluent writers and art thinkers by providing some high school student samples. I was then able to paraphrase and ask probing questions to help them identify additional strategies to support those students who might find this work challenging. Some of their ideas included creating additional teacher models with simpler text, marking up mentor texts with highlighters and labels for students to refer to when they are writing, planning for small group instruction, and creating charts to hang in the room with steps and key terminology.

That is a lot of new thinking! I ended our meeting by summarizing the key points, naming my next steps and the new ideas that they wanted to consider. I look forward to seeing how these creative and thoughtful teachers take the strategies we use in English and revamp them for their art students.

Using the Literacy Exchange Model to Build the Chinese Literacy Symposium

Using the Literacy Exchange Model to Build the Chinese Literacy Symposium

A few months ago Amanda Jacob, the Elementary Literacy Coordinator at Taipei American School, posted a photo to the Reading and Writing Workshop in International Schools Facebook group of their Mandarin team planning for shared reading in their classes. “It’s fascinating to see how structures I use for teaching reading in English work in Chinese. These teachers found great ways to support character learning and vocabulary building.” The comments started flooding in. 

Teachers in the region had questions. Others shared how they were investigating how other balanced literacy structures traditionally used in English classes might benefit student engagement and learning in Mandarin lessons. With a nudge from Erin Kent, our friend and fellow literary coach, to bring people together to share their work, willingness to help from a few literacy coaches, and strong support from the leadership at Taipei American School, the first Chinese Literacy Symposium was born.

Amanda and I started planning together using the work from the  Middle School Literacy Exchange to help us frame out the weekend. We set up a Google Site and gathered information regarding what people wanted to learn and share in connection with balanced literacy elements in Mandarin language classes.

From there, we created overarching goals.

  • Build community
  • Learn from and with each other
  • Create a shared understanding of workshop and balanced literacy
  • Make time to plan and create together

We looked back at our notes from the MS Literacy Exchange and worked to build from our reflection.

  • Having most or all of a teaching team participate builds momentum and increased application into daily practice. What would this look like in Elementary/Primary school?

In order to encourage teaching teams or partners to attend together, we were able to make this a free event (again, thanks to strong support from the TAS leadership). This was successful with many schools sending two or more participants, so teams were able to think together about the weekend’s learning fit their context.

  • Having a common starting point in our learning across schools allows the learning to be relevant to all participants.

While all the participants were not coming from the same starting point with trying out balanced literacy in their context, we were within a similar band of a year or two in our work. This meant that whole group instruction was relevant and small groups could zoom in the pieces they were ready for at this time.

  • Having common pedagogy rather than common curriculum allows the learning to be practical and hands on. What would this look like for Math or Science?

This was true for us as the focus was the pedagogical practices of balanced literacy components and how these have been or could be used in Mandarin language classes. There were some organic side conversations around curriculum and assessment that were useful for those who wanted to think more about these pieces.

  • Having coaches who can facilitate the exchange creates a clear, focused learning experience.

We had three literacy coaches lead whole group sessions and facilitate the learning across the two days. Then we had two additional literacy coaches help with the responsive planning and delivery of the day-two small groups based on day-one exit tickets. We also had three rounds of mini table presentations put on by the participants, so they could share their experiences with the group.

Overall, it was an exciting weekend of learning and exploring with each other. Participants came ready to learn and their noticings and questions throughout the symposium demonstrated critical and creative thinking as they considered how this learning could support students’ language learning and engagement. Here are some of the things the group noticed and questions they had.

How are you addressing these ideas and wonderings in your context?