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Blog Jan 11, 2018

Lessons for a New Teacher

Sarah Wechsler was an instructional coach at Fairmont Neighborhood School, one of Turnaround for Children’s New York City partner schools. She reflects on the importance of teacher coaching and building positive relational trust.

One of my favorite moments, or really series of moments from last year, was watching and coaching a new teacher, Ms. Emery*. She came in very excited, as any new teacher does, but quickly realized the intensity, complexity and struggle of everything you have to do. On top of that, she had five very intense boys in her class who would frequently have outbursts, cry, scream and throw tantrums.

We worked on everything from table to rug procedures for the students to how to prioritize a “to do” list, plus lots of emotional resiliency coaching and encouragement. Together, we developed a behavioral plan for the five boys and connected them to counseling services through Turnaround’s community mental health partnership. At one point, I could tell how overwhelmed she was feeling. I sort of took over the class for a day and modeled positive behavior to get the classroom back on track so that she would have an opportunity to watch and learn.

One turning point was when she reflected deeply on her language. She realized she was being way too negative and that this was affecting her relationships with her students. So she began to change the way she spoke to children with a focus on being much more positive and using what we call “the three Rs.” – reinforce, remind and redirect. Ms. Emery learned to reinforce positive behavior when students followed directions, such as sitting quietly on the rug; she would remind students of classroom expectations, including moving quickly from the rug to their desks, to maximize learning time; and she would get students who were distracted back on task by calmly and neutrally redirecting them, rather than feeding into the negative behavior. Soon, there was a noticeable difference. She had turned her classroom into a positive, well-functioning one. It was amazing!

With her classroom more positive and conducive to learning, her CLASS (third party observation) scores increased dramatically. Ms. Emery went from wanting to quit to getting excited about planning for the next year.

*The teacher’s name has been changed to protect her privacy.