Don’t get me wrong: I wouldn’t trade live, in-person interactions for anything!
So I was surprised when, after my first three coaching sessions on Skype, I realized there are some coaching tasks that work BETTER virtually than in person.
1. I get to be IN the kid’s study space…without ever leaving my home! Take my recent Skype client, Roxie. The computer in her house is in a room with a couch, which Roxie playfully calls her “couch of learning” (see it in the background, there?). Seeing a kid’s study space helps me better envision how to support her in being an effective learner. Plus, as we are discussing better study habits, the client is sitting in the room where she does her studying… reinforcing these habits in the exact location that she will need them. My own mini version of place-based learning!
2. The student and I can literally be “on the same page.” When we meet in person, the student and I have a white board that helps us be visually “on the same page.” When we meet virtually, I use a Google Spreadsheet as our visual space. When we meet in person, the white board gets erased at the end of the session; however, when we meet virtually, the Google Spreadsheet saves all our work. Both the student and I (and their parents!) have a running track record of the work we’ve done. See the pictures below for some examples of how I use the spreadsheet.
3. Virtual coaching forces me to be a more active coach. In order to keep the student engaged for the full hour of the session, I have to think of more activities for my client to do. Every five minutes I’m asking my client to do something new; when we’re in person, there’s a lot more gabbing and a lot less doing (although I imagine this will change; skyping is helping me learn new habits that I can transfer to the in-person coaching session).
Here are some examples of what Roxie and did in our last session:
We always begin our session with a “show and tell.” Here Roxie is proudly showing off her entire research paper organized into paragraphs on rings!! Evidently she kept on telling her mom, “I haven’t lost a single card!” Roxie struggles with organization, so this is a huge feat!
We’ve been working on study methods that are more fun. Last week I asked Roxie to draw pictures for all her science key terms. The above picture describes the wet environment in which most fungi thrive (see the raindrops inside the house? See my big grin as I listen to her explain the drawing?).
Google Spreadsheets now includes a drawing tool. I love asking kids to draw pictures and then guess why they are relevant. To that end, I asked Roxie to use her drawing tool to create an eye, ear, hand, and lips. We then discussed how each “sense” is a study technique, and I asked her to label each of her drawings. Finally, we applied these four techniques to planning for an upcoming geography test:
First, I had Roxie fill out the yellow column by identifying different tasks her teacher expected her to do. Although we didn’t have time to fill out the whole chart, we at least brainstormed some possible study techniques for how she might remember the various resources that the rainforest provides. By the time we finished, she was surprised that there were so many interesting options for how to prepare for the test.
At some point in each session, I have kids insert data into a graph so that they can watch their grades improve as their habits become ingrained. Here Roxie boosted her grades by a) using a homework folder to ensure she always turns her work in, b) ensuring she does her homework at a consistent time each day, c) packing her backpack the night before so she doesn’t forget anything important, and d) making sure her locker stays clean. As a result, check out these upward trending lines:
Roxie and I live on opposite sides of the country. I never, in my wildest dreams, would have expected that coaching from afar could be as effective and satisfying as it is.
If the upward trending lines above aren’t proof enough that virtual coaching is effective, here’s another story: at the end of yesterday’s session, we’d covered all the info I’d intended in five sessions. I asked Roxie to chat with her mom about next steps.
The email I received the next day reported the following: Roxie loves the study tips and wants one full more session to make sure her skills are rock solid. Then she wants several more shorter check-ins, to make sure she’s following through with all her great new habits. What a smart idea!
A final thing I love about Skype: virtual sessions can only work with clients who really want to work with me. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be motivated to stay engaged with a computer screen for a full hour. What a pleasure it is, for me to work with clients who are so dedicated to their own growth. At the ripe ol’ age of thirteen. Go Roxie! (Which, by the way, is not her real name.)
I love your enthusiasm! It’s so neat to get an idea of what you’re up to.
I love the graph with the four learning techniques. This would be a great tool for all coaches to use with students and the graph is cool to! Who says the only way to quantify progress is grades! Wish schools would add a graphic like this to help kids assess their own progress. Bravo Gretchen. Such a great and successful experiment.
Yeah! You make learning sound like so much fun! You are doing great work in the world, Gretchen. Keep it up!
Thanks, Elizabeth! I try to make things fun. Or rather, I try to help kids find their OWN ways to make learning fun. That’s a big difference between Gretchen-the-Teacher and Gretchen-the-Coach. When I was a classroom teacher, I bent over backwards to find fun ways to learn history together. Although my classes had a good time together, I wasn’t necessarily building my own students’ skills. Now I get to help kids find the fun for themselves, and that feels like a much better life-long lesson.
Beth, isn’t that graph great!? I didn’t *plan* to do it; it just flowed out as a part of the coaching session (probably as a result of using the spreadsheet as our “white board”). I’m glad you find it valuable enough to share with the other SOS coaches. Please feel free to forward this link to them.