Elena Aguilar Reveals Her Own Virtual Coaching Experiences

  • Elena Aguilar, instructional coaching expert and author, gives insights into what makes an effective instructional coach during a time of virtual coaching.
  • Elena Aguilar believes coaching doesn’t depend on being in-person. Good coaching depends on helping someone unpack what they think, believe, and feel.
  • Elena shares how Covid-19 provides an opportunity for stronger relationships and deeper trust between coaches and teachers.

“A coaching partnership is only as impactful for kids as the relationship between the coach and teacher,” Elena Aguilar said during part 3 of her lounge talk conversation with Edthena CEO Adam Geller.

We’ve summarized part 2 of their conversation as well. If you haven’t read that yet, click here to learn more about how Elena Aguilar believes coaches can be emotional support systems for teachers right now!

Elena Aguilar is an instructional and leadership coach, and immensely experienced classroom teacher. She is best known for authoring multiple books, including The Art of Coaching: Effective Strategies for School Transformation and Onward: Cultivating Emotional Resilience. She is an expert in developing ways to lead students to success through positive conversations between the teachers and their coaches who support them.

This segment of the interview focuses on Elena Aguilar’s perspective on what makes an effective instructional coach. For instructional coaches and teachers to have a high impact relationship for their students, she believes the coaches must be true thought partners with their teachers.

Coaches are not always the “experts and holders of knowledge and wisdom” in every situation. Elena Aguilar is adamant that effective instructional coaches should focus on being authentic with their teachers by helping them problem solve and strategize, rather than just telling them what to do.

Fortunately for all of you coaches out there asking about how you can create this positive relationship with your teachers in a time where you might not be able to see them in person, Elena has answers.

She finds that a phone or video conversation between coaches and teachers has the potential to feel less regimented than an in-person conversation at school. When both parties feel comfortable and relaxed, Elena believes that the conversation can almost be more powerful than it might have been in a formal environment.

The full interview segment of part 3 of the 4-part conversation is included above, and highlights of the interview are below.

How does the coaching relationship work in a virtual environment?elena aguilar is an instructional coach for teacher professional development and video coaching

I think there’s an opportunity for deepening relationships between coaches and teachers. A coaching partnership is only as powerful for students as the relationship between the coach and the teacher. So, I think that the opportunity for stronger relationships and deeper trust between the teachers and coaches is there.

We are all in this situation, Covid-19, together and we are all trying to figure it out together. I think there’s an opportunity for coaches to truly partner with teachers, and not think that they are the experts and the holders of knowledge and wisdom in everything. Coaches have the opportunity to truly authentically engage teachers in problem-solving and strategizing.

During distance teaching, do you believe some of the mindsets will change regarding how we define a positive coaching relationship?

A coach is still able to observe an educator teaching in Zoom now. A coach can show up in a classroom. A coach can still look at a teacher’s lesson plans or unit plans. I hope this could be an opportunity to define what coaching is.

In many places, there is not a clear definition of what coaching is. Perhaps, now, there’s an opportunity for people to say, what does a coach do? What are the coach’s goals? Why do coaches exist?

If coaching is a way to help teachers develop professionally and to meet the needs of their students, then that can happen whether we are in schools with the students or in a virtual environment. It is less about what a teacher does and much more about what they think, what they believe, and who they are being when they are with students.

How can coaches practice this new style of coaching?

Having fewer data inputs means that we have to pay closer attention to the data that we do have. The data that we do have includes facial expressions, tone of voice, pitch, pace, volume, and the words being conveyed. I think it is a misconception that coaches are limited in some way because they can only meet virtually.

Perhaps we are relying on things we don’t need if we think that the only way we can do coaching is if we are meeting in person and we are going into a classroom. If coaching is really a tool or set of strategies to unpack what someone thinks, believes, and feels, then that can happen very effectively over the phone or through video. I’ve had a coach for

How are coaching conversations looking different for you during Covid-19?

I coached someone last week. I was sitting at my desk in my office, and she was lying in her bed. At first, I thought this was strange. It was the second time I had met with her. On the other hand, she was very relaxed and deeply reflective, and our conversation was really powerful.

A part of me was thinking, she is a school principal and if I had met her in her school, she would have been in her office sitting at her desk with her secretary outside with all the sounds. In the current scenario, she is able to think about who she is and how she is leading her school.

After the conversation, I felt as though that was one of the most powerful, intense, and amazing coaching conversations that I ever have had. I am curious about what is possible. There is an urgency right now, and I am feeling the same way. Let’s get straight to the heart of things and see what happens.

Like what your reading, watch more videos at PLTogether.org or read our most recent interview with Ayodele Harrison about creating safe spaces for dialogue for black male educators.

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