Can’t believe that our amazing trip to the States is fast drawing to a close. It seems only yesterday that Anne & I arrived and yet tonight we head to the airport for our flight home to Australia. I’ve been doubly fortunate on this trip because I not only attended a huge CI conference in Cincinnati, Ohio, but I also spent time with my American based family in Los Angeles and West Virginia.
The conference began with a Coaching for Coaches (C4C) workshop. This workshop was an optional extra and there were roughly (don’t quote me!) about 60 people attending; 30 coaches and 30 teachers training to be coaches. The coaches got together in the morning to meet our team, get to know each other, review coaching skills and be informed of our duties during the conference. My team leader was Gary DiBianco and I thoroughly appreciated the opportunity to work as an assistant coach with him and Nelly Hughes. Nelly & Gary were very patient and kind with me which I totally appreciated because the day I left Australia, I had received some professional feedback that shook my confidence and self esteem to the core. Thus during the conference, I battled intense feelings of being an imposter and a fraud on top of being totally overwhelmed by the sheer size of the conference. There were 515 people!
I just love the C4C model because it positively supports CI teachers keen to improve their practise. I attended C4C in Agen last year and appreciated the opportunity to attend in Cincinnati as an assistant coach. Thank you so much Teri! This helped to refresh my understandings from last year as well as gaining a few bonus extras (e.g. how to warm teachers up when no one wants to demo, turning negative observations around, dealing with demos that incorporate aspects inconsistent with good acquisition practise, ). I love how C4C focuses solely on building community with students and keeping the language comprehensible. Just as it is for students in a CI classroom, C4C sets teachers up for success by providing feedforward (not feed
back) that helps guide teachers forward. FeedForward is ‘kind, meaningful, tactful, positive and useful’ unlike feed back which is soul destroying, mean and increases feelings of self doubt. Carol Gaab stated while opening the conference that “Collegiality is expertise wrapped in kindness” which sums C4C up beautifully.
Over the week of iFLT2018, our coaching cohort met each day, except Friday, at 10am for an hour . While this meant we missed one of the available workshops or language labs, it was an invaluable opportunity to work on coaching and teaching skills. Our cohort started off with roughly 20 members which were divided evenly between Nelly and Gary however as the conference progressed, the numbers dropped and by Thursday we all met as one group.
As this was an intermediate group, coaching at first focused on specific skills; e.g. Picture Talk, Movie Talk (Jurassic Fart or BHD Cactus Bank), Reading and ‘Authres’ (authentic resources) before moving to focusing on skills that individual teachers chose to work on. Skills chosen by our group included incorporating actors, asking a story, Kursi Luar Biasa (Anne), 3 ring circus, card talk/circling with balls, to mention a few.
There were also bonus coaching sessions available at the end of the day until 5pm. I enjoyed this because it gave me an opportunity to observe other coaches in action. I particularly appreciated listening to the language other coaches used when explaining the three areas for feedforward:
2. connection with students &
3. specific chosen skill.
The second point is one I usually have difficulty explaining clearly. I was delighted to hear Clarice Swaney and Michele Whaley describe it as ‘building community’ and ‘building rapport with students’ which really resonates with me.
The coaches coaching aspect that ran throughout iFLT 2018 is a brilliant model and I am keen to propose it for future Australian CI conferences. It provides an opportunity for teachers to reflect upon and practise a wide range of skills in a safe and supportive setting throughout the conference while it is all still fresh in our minds. Teri Weichart spent hours matching up people with their coaches and it paid off. I truly appreciated the opportunity to get to know and work closely with a couple of CI teachers who I feel confident about contacting in the future should I need advice. This too, would be an invaluable way of establishing strong networks (PLN’s) during conferences to provide ongoing support & advice after the conference has finished.