Jim Knight reflects on the changes taking place in the coaching relationship in his conversation with Edthena founder Adam Geller.  Jim believes that connecting with a teacher’s social-emotional needs is even more important as the relationship becomes more virtual. This is part 3  of their 4-part PLTogether Lounge Talk conversation.

Here is the transcript of this conversation.

– This is a PLtogether lounge talk. I’m Adam Geller, Founder, and CEO of Edthena, the video coaching platform. And today, we’re talking with Jim Knight. He is someone that many people call a guru of instructional coaching and I would agree he’s written multiple books. He is truly an expert in this space. Jim, thanks so much for joining us.

– My pleasure to be here, thank you.

– So, you know, I’m thinking a lot about how, you know, one of the challenges with educators shifting to distance teaching is really wrestling with the fact that education for so long, has prioritized the idea of being in person, you know, we have a lot of structures and even just the way we award credits for things that are learned, right, it’s based on, you know, but in seat time.

– Right.

– So, you know, I’m curious about the dynamic of shifting to online and distanced collaboration among the educators. And how, and kind of your thoughts about how adult learning is needing to change for learning virtually.

– Well, I don’t think workshops are that great for our transformational change, for deep change. I think workshops are really good for providing an overview. But there needs to be more than an overview, that’s why we need coaching, you know, a workshop. You know, you give it a week and you’ve forgotten what happened at the workshop. And then you have to teach yourself over again, if you wanna do it, but then that’s a lot of work. So if you have a coach providing support, it’s gonna help you do it and I think we’re moving to a point where the coaching part is gonna be more preeminent than the workshop part. And so we can do a lot of things virtually that aren’t possible if it’s exclusively face to face. So I can differentiate in a whole lot of ways and also we can divide up into groups, we could meet at different times we can use asynchronous communication. So I think whether we call it remote learning or distance learning, or whatever we call it provides opportunities for professional learning that were there before we weren’t fully exploited. And I think it’s gonna work. So it’s gonna be helpful if you have a person who you can shoot your video to, or they can watch your lesson if it’s a lesson that’s happening virtually, then you can have a zoom call afterward and try different things out I mean. You’re able to respond and it should be more powerful than our more traditional forms of professional development.

– If you’re an educator and you’re trying to, you know, think about how you’ve learned as an adult, and how you’re getting better, and maybe not the substance of what you’re working on. I mean, do you think there are new skills that educators should be trying to kind of build to become professional learners that may not be in person anymore for these interactions?

– So you mean teachers?

– Yeah, teachers or I mean, even how coaches are learning to coach, I mean, I think it’s probably the same the question either way.

– Well, I think it’s really important that, and I see this more from the coaching perspective, ’cause that’s where I studied it. But it’s really important that professional developers reflect deeply on their beliefs. You know, Paulo Freire and “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” he talked about a few key concepts. If you wanna have a dialogue with somebody, these things have to be in place. He said, “You have to have humility “in the way you interact with the person.” Which is to say, I’m open to being changed by what you have to say. In fact, I’m encouraging you. And I wanna hear you, and I’m open. And you have to be, communicate faith, which is to say, I believe in you, I really believe in you, I really think you can succeed. And then he says the other condition is love, which is I’m engaging in my will for the good of you, I have an attitude of benevolence toward you. I mean, I really want you to succeed. And he said when people understand that we wanna hear what they have to say, we’re open to being changed by them. And then we believe in them, and we want what’s best for them. And they can tell this is not a trick, this is authentic. He said, then they’ll trust us. But the flip side is also true if any of those things are missing. So I think, I don’t know if it’s a new skill, but I think to be effective at this work, it’s really important to think carefully about our beliefs. Do our beliefs show that kind of recognition of the dignity of other human beings as John Crown on Apple says? And then I would say I don’t have research on this and the way I do for coaching but I would say the same thing applies and instruction is to step back and say what are the beliefs that guide my interactions with students? Till I truly see the dignity in every child that I teach. And do I really communicate that I believe in them? And do I genuinely want what’s best for each of my children? Then can they see those things? So I would say beliefs and then in terms of skills, try to figure some things out, like what does eye contact look like for coaching when you’re doing it, well through Zoom versus face to face but many of the other things still apply, I think that you let people finish their responses and you genuinely wanna hear what they have to say and you listen, you don’t interrupt, you don’t fidget with stuff while they’re talking. You pay attention to the person, it’s just harder especially with a group. When you sit down with a person, or even a group face to face you can feel if this is working or not. It’s counterintuitive, you get a sort of a physical understanding of what’s happening with the group. And that’s hard to do virtually, its hard to see that there. So figuring out how to do something like that, I think it’s probably key. I’ll stop interrupting.

– No, no, you’re fine. I think if I were to playback a bit of what I’m hearing here, the kind of groundwork that you would advise to have productive and successful interactions in person, are the same groundwork that you’re going to need virtually. I think you’re saying I don’t wanna assign this belief to you that the idea of being present for someone doesn’t necessarily have to be that physical presence and that there it’s, you know, being present, you need to kind of convey that, you know, in different ways and maybe more nuanced ways in a virtual context.

– Yeah, I think that, add on that. We did a survey sometime in April. And we just asked people what they were learning about remote learning. And the number one thing that came up in that survey and it wasn’t a real scientific thing, we just put it out on Twitter and people came on and did the survey. We had a couple of hundred responses, we beat the hundred minimum so we felt good about that. With the family feud number way we got that beat but their number one thing was you have to take care of the emotional needs of students. And you have to build relationships with kids, more than anything else. Yeah, that’s why I think one to one is gonna be really key. And then I did a study sort of where we met with leaders from districts around the country, and we just had about 20 people in four different focus groups. So four groups of five people and there everybody said that the social-emotional needs of teachers are really, really important. So I would say you’re absolutely right, relationships are gonna be critical, are critical, but we’ll be.

– How do you think that empathy and listening how do those ideas change in an online space or in an online context, and between a coach and a teacher or a school leader and a teacher?

– Well, I think the good thing is, you’re able to communicate in a number of different ways. And so you can find different opportunities for asynchronous communication video. We use Marco Polo a fair bit as a way to communicate. And you can just get online anywhere, now everybody’s home anyway, so they can just get on zoom. So the opportunity is there, but I think what’s different is you have to find other ways for lack of better terms, taking the temperature of the relationship. I really feel face to face, you can usually feel what’s happening, you get this sense of we’re in sync or we’re not in sync. But a face to face online, it’s a little harder to do it, you know. You still see some of the same things but you don’t have that, I don’t even know the feeling in the same way.

– You think you can learn to feel and an online video-based way the same you would if you had been in person?

– I think there are other opportunities for video presents the most important one being access and asynchronicity. And you can learn a lot of things that way that you wouldn’t ordinarily learn. So if we just did face to face we would lose things, I would wanna keep video as a part of it. But I think when you go online exclusively I don’t know, I’m just talking, I’m just sort of talking. So let’s help you can, but I don’t really know how to do that. I think it feels a little different.

– That’s fair, that’s fair. I wanted to hear that you hope you can. I think that’s what I was digging for there. Well, Jim, we’re gonna take a quick break. For those of you that are listening out there or watching this on some corner of the internet, head to pltogether.org. where we have the rest of our conversation, as well as other lounge talks with other education experts. We’ll be right back with more lounge talk with Jim. Thanks so much.

– Great.