100 Positive Experiences: Experience #4 Tips for Improving your Listening Skills as a Literacy Coach

When we enter into a coaching situation it is important that we consciously block out the the thoughts running through our mind.  It is easy for our mind to start to wander and think about:

  • our mile long to do list
  • observations from the classroom we just visited
  • what we are going to say during our upcoming meeting with administration
  • the disagreement we had with our son before school started
  • judgments about what the teacher is saying
  • what our response might be back to the teacher

It is vital that we block out all of this internal noise and listen actively to the teachers we meet with in order to coach more effectively.

Why is it important to REALLY listen?

Actively listening helps us to build trusting relationships with the teachers we work with.  When we take the time to really listen to what a teacher has to say  we are showing them that we care enough to give them our undivided attention.  When we clear our mind and really listen we can pick up on non-verbal cues.  For example, Sally might be nodding her head “yes” and murmuring an agreement that the strategy you suggested will work with her class, but the lack of eye contact and change in body language are indicating that she might feel otherwise.  Noticing Sally’s body language will help us to adjust our next steps.  Careful listening allows us to clearly understand what the teacher we are meeting with needs from us. We will have a better understanding of what her expectations are for our work together.  It can be damaging to our work with teachers if we don’t follow through with what the teacher expected because of a misunderstanding on our part.

How can we show we are listening?

We can show that we are listening by paraphrasing what was said.  We might say,

  • “So what you are saying is  ___________________.”
  • “Is this right?  You are thinking that  ________________________.”
  • “In other words, you need ________________.”
  • “I hear you saying that __________________.”

We can also show we’re listening by summarizing intentions or next steps.  We could say,

  • “The plan for my next visit is  _____________________________.  Does that sound right?”
  • “What you need from me before Friday is _______________________.”

I try not to summarize the teacher’s learning because I feel strongly that if we want the teacher to internalize their learning we want to put the reflecting in their hands.

How can we be a good listeners?

While listening to the teacher try to stay neutral and not let your face or body language convey emotion. Most people will not respond well to eye rolling or a sudden frown.  Staying neutral will encourage the person to continue talking.  If you are keeping your mind clear of judgment you will find this easier to do.  Be curious.  Ask the teacher questions to better understand the context and dig deeper into their thinking, intentions, challenges, and goals.  Asking genuine questions helps the teacher to see you as sincere.  You can strengthen your listening skills through practice, practice, practice.  Practice doesn’t have to be just with other educators.  You can practice with your family and they will probably love having your complete attention!



Barkley, S.G. (2005). Quality teaching in a culture of coaching. (pp. 75-77). Lanham, MD: Rowman &7 Littlefield Education

Knight, J. (2007).  Instructional Coaching:  A Partnership Approach to Improving Instruction.  Thousand Oaks, CA:  Corwin Press.

6 thoughts on “100 Positive Experiences: Experience #4 Tips for Improving your Listening Skills as a Literacy Coach

  1. Pingback: 100 Positive Experiences: Experience #7, keep it confidential  – Literacy Pages

  2. Pingback: Support for Literacy/Instructional Coaches – Literacy Pages

  3. Pingback: 100 Positive Experiences: How literacy coaches can develop strong relationships with teachers – Literacy Pages

  4. Pingback: 100 Positive Experiences: #1 Be on time. Every time. – Literacy Pages

  5. Pingback: 100 Positive Experiences: Experience #2 Work harder than the teacher – Literacy Pages

  6. Pingback: 100 Positive Experiences: Experience #3 No agendas – Literacy Pages

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