States of Mind












(This scenario is based on a real situation of coaching a student teacher.)


Consciousness: Monitoring one's own values, intentions, thoughts and behaviors and their effects. (Abrams, 2001)

Abrams tells us that a coach uses what a novice teacher says as a guide to the ways of thinking that need "shifting" before that teacher can address other problems with instructional practice. Consider this example of a student teacher's problematic thinking. Notice how the coach responds in order to shift the teacher's thinking and foster consciousness. The coach's role here is to help beginning teachers monitor and reflect on their instructional practice.

The number of things that a person must keep in mind while teaching is enormous. Researchers have identified thousands of decisions that a teacher must make in the course of a lesson. It’s easy to get pulled into the discussion of one group or to be lured into the content itself. Abrams gives examples of teachers saying, “I didn't notice (the kid) went to the bathroom for that long." Or, “I looked up and the hour was gone.”

Coaches can’t help student teachers grow eyes in the back of their head, but they can use questions to heighten their awareness of their movements in the classroom and their use of successful strategies. For example, "I noticed that when Brittany made a rude comment, you stopped and moved away from her. Can you recall what you were thinking?"

Video observations can be very useful in helping teachers raise their consciousness of their own and students' reactions to classroom situations. Because they allow a coach to “freeze” a moment in time, the teacher can see a situation more realistically than when just based on recall.

clipScenario: "We were all reading."

While teaching in a 4th-grade language arts block in an inclusion classroom with 5 children with special needs in the classroom, Sally, a novice teacher, was observed directing the students to take out their “reading choice” book for the week and begin 20 minutes of silent reading. Many, but not all, of the students responded to the direction by immediately taking out a book and placing it on the desk in front of them. Most seemed to just let the book lay on the desk without really performing any reading. Evidence of this was that some opened the book and acted like they were reading, but never flipped the pages and some even more overtly held the book up while talking to other students. Then there were students who put their heads on the table never even feigning to read their book.

The silent reading period is a mandated time in the school daily schedule intended to help students practice their developing reading skills and Sally incorporated this into her written lesson plan stating that this is time to achieve the 75-100 minutes a week of individual reading practice. The school recommends that teachers model that reading is pleasurable by using this time for reading themselves and that’s what Sally did. She set a timer and, as long as the students were quiet, she didn’t glance up from her book until the timer went off. When it beeped, she closed her book and stood up and told the students they were starting a new unit on Virginia ghost stories.

As our post observation conference moved along to her thinking about challenges she was facing, I asked, “What do you think is the impact of the silent reading time? I was wondering especially about the kids with special needs in the room.”

Funding for this website came from the Virginia Department of Education Award #879-SY08 CFG to Dr. Sandi Cohen and Dr. Ruth Ferree at the Curry School of Education. Questions should be sent to Dr. Ferree at