Lana Learn academic coach gives a semester in review and details the planning and preparation needed for High-Impact Tutoring.
On Thursday February 16th, 2023, I had my first site visit and High-Impact Tutoring (HIT) program meeting at Thurgood Marshall Academy (TMA) here in Washington DC. The last day of classes and HIT coaching sessions for this first cohort of students was Friday, June 9th. I have taken the liberty of writing a “semester in review” to reflect on my first installment of HIT coaching sessions.
Here is a summary of the HIT programming TMA thus far, with key events and dates emphasized.
February 16, 2023 – First site visit and HIT program meeting at Thurgood Marshall:
Jordan Spooner (Lana Learn DC director) and I met with Hamzat Saba and Sanjay Mitchell from TMA administration. At this meeting, we discussed the vision and goals of implementing the HIT program at TMA. School administration addressed current key issues such as curriculum alignment and collaboration with teachers, staff, and families. These factors played a role in our student cohort selection. We also addressed logistic issues such as coaching space and scheduling.
It was a very productive meeting. I was struck by Mr. Mitchell and Mr. Saba’s obvious passion and vision for what High-Impact Tutoring could be at Thurgood Marshall. They essentially informed me that the students I would be working with were, “B students who should be A students,” due to lack of challenge in the classroom. It would be my responsibility to help them get there!
By the end of the day, I left Thurgood Marshall feeling very energized and excited about the prospect of coaching, teaching, mentoring, and inspiring the students I would be working with. However, due to Presidents’ Day/February break, I would have to wait till February 28th to start.
First month – classroom observations, program planning, creating coaching schedule:
I reported to TMA that week of February 28th, quite confident that, after a week of classroom observations, I would have my HIT coaching sessions up and running. Wishful thinking!
In retrospect, I recall that both my Lana Learn and HIT programming teams kept reminding me to “be patient.” I had to take the time to do the requisite foundational groundwork that would ensure program sustainability. What “groundwork” was that you ask?
To start with, I had 27 students (17 Math and 10 English language arts (ELA)) spread out over 10 different classes. Since I was on site only four days per week, the scheduling took some time. Similarly, it took a week to familiarize myself with the classrooms and class times I needed to know for observations.
Given the nature of my task, I required a minimum of two weeks of classroom observations. I paid attention to the teachers’ approaches and interactions with students and general student participation and engagement, or lack thereof! I then made more focused observations on selected HIT participants in their classes, honing in on teacher and classmate interactions. These detailed classroom profiles of my “clients” informed the individual conversations I had with them in our first coaching session. Additionally, I had conversations with teachers about each program participant. I required access to their syllabi, homework, and grades online. As you can imagine, those conversations were an ongoing dialogue throughout the school year.
All those class observations, teacher conversations, and grade analyzations were critical to my planning and shaping of the coaching sessions. Before any coaching would occur, it was clear that I had to:
- Know how each HIT participant was doing in their English and/or math classes and have a clear sense of their academic performance (grades and GPA).
- Make each coaching session flexible enough to address the specific academic and personal challenges of the HIT participants.
- Make “coming in to work with Mr. Toju” an engaging and even fun experience, that hopefully felt different than class!
Coaching sessions had to work in concert with students’ class schedules, hence the HIT Coaching weekly schedule. According to OSSE HIT guidelines, I had to establish a schedule that provided each participant a maximum of 90 minutes of weekly coaching in groups no larger than four. I ended up with groups of 2-4 students and utilized 30- and 45-minute sessions. Two students received individual coaching sessions, a function of scheduling and nothing more.
In the end, it took an entire month of research and planning before the first HIT coaching sessions began. But that month of laying the groundwork was essential and worth every minute. At the time, I did not realize that this mobilization period was also about creating connections with teachers, staff, and students at Thurgood Marshall. The school is a very dynamic, positive, supportive, and nurturing space for the students. That doesn’t happen by accident. The faculty and staff work hard to create that type of environment, and it requires teamwork; a level of collaboration, coordination, and communication informed by the “it takes a village” mindset!
Throughout my first month here, I was routinely asked, “How is it going? How can I help you?” and told, “We are so excited to have you here!” by teachers and staff alike. I always felt supported and now realize I was being embraced into that village supportive mesh that the students thrive on. I continue to consider myself quite fortunate to be working between two amazing teams: Lana Learn and Thurgood Marshall Academy.
*So, all of that, before the first HIT coaching sessions began?
Yes! And thanks to my Lana Learn and HIT@TMA team members for all the “be patient, do the groundwork” advice. It most certainly paid off! But I will talk about that, and the coaching sessions, in part two of this review.