Sunday, July 16, 2017

Coaching the Experienced Teacher

In many cases, coaches are hired who have far less experience than the teachers they are coaching. In the best of circumstances, I'm not a fan of one-coach-to-many-teachers model, but instead a fan of distributive leadership that includes co-coaching. In co-coaching models all teachers have time for research and development as well as coaching each other with their experience, expertise, skill, concept and knowledge.

Yet the one-coach-to-many-teachers model exists in many schools, and many experienced teachers have coaches who have far less classroom experience than they have. This often sets up an uncomfortable and even, at times, demeaning situation.

What's a coach to do?

What's a teacher to do?

It's important that coaches begin their tenure with transparency by letting all teachers know what their job description is, who they report to, how they are being evaluated, and the questions and expectations they have. In many circumstances the coach arrives without introduction and no one truly understands his/her position.

Next it's important for coaches to regard teachers as individuals. Similar to what's important when getting to know students, coaches need to take the time to know teachers well with questions such as the following:
  • Tell me what you're really proud of and what you do well?
  • Were you interested in becoming a coach, why or why not?
  • Do you have any areas of need or professional development/learning that I can help you with?
  • How can I help you to meet the needs of children with depth and breadth--what can I do?
Establishing strong, individual relationships with educators and with coaches is essential to doing the good work possible.

After that, work on a project or initiative together. Design the initiative well beginning with a meaningful problem/goal, setting success criteria, deciding on the measurements and designing the learning/teaching path. Work together to forward the initiative utilizing research, collegial support and other resources. Reflect and assess often. Ultimately reach a result and share that result with others.

Lend your support as teacher or coach to building and supporting a network of dynamic educators inside and outside of your learning community to help maximize the collective genius of the group. Communicate in ways that are streamlined, accessible, targeted, inclusive and not overwhelming. I believe a website is a good way to host information, and emails or twitter-like feeds can be used to announce website updates, additions and revisions. This is a good streamlined way to share information.

Celebrate success and make sure you have positive, regular face-to-face meetings. Try to communicate most logistics online so that the meetings together focus on important debate, discussion and share. 

The coaching position in many schools due to the scheduling, routine, hiring process and other details is often seen as an arduous add-on rather than a support. Yet in some schools the job is welcome by many. Sometimes the job is added to lessen the burden of administrators rather than to help educators. When this occurs, the role is not as effective as when it's a role born out of educator need and creation. And, as I noted above, I believe co-coaching is a better model for school development and growth.

No matter, I hope that the points above help educators and coaches deal with this new model in ways that count. Let me know if you have anything to add to this as I think more on the subject.