Learning to Coach, Coaching to Learn pt. 4

I’m currently taking the Eduro Learning Coaching: From Theory to Practice course with the AISQ8 leadership cohort. Since the our forum posts are private, I’ve asked my coachee if I could post my reflections on my blog. Thankfully she obliged!

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

Week 6
Develop a strategy for supporting and empowering learning leaders in your school. This will become part of your action plan to be completed next week.

As we’ve progressed throughout this course, a couple things have planted themselves in my head and they’ve been bouncing around ever since. I don’t know the answers or if there even is a black/white answer. But I need to let them out for discussion & analysis.

To be a high-quality, sought-after coach, what level of content expertise is needed?
Effective coaching thrives not on quick fixes and ready answers, but on questioning and listening. (It’s All about the Questions)
If we are not meant to give advice but instead use questioning techniques to help “teachers explore the thinking behind their practices” and to come to their own conclusions about their practice, do we actually need to be content experts? Many of the U14 girls that I coach could outplay me in soccer. Does that mean I am not qualified to be their coach? How many years of teaching experience do I need in order to be considered for an instructional coaching position? Or do I “simply” need to have training and experience coaching teachers? My thoughts on this question vary on a daily basis. To effectively coach a teacher on integrating technology into their instruction, I probably need some level of pedagogical knowledge about technology integration. However if my main goal is not to walk into their classroom and impose all my ideas on them, what level of knowledge do I actually need? I have spent the last 3 years expanding my content knowledge through COETAIL and an MEd in School Tech Leadership. Going forward, I am increasingly interested in honing my coaching skills. This class has allowed me to find and sort out but I want to go (much) further. Right now I’m trying to figure out how I can finagle getting trained in Cognitive Coaching and become a Critical Friends Group Coach in the next 2.5 years. 😉

How much time should instructional coaches spend teaching students in other teachers’ classrooms?
If we are instructional coaches, how often should I be taking over a teacher’s classroom? Is is appropriate for me to spend a significant amount of time developing lessons (by myself) and implementing them in someone else’s classroom? Assuming that most of us went into education for the students, it’s difficult to be disconnected from the classroom, to lose the control that having your own classroom gives us. But if our primary job is to help teachers examine their own instructional practice (see above), how much time should I spend instructing? I waffle on my thoughts to this question less than I do the last one. If a coach is going to model a lesson, I believe that there need to be structures in place to ensure that the modeling/observation is a learning experience for both the coach and the coachee. It is counter productive for me to teach a lesson without the teacher in the classroom. Just as there is a pre-observation & debrief when the teacher is being observed by the coach, model lessons taught by the coach need to have these same meetings. After our Critical Friends Group last weekend and the current #AISQ8chat about 2015 successes, I’ve become a little obsessed with the Success Analysis Protocol (there are many versions of the protocol here and also many other observation protocols here). As Christina and I were chatting, we brainstormed using a Success Analysis for a modeling/observation. In the debrief, the teacher (observer) identifies a success from the coach’s (model) lesson, determines why it was so successful and then identifies how that success might have an impact on their own practice. Model lessons taught by coaches & observed by teachers might also be a great place to incorporate lesson studies. The relationship then becomes a collaborative, co-coaching relationship, instead of purely specialist coaching, that allows all involved to grow professionally. This kind of relationship is about “two creative people fine-tuning their best ideas” with a focus on student learning and great teaching.

Who needs a coach?
My thoughts on this one vary the least. Everyone. The question really comes back to how we define coaching: “The responsibility of coaches is ‘to help maximize personal and professional potential, while concomitantly upgrading their own professional proficiency. Coaching is customized and focused on providing instruction on what needs to be accomplished. Coaches tailor support, assess each teacher’s progress with observations, use interviews and surveys, and have follow-up visits. Teachers feel more motivated and responsible to act on new skills because coaching makes them personalized and customized on an ongoing basis’ (Wong & Wong, 2008).” Is our “personal and professional potential” ever truly maximized? If we employ a growth mindset, then there is always a need for a coach. If we make another link to athletic coaching, you’d be hard pressed to find an athlete in the world who doesn’t have a coach. Even professional and Olympic athletes have coaches. They know that their potential hasn’t been reached and they keep striving. At that level it is nearly impossible to find a coach that is a better athlete than they are. However all athletes at all levels still have coaches. Educators at all levels have the potential to get even better. And they need coaches to help push them to reach and exceed this potential.

Right now I’m most interested in the front-end and back-end of coaching at AIS.
Front-end:
During my 3+ years in the position of Technology Integration Coach, I feel as though we are the most obvious coaches (we have it in our title) however we are the least utilized. Why? My hypothesis has two major factors:

  • A lack of shared vision around educational technology.
    • If you asked educators at AIS why they should integrate technology into their lessons, you would probably receive as many different responses as their are staff members.
  • Teachers don’t understand our purpose (and maybe we haven’t always understood it either).
    • Unlike many of the other positions of leadership at AIS, no one is required to work with us in any way. Teachers have regularly scheduled meetings and collaboration with many of the other leadership positions (HoDs, Programme Coordinators, Literacy Coaches) however tech coaches have never had a consistent in-road to working with teachers.

My job title next year changes to Instructional Coach – Technology Integration. Both a shared vision and purpose are necessary for anyone in this position to have the opportunity to be successful going forward. I am most uncomfortable advertising my services however teachers need to know I exist in order to elect to work with me. My action plan needs to include vision & mission driven steps to make AIS staff aware of the benefits of working with people in my position.

Back-end:
At the end of the year (or my time here), how will I know that I’ve been successful? How will I know that I am competent at my job? I crave feedback. But it needs to authentic and valid. Some of the only feedback I’ve received from administration on how well I’m doing my job in the past 3.5 years has been based what they’ve heard from teachers. Do we base teachers’ worth and quality solely on what the students who choose to engage in discussion with admin have to say? No? Then we probably shouldn’t base a coach’s worth on the same thing. We need to implement feedback and assessment practices so that coaches have the opportunity to continue to learn and grow. The ISTE Standards for Coaches are a great place to start. My action plan needs to include steps for measuring and evaluating the effectiveness of coaching.

 

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2 comments

  1. tap54 · December 17, 2015

    Hi Lissa:
    I really got a lot out of your post!! Your first question about content area was very relevant to me! Sometimes the most knowledgeable people make the worst coaches! Unfortunately, I have seen this a lot in tech where I asked for someone to “lead me through a process and they come in and start clicking through things quickly because it is easy for them, not understanding I WANT to learn the steps and need more time for assimilation! This happened frequently at a school I worked at a number of years ago. By not coaching and allowing me to learn I felt 1. technologically challenged, 2. slow and old, and 3. frustrated and angry because the person did not allow me the honor of being a learner. It is really important as a coach to keep that classroom learning perspective!

    In much the same manner, as a teacher I don’t want to take away the joy of my students when they learn things! My job is NOT to do tasks for them…but to suggest, coax, trigger, guide, question, inquire, and think out loud for curiosity’s sake and then step out of the way while the learning happens. To have the confidence and autonomy to do this job, teachers need to feel support and strength from each other. It is not enough to simply have admin say it. Developing coaching skills, in my view, is an art. It is riding that balance of knowledge and inspiration, without imposing too much of either on the other person.

    This steps into your second question about “intruding into someone else’s teaching space. Taking time in other teacher’s classrooms is different than stepping in. If a modeling is in practice, both teachers are present. If observation is occurring, both teachers are present. For best reflection, I believe both teachers need to be present. In that sense, just like the co-coaching model, the best representation is when both teachers are reciprocating and cognitively reflecting together to gain optimum results.

    Your questions were really thought provoking Lissa… I can’t wait to have ongoing conversations here at school!
    Terry

    Like

  2. Pingback: Learning to Coach, Coaching to Learn pt. 5 | te(a)ch french

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