Four Tenets for Building a Coaching Culture

*All teachers deserve coaching

*Every teacher should have a growth plan and growth necessitates feedback

*The stronger a teacher becomes the more coaching they should receive

*Teacher leaders are the first to request coaching as they work to build the culture

A common concern that I hear from instructional coaches is the question of how to approach teachers who see no “need to” or “value from” working with a coach….teachers who are “fine”. These staff members often view coaching as a supervisory activity or a support structure for new or struggling teachers. They may view themselves as equally (or better) skilled than the coach and believe that coaching is an activity involving an advanced professional (coach) working with someone less skilled.

A focus from school administrative and teacher leadership on these four tenets can create a vision and understanding of coaching that increases teacher openness and vulnerability to seek the rewards of coaching for themselves and their students.

All teachers deserve coaching

I have found this wording to be important. I originally repeated a statement I heard others use, “All teachers need coaching.”

Consider the difference in definition.

Need – A condition or situation in which something must be supplied in order for a certain condition to be maintained or a desired state to be achieved.

Deserve-to merit, qualify for, or have a claim to because of actions, qualities, or circumstances

Everyone deserves a coach in order to have recognition for the complexity of the job and the celebration of successes (student learning) All teachers have had the experience of that magical learning moment with students happening, and no one was there to see it. It’s difficult to celebrate alone. While students appreciate the teachers “work” that led to their success, its often only another teacher who can appreciate the “work” the teacher executed.

Everyone deserves a coach because the task of generating success for EACH student is extremely complex and the collegial input and support of that goal is critical.

Every teacher should have a growth plan and growth necessitates feedback

I have written earlier that “there is no mountaintop” in teaching: there always remains a level of increasing student learning through teacher learning. “Creating a community of life- long learners” is a phrase found in many schools’ mission statements. Teachers need to be the critical models of that continuous learning. Implementing changes in the classroom that positively impact learners in a complicated process and ongoing feedback is critical.

Peer coaching allows the teacher to own and use the feedback as the teacher has decided and requested the desired feedback.

The stronger a teacher becomes, the more coaching they should receive.

Just as in sports and performing arts, the best get coached the most. The higher in ranking an athlete progresses, the lower the ratio of players to coach becomes. Top players have several coaches. Why? They perform at that complex a level. They require very narrow feedback at times.

Highly effective teachers may master changes more quickly and are ready for the next area of focus.

There is an extra bonus to the best receiving lots of coaching. The coach is learning. We want our most effective teachers’ practices being observed so that those observing can learn about the practices this teacher is implementing.

When the best teachers request coaching from their colleagues, they model the continuous growth culture as well as strong teaching practices. The peer coach need not be more skilled than the coachee. The coachee can direct the feedback they need. This creates more openness to learning than labeling the strong teachers’ classrooms as “models.”

Teacher leaders are the first to request coaching as they work to build the culture.

Teacher leaders make themselves vulnerable before the culture of coaching (trust) has been built. The leaders’ early, public experiences with coaching encourage other staff to step forward and take the risk of being vulnerable with colleagues. I was just working with a school staff to encourage their initial entry into peer coaching. A trusting environment has not been very broadly established yet.  A teacher leader agreed to assist me in modelling a pre-conference in front of the entire faculty. She revealed a concern about how her strong beliefs might over power the class debate she wanted to facilitate. When we finished the modelling, she looked out at the staff and said, “This is real. If anyone is available, I would love to have you do the observation I just discussed with Steve.”  A great model.

Coaches and principals might use these four tenants to facilitate staff discussions design to examine their schools coaching culture.

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Steve Barkley

For the past 30 years, Steve has served as a consultant to school districts, teacher organizations, state departments of education, and colleges and universities nationally and internationally, facilitating the changes necessary for them to reach students and successfully prepare them for the 21st century. Read more…