In Learningforward’s Summer 2012 copy of The Learning Principal, Valerie von Frank writes about coaching for principals. She includes the following list of attributes of effective coaches:
Self-awareness: What drives the coach? What inspires her?
Honesty: How does what the coach thinks, does, and says align with his stated values?
Sincerity: How do the coach’s actions reflect her stated intentions?
Competence:How credible is the coach?
Reliability: Does the coach keep her promises?
Intentional: Is the coach interested in me and what I have to say?
Source: Adapted from The Coach’s Craft: Powerful Practices to Support School Leaders, by Kay Psencik. (Learning Forward, 2011, pp. 89-92.)
How does a coach communicate/exhibit these traits?
I am thinking that a great starting point is establishing the coach’s commitment to student achievement. If conversation between the teacher and the coach reach consensus on the student achievement outcomes, the stage is set for the coach to share the passion (self-awareness), honesty, and sincerity.
Robin Peterson, a new principal interviewed in Valerie von Frank’s article states the following about being coached:
“Through making me articulate where I wanted to get to and having me be part of the process of the steps I was going to take and how I would measure getting there, it made me feel that it was all possible.”
For coaches working with teachers, I suggest pre-conferences that work backwards.
What are the student outcomes the teacher seeks? (Content specific, learning how to learn, life/social skills, attitudes, etc.) The opportunity for the coach to support these goals can communicate intentionality.
What student behaviors or actions and experiences are necessary for the outcomes to be reached? What teacher actions/behaviors are most likely to generate the desired student behavior/action. Coaches who can develop and support a teacher in this process will communicate competence.
Reliability comes from saying ”what you will do and then doing it”. One critical area of reliability is found in keeping the communication among coach, teacher, and administrator at whatever confidentiality level was agreed to among coaching participants.
In Quality Teaching and a Culture of Coaching, I describe 4 models for defining the communication and confidentiality agreements between coaches and teachers and principals:
#1- In the first model, there is two way communication between teacher and administrator and two way between teacher and coach. There is no communication between coach and principal regarding their observations of the teacher. So, if the coach was in my classroom today and on my way out at the end of the day I see the coach in the principal’s office, I don’t know what they are discussing, but I know it’s not me because we have agreed to model #1.
In each of the following models the two way communication between teacher and administrator and teacher and coach continue:
Model #2- Here we add the principal talking to the coach, but the coach not reporting back. So if the principal observed in the classroom and saw students off task when they were at centers, the principal would report that to the coach and expect the coach to explore it with the teacher. The coach does not comment on his/her observations.
Model #3- Contains all the elements of model #2 and adds that the coach shares “good news” (progress) with the administrator. Some principals like this model as it sets them up to provide positive feedback and encouragement to teachers quicker than they might without the coach’s reporting.
Model #4- Has full communications and sharing of data, thoughts, observations and expectations among teacher, administrator, and coach.
Everyone is on the same page focusing on teacher growth for student achievement.
Many issues can influence what model is required for maximum teacher growth:
- history of the administrator in the building
- history of past administration with teachers
- previous coach
- history of present coach with teachers
- individual teachers confidence
Ongoing conversation among teachers, coach, and administrator is critical for creating the environment where teachers are comfortable making themselves vulnerable for growth. Honesty, self- awareness , sincerity, competence, reliability, and intentionality will increase vulnerability, risk-taking and growth.