My post this week was triggered by a question sent to me by an instructional coach.
“Several teachers in my school are serving as cooperating teachers for student teachers this semester. Is there a way I can build that into my coaching work?”
Here is my response extended:
Any situation that has two teachers working together is an opportunity for establishing the “culture of coaching” which can become embedded into the school culture and the teachers’ practice.
As illustrated in Quality Teaching in a Culture of Coaching:
“Coaching is a relationship between two equals committed to the idea of personal and professional improvement. Each person being coached is committed to his or her own achievement. The coach reaps rewards when the coachee excels.”
An instructional coach might provide the following activities with the cooperating teacher:
1. Offer to coach the cooperating teacher with the student teacher (intern) observing the coaching process. This is a great way for the intern to understand the coaching activities she will be involved in with the teacher and to see the teacher model openness and vulnerability in the coaching process.
2. Offer to observe the teacher coach the intern and provide feedback on her coaching skills. Again this is a great model of openness for the intern to be observing. It also builds the teacher’s coaching/communication skills that can be used working with colleagues.
3. Teach a model lesson in the classroom and provide the teacher and intern an observation tool that they can use to give the instructional coach feedback after the lesson. Offer examples or assist in the design of similar tools that they can continue to use with each other.
4. As the coach works with the supervising teacher, they might identify areas that the intern needs/wants to work on that might best be accomplished with another teacher in the school. (Perhaps a different grade level, or a teacher with a different classroom management approach or a classroom with more technology available for students) The coach can now assist in causing similar coaching activities to occur with another teacher.
5. With several intern/cooperating teacher partnerships in a school an instructional coach can create a team with multiple coaching opportunities. Interns coaching interns would certainly be a great activity for the instructional coach to arrange and coach.
Instructional coaches working in a school with a mentor program for new teachers can create similar activities for the new teacher and the mentor. The Career in Teaching Program in Rochester NY enlists highly successful teachers to serve as mentors to beginning teachers. “Over time the program has become a blend of mentoring and coaching”(Quality Teaching in a Culture of Coaching, pg 25-26)
I have promoted for years that any district with a mentoring program needed a coaching program for beginning teachers to segue into. Without that, teachesr get a message that the coaching activities found in mentoring are only for beginning teachers. That’s not a coaching culture.
Having student teachers and beginning teachers enter the profession immersed in coaching relationships can set a career pathway built on collegiality as a tool for teacher growth and student achievement. My personal story illustrates that well. I was coached and mentored in all my beginning teacher experience. I can’t imagine working alone, without a PLC, a PLN, and continuous coaching input.
Instructional coaches should be recruiting cooperating teachers and mentors to promote the coaching culture.