In this week’s episode of the Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud podcast, Steve is joined by instructional coach, Ayana Etienne and principal, Marc Gaillard from the Sulphur Springs K-8 school to discuss the importance of a coach/principal partnership.
Get in touch with Ayana: firstname.lastname@example.org
Get in touch with Mark: email@example.com
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Steve [Intro]: 00:21 Hello and welcome to the Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud podcast. For over three decades, I’ve had the opportunity to learn with educators at all levels, both nationally and internationally. I invite you to listen as I explore my thoughts and learning on a variety of topics connected to teaching, learning and leading with some of the best and brightest educators from around the globe. Thanks for listening in.
Steve: 00:49 Coach/Principal partnership #1. This is going to be the first in a series of interviews that I’m going to conduct with instructional coaches and principals around their partnership. I’d like to collect many examples for the listeners, both as coaches and administrators to consider your partnership and modifications or changes you might want to make based on things you hear that others have done. Exciting that the folks I’m talking to today are part of the reading coach program in Hillsborough County, Florida. And I have personally had the pleasure of working with the reading coach program from its onset 20 years ago. I’ve had the chance each summer to be part of of training the cadre there. So joining us today we have Ayana Etienne from Sulphur Springs, she’s the coach and Marc Gaillard, the principal. They’re both at Sulphur Springs, a K-8 school. So welcome to both of you and would you take a moment or two to give a little short introduction about about your backgrounds and I understand that you had worked together before, you worked at other buildings and you’re both new to to being back at Sulphur Springs now. So fill us in on a little bit of your background.
Marc: 02:23 Of course. I’m Marc Gaillard, the principal here at Sulphur Springs K-8. I was a classroom teacher for about seven years, assistant principal for another seven and I pretty much taught fourth and fifth grade math and science. We taught writing as well in math and science departmentalized group. And then about seven years as an assistant principal. And then the last four as a principal. Of course, this is – I moved to Sulphur Springs in April, so I’ve been here about five or six months. Ms. Etienne and I worked when I was an administrative resource teacher for one year and it was our first year teaching at Just Elementary and then we were at Edison Elementary for some years as me as an assistant principal. And then she left and then came back and when I became principal. So here we are now in my 21st year here at Sulphur Springs K-8 as the principal.
Ayana: 03:25 And just like he said, my first year of teaching was at Just Elementary. I did a career change actually. So I met Mr. Gaillard at Just for a year. Then I finished out my years teaching at Witter and then when he became principal or assistant principal at Edison, I went and I was the reading coach there. And shortly after that, about two years, I later I went to Sulphur Springs when he got appointed principal. And then I had told them, I said, I’d come back and you become principal and I promised, I came back. And when he found out that he was leaving to come to Sulfur Springs, I figured I’ve been there before. Why not? When you find a good administrator, you kind of stick with them. So I said, you’re not going to leave me. I’m coming after you.
Steve: 04:16 That’s great. So we have a partnership with some with some roots is what it sounds like. Marc, I’m wondering if could you fill us in just a little bit of the background of Sulphur Springs K-8 school? A little bit about your your student population and the way the school works with the K-8 setting.
Marc: 04:44 We are predominantly African American – about 85%. About 12, 13% Hispanic, and then about 2% that are Caucasian. The campus is split into two halves. You have the elementary on the South end and the middle school on the North end. I have two APs on the elementary side. I have pretty much two APs on the middle school side as well. All traditional school, it’s a neighborhood school, a school that historically, has been very challenging. Probably one of the lowest socioeconomic neighborhoods in Tampa, if not the lowest. And so, you know, we have different challenges that come along with that, but overall, that’s the gist of our school. We also have a partnership with YMCA, so they’re here on our campus and they provide different support for during school they have [inaudible] and then after school, they have different activities then the afterschool program that is here.
Steve: 06:06 And Ayana, your coaching role is that across the whole school?
Ayana: 06:10 No, so right now we’re at a three coach site. So in the middle school side we have the secondary reading coach and then I have a partner coach, the two of us before elementary school.
Steve: 06:22 So one of the questions I’d like to start with is how have the two of you presented the role of the coach to the staff at the school?
Marc: 06:38 Pretty much that every teacher will go through a coaching cycle on the elementary side. The coach is one that is very knowledgeable that you should be ensuring that there’s time where the reading coaches plan with the teachers and the expectation is that you will ensure that you have been playing an active role in the planning process and you’re growing professionally. And the reading coach is a key component of that.
Ayana: 07:16 And every year at the beginning of the school year, whether our previous site as well as this year, we provide a presentation where the coach, again two coach sites, so myself and the other reading coach team up together. And we provide a provide like, a mini PD where we explain our role as a coach and what that looks like, what that means. We also explain the planning process and what that and how that works, but we can’t do the work that we do without his support and with our admin to be able to say this is the expectation. And I know at the end of the school year when everybody signs their intent to return forms coming back to the school for the following school year, on those forms are coaching cycles, knowing that they are going to be a part of that process.
Steve: 08:06 To what extent is your is your work kind of laid out and led by you versus to what extent is that driven by teacher requests to you?
Ayana: 08:21 It evolves over time. Right now, I’m in a scenario where I’m at a new school, so it’s pretty much split where I’m kind of seeking out opportunities through data conversations or those informal discussions with teachers to get them interested in being coached or getting them – part of the process. In previous years, again, we’re – not being new, you know, having that ongoing routine, it’s a lot of the teachers coming and seeking out that support. And just pretty much being there to provide as a sounding board and then coming in as that other layer to collect that data for those teachers.
Steve: 09:02 Marc, I’m wondering if you could talk about about the expectations that you have for – you have several coaches that you’re working with. So how do you describe what your expectations are of coaches?
Marc: 09:17 My expectations for the culture that they will be in the classroom, that they will provide professional development during our PD Tuesdays, where the whole staff is together, making sure that they plan with the teachers by grade level and being a facilitator more than dictating everything and ensuring that they push in the classes and periodically assist as well with the growth of students in small groups.
Steve: 09:58 Ayana, I’m wondering, what expectations do you have of the administrator for you to be effective in your role as a coach?
Ayana: 10:09 One is communication. I think is completely vital to this position. Having that regular discussion piece, whether I go and attend my whole group professional development and have that open door where I can come back and converse with them about what it is that we need to do and our agenda with reading, with regards to, I mean we’re in the position now that we have state visits and walkthroughs and you name it. And just having the constant dialogue with each other I think is very important. And that openness and the ability to understand what it is that we’re doing in the work that we’re trying to do to move this school I think is definitely key.
Steve: 10:52 Do you have a fixed time that you connect back with each other to kind of debrief where you are or is it more an open door and on the fly.
Ayana: 11:06 It’s more of an open door on the fly because there’s so many moving pieces with this school in particular. We try and then it gets cut. But I mean, there’s usually not a day that goes by that we don’t communicate in one way, shape or form, whether it’s via email, via text, he pops by, he knows the times that we’re in there, whether like for our planning times or whether it’s lunch and he pops in and has a quick second and we debrief really quickly. But it’s constant. I never feel like what we’re doing doesn’t matter. I never feel like he’s not concerned or always checking in. Because that’s the one thing that I think that he really values is checking in with his people and making sure everything’s all copesthetic and making sure that everybody’s needs are met. And I think that really makes it easy for us to not have that, you know, every Friday at 2:00 PM we’re going to sit down together. It’s just constantly an ongoing. Yes, simple as a text message, Hey, can I chat real quick?” And he’ll pop right up, you know?
Marc: 12:13 And I would say that that was the case where we came from. We had a lot there in time that we would be with leadership, but leadership was much smaller there. I only had five or six people on that were resource and here is like double that. So having – being able to have that time is just different this year with so many other moving parts going on, really working on the culture and climate here. But because we were together for so long, we know – I know how she operates and she updates me and she already knows, oh, I know how Mr. Gaillard – what he would decide on this because we work together and communicate so often together and there’s never a time that she can’t talk to me rather it’s after school, during school, it really doesn’t matter. But that’s when you have a established relationship, a great professional relationship, things can work easier in that manner.
Ayana: 13:19 Well, we do have where we’ve got all the contents that come together on our leadership – once a week on Mondays. But I know that that’s challenging with so many different content areas from K-8. So that’s where we have our offline piece too.
Steve: 13:35 So I’m hearing a great deal of trust exist between the two of you, both in your expectations of each other and respect for each other. I’m wondering if you’d have some advice for principals and instructional coaches who are new to to working with each other. What exists early on that allows you to build that that sense of trust and I guess a common message goes out to the staff as well.
Marc: 14:09 Right. Well, and I start with my portion, just making sure that you communicate, have a set time schedule for you to get updates weekly. Because that’s what we did early on in our, you know, working together. And because I was an assistant principal, a lot of things came through me. So that’s where Ayana and I worked really a lot together and established that strong foundation. And then, having someone who is knowledgeable of their craft and when you know and you see that through the movement of the data, that has worked has created our relationship. And I’ll turn it over to Ayana to add to that.
Ayana: 14:59 I think one of the major factors in building that trust with an administrator is doing what you say and meaning what you say. I take pride in my work and if I’ve got my calendar, my schedule and what I’m going to do, he knows I’m going to be there. There’s been multiple times where I’m sitting in the classroom collecting data and then I go to the next classroom, he’s following behind me because he’s doing his walkthroughs and he sees I’m actively doing my job. There’s not a big lag of downtime at all. Like, he can come into planning sessions and know that I’m actively working and I think that’s where the trust begins. And also listening to the buzz from the teachers and the teachers being able to say and talk to the work that I’m doing or to the – reinforcing some of the things and the practices that we’ve put into place together and hearing that buzz allows him to be able to say, okay, I know she’s in there doing the work with the teachers alongside them. So I think that builds that trust and that respect.
Steve: 15:58 So I’m going to end with a quote that I’d appreciate you responding to. I took it from Jim Knight and Jim Knight made this statement, “A principal’s support or lack of it can make or break a coaching program.” How would you respond to that?
Ayana: 16:24 Yes.
All : 16:24 [laughter].
Steve: 16:24 From the coach’s seat?
Ayana: 16:31 I mean, I’ve worked for a couple of principals that I know for a fact that that relationship really can make or break what you do. And having his support and having his trust to allow me to do the work that needs to be done really helps our teachers grow professionally, but more importantly, help our children succeed. We’ve seen, I mean, we were at the school and we built that school for – we went from an F to a D to C. Like, we’ve shown the progress, we’ve shown the work and that improvment that it can be done, providing we have all of our factors aligned, everybody working together collaboratively and having, again, that rapport and that trust, that support coupled with that allows us to do what we need to do with most students.
Marc: 17:23 And I would just piggy back off of that, going to the, you know, they say the data doesn’t lie and every time that Ms Etienne has been a part of [inaudible] have improved and at a steady pace that is reasonable. And that’s what I love about it. Nothing like this huge jump and then you drop, but building that professional development, interacting, being prepared when she you know, when she gone to the planning sessions and being – always being present for teachers and the teachers know that she – whatever resource she needs to provide, if she doesn’t know resource, she’s reaching out to her peers and that is a big part of why I wanted her back when I became principal. Because I know you need – if you have a quality resource team around you, your children are impacted and more important, the teachers feel supported and see – have a vision and a goal because – through the principal and the reading coach understanding that we are in alignment and she does – hey, she keeps more me more in line than I keep her in line.
Steve: 18:40 Well it’s interesting – as quickly as she responded to that fact that the principal can make it or break it, that does put a lot of responsibility back on the principal of a school to to see the coaching program as an investment in your building and therefore you need to support that that investment.
Marc: 19:04 Yes.
Steve: 19:05 Well, I thank the two of you. I really appreciate your time and your words here today. Have a great day.
Ayana: 19:15 Yes, you too.
Marc: 19:16 You too. Thank you.
Steve: 19:17 Bye, bye.
Ayana: 19:17 Bye.
Marc: 19:17 Bye.
Steve [Outro]: 19:19 Thanks again for listening. You can subscribe to Steve Barkley ponders out loud on iTunes and Podbean and please remember to rate and review us on iTunes. I also want to hear what you’re pondering. You can find me on twitter @stevebarkley or send me your questions and find my videos and blogs at barkleypd.com.