In this week’s episode of the Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud podcast, Steve is joined by Glenda Vinueza and Heather Moncrief from the Tampa Bay Boulevard School in Hillsborough County, Florida to discuss the coach and principal partnership.
Get in touch with Glenda: firstname.lastname@example.org
Get in touch with Heather: email@example.com
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Steve [Intro]: 00:18 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: 00:46 The coach/principal partnership #3. This is part of an ongoing series of podcasts that we are conducting. Having conversations with instructional coaches and the school principals to identify the importance of that coach- principal relationship. Today, joining us is Glenda Vinueza and Heather Moncrief from the Tampa Bay Boulevard School in Hillsborough County, Florida. I have had the privilege to be part of the reading coach program at Hillsborough for 25 years now. So it’s exciting to me to be interviewing folks who have been part of building that program ongoing. Glenda, I’m wondering if you’d start us off by giving us a little, a little bit of background about yourself and then tell us a little bit about Tampa Bay Boulevard School.
Glenda: 01:50 All right, Steve. So I am currently in my 21st year of being an educator. I was a teacher for six years, an assistant principal, I believe, for about five years and I’ve been a principal here at Tampa Bay Boulevard for 10 years. At Tampa Bay Boulevard, we’re a primarily Hispanic school. I would say about 83% of the students here are Hispanic. With about the rest mixed with African American and white students. We have a very little population of Asian students. I have only worked at title one schools, primarily high poverty schools. Tampa Bay Boulevard is 93 free and reduced lunch. So we deal with, besides the fact that we deal with a high poverty level, we also deal with a language – what I call a language deficient school where kids come in with limited English.
Steve: 02:49 Thank you. Thank you. Heather, introduce yourself a little bit and your background in coaching.
Heather: 02:56 Hi, I’m Heather and I am also in my 21st year as an educator. I have been at Tampa Bay Boulevard for six years. And the first three I was the reading resource teacher and then moved into coaching. This is my third or fourth year as a reading coach.
Steve: 03:15 Heather, would you describe a little bit about that shift from a reading resource to a reading coach?
Heather : 03:22 So as a resource teacher, my primary focus was working with students. So I worked mostly with students that were considered like the bubble kids. And I would work some with teachers. But mostly my main focus was with the students. And we were without a coach. So I started kind of just taking over the role and wasn’t really sure that I was interested in being a coach because I wanted to stay hands on with the kids. And then I just kind of got pushed to do it and I thought after doing it, it was like the best decision I had ever made because that’s really what I was missing in my career was being that coach. And I still have the opportunity to work with kids, but I’m an advocate for kids and I’m an advocate for teachers.
Steve: 04:19 Glenda, did you play a role in that push that she described?
Glenda: 04:24 A little bit.
Steve: 04:26 [laughter]
Glenda : 04:26 From the moment that Heather started – Heather, first of all, she’s got very strong work ethics. Let me start with that. And to be in any sort of resource or coaching position, you have to start with – you’ve got to have a strong sense of work ethics and for this, some leadership skills, which she had both. I felt that as a reading resource teacher, I thought she could do more. So I pushed her along the way and told her, why don’t you enter the cadre and see where it takes you? And four years later, you know, I will tell you, Heather is a strong advocate for kids. Among everything else, she’s a strong advocate for kids and to do what’s right for kids. She plays a huge role as the coach. First and foremost, she’s a cheerleader for students as well as for the teachers.
Heather : 05:20 She builds a strong relationship with the teachers based on trust, which is probably the most important piece of coaching. You’ve got to have that trust not only with your administrators obviously, because they have to know that what you’re doing is the right thing, but also building that relationship with teachers that teachers feel comfortable to work with her. So our main goal is to work is to build strong teams and Heather has been, especially for the past two years, she’s been like that main leader to move our school forward as far as helping us build those collaborative teams during our lesson planning.
Steve: 06:01 Glenda, when you raise the the trust word, I know that that’s a biggie. And part of a coach’s trust with teachers is confidentiality regarding some of their work. Yet at the same time it, it’s critical for the coach and the principal to have a strong communication system between the two of them. Heather, I’m wondering if if you’d start with responding to how you handle that tug between confidentiality and a strong member of the school team. And then Glenda, please chime in and add to that.
Heather : 06:40 Yeah. I think that I was able to build that trust with the teachers because I was already here as a resource teacher, so it was easy to kind of get into that role with them. When Glenda and I talked before I became the coach, the start of the school year, because we had planned over the summer, that was one thing we had talked about was what are we going to do when I’m working with teachers. And basically, she was very clear about not – she didn’t need to know who was doing what specifically unless it was something that was detrimental to kids. So she understood that I would be working with teachers and helping teachers, but I did not need to come report to her and tell her every single thing that was happening and going on with individual teachers. Unless it was something that it was like, okay, we need to come up with a plan to help so and so. And usually I would get the teacher on board with that to have that open communication to say, are you okay if I talked to Ms. Vinueza about this? And for the most part, I feel like most of our teachers are very much onboard with that and understanding that administrators are similar to coaches in a different way because they do observe, but they do do that evaluation part, but they help support them as an educator in their classroom.
Steve: 08:08 Heather, am I hearing in that statement that you made that the teacher’s sense in that scenario where you would, would go to Glenda, the teacher’s sense is that you were doing that because it was important for the teacher and the kids?
Heather : 08:24 Yeah, that’s usually how I would try to word it. I would say, well, you know, we’ve tried this, we see that this – you know, like especially like we had a lot of issues with scheduling. Like, scheduling is always a nightmare. So like if I’m working with a teacher during the literacy block and then we have issues with kids that go to speech and let’s say they’re getting pulled out for speech during the shared reading – and it’s just juggling all of these things and I’m trying to help the teacher and the students and the teacher is really frustrated. And then, that’s a question that I would say, you know, we’ve tried to work it out on our own. Are you okay with me going to administration to talk about to further, you know, come up with a solution for this.
Glenda : 09:14 You know, Heather used the word detrimental. And I think that’s probably the best word that she could have used to describe when I want her to come to me. If it’s detrimental to student learning that I know something, that’s when, not just Heather, but anyone who is also part of our coaching or our resource staff, they know that’s when I really need to know. I don’t want to know about the everyday conversations or the coaching cycle. There has to be that open communication between the coaches and the teachers in order for them to really move forward and to have that continuous dialogue so that they can grow and within within that growth there’s growing pains and I don’t need to be part of that conversation. I just want to know is it detrimental to students so that I can help support that teacher because then I’ll find other ways or other
Steve: 10:08 Got ya.
Heather : 10:10 Steve, I would like to add that coaching is very accepted at our school site. Like, in the beginning, it wasn’t as much. We’ve shifted to where I’m not just coaching teachers that have problems. You know, right when I started coaching, I started coaching the – we had a teacher leader on campus and that was my first client if you will.
Steve: 10:34 Great start.
Heather : 10:34 Yeah, it was an expert. So then when people start seeing that I’m not just coaching teachers that are having low test scores or behavior problems in their class or brand new teachers, like, it’s a good mix of everybody. So having that atmosphere of knowing that you’re going to be coached. Whether it’s in planning or it’s in the classroom specifically for literacy or for – we have a math coach as well or math, it’s just one of those things that everybody knows is going to happen.
Glenda : 11:11 I want to add to that. So we built a structure here. This is our third year where our master schedule includes a planning session for teachers for one hour during the school day where we provide coverage for them for that hour and Heather facilitates all of those planning sessions. We have a protocol that we follow starting with our norms and then we, you know, we break down standards, we look at performance scales. And then we get into what we call the art part of teaching where they create lesson plans. They’ll even come up with anchor charts that they want to use, their final assessment, all of that. And within those planning sessions, I’ll say that’s where she’ll have – that’s where she also gets the opportunity to ask teachers if they would like assistance or help or coach them if they’re unclear of what they’re about to get themselves into with the instructional delivery. So those planning sessions have really opened up a door for her to get into classrooms even more.
Steve: 12:22 That’s great.
Heather : 12:24 I would say that. It’s true. And sometimes I’m just like, “Oh I want to see what this is gonna look like.”
Steve: 12:31 So while you’re there you may as well do some coaching too, huh?
Heather : 12:35 Yeah. Might as well.
Steve: 12:38 I sent something out on Twitter just this morning and I went and pulled it because I knew I was getting you on, I wanted to catch your response to it. But your district coach office there sent out a a request to a group of us around the country who work in coaching. And the question they said is, we need your definition of instructional coaching. So several people around the country have been sending theirs in. So I wanted to read you the one that I sent in and get your response to it. I wrote that my instructional coaching goal definition – I called it a goal definition, needs to be unpacked in each school for each teacher. And I based it on this: If the teacher’s goal is student learning success by students engaging the greatest amount of time in the most appropriate learning production behaviors, then the instructional coach’s task is partnering with teachers to make that happen.
Glenda : 13:46 Correct. And I do feel that that’s what we continue to build on by forming that collaborative practice among every grade
level. And for example, Heather as that facilitator to lead that discussion because it provides a chance for teachers to talk openly. I’ll tell you, there have been great moments where we’re like, “wow, that planning session was just was so powerful”. And then we’ve had planning sessions where it’s very uncomfortable. But I think that that uncomfortable state that the teachers are in at times are probably the ones that are the most productive.
Heather: 14:29 Most growth comes from them being uncomfortable.
Steve: 14:33 I was hearing the word vulnerable. You’ve somehow created a space there where vulnerability is appropriate and because the vulnerability is present, then the opportunity for growth kind of steps forward and shows itself and you’re in a position to respond to it.
Heather : 14:55 Right. And we really try to focus during those planning sessions that teachers now are, you know, the experts of their classrooms. So it’s not like me, as taking that role, as just being the facilitator during the planning sessions. I’m helping guide them and ask them questions just – which in the beginning when I used to ask them questions, they were trying to figure out what I was going to ask so they could be prepared. And I’m like, I’m not asking you questions to try to catch you. I’m asking you questions to get you to think a little bit more about what you’ve done. It doesn’t mean that what you’ve done is wrong. I think about it, same in the classroom. When you ask a student to clarify an answer or to add more and they want to start a erasing their paper right away. I said, you guys are doing the same thing. You know, you don’t want your kids to do that. So that has shifted over time. It has definitely taken the full three years that I’ve been working with the teachers on that to get them to know that if I’m asking a question, if anybody’s asking a question, it doesn’t mean that what they’re doing is wrong. It’s to get them to really process their thoughts and express them. And not just one teacher, but really for the whole team to collaborate together.
Steve: 16:17 I frequently make the statement that if you’re pretty good at being an instructional coach, you’re going to get more work offers, more tasks to do than you can possibly do. That part of being an instructional coach is having the ability to say no and that kind of requires you to have a priority list that you can use in your decision making. So Heather, I’m wondering, how do you form that priority list that, that helps you make your decisions of tasks to take on and tasks not to take on?
Heather : 16:53 So in the beginning, I will say even as a resource teacher, I would take on any task you gave me,
Steve: 16:59 [laughter]
Heather: 16:59 I would be like, yes, yes, yes, I’ll do it. I could never say no. And I think once I became a coach, after my first year, I was kind of like, “Whoa, I really need to set some limits for myself.” So that’s why usually, you know, right at the beginning of the year, even during the summer, even now, we’re thinking about next school year and we’re making these lists of priorities. What is our instructional priorities going to be? What is it, what are the roles that the coaches are going to take with the teachers or at the school. And usually I can say no and Glenda’s like, okay no problem. And I’ll say, well if I do this then I can’t go work with so and so if I do this then like, what is it that you want me to focus on? If you want me to be teaching in kindergarten then I can’t do this.
Steve: 17:48 So that is part of your coach, principal partnership then. You’ve identified that priority list.
Heather : 17:56 Yes and I feel very comfortable to say to her, “hey you know, this isn’t working. Can we look at doing something else or can I get help?” Because that’s probably the other thing is, besides saying yes to everything and learning to say no is learning to ask for help. Because even though I am the instructional coach, I don’t know everything and I can’t problem solve everything on my own. So I use, you know, administration. I have another coach that’s a brand new coach that is my partner. We have a math coach and a ELA resource teacher. So we can meet regularly to kind of pass out any thing that we need to talk about. But that’s really important too, I think as as the team for our school because we can’t be solo.
Steve: 18:50 So Glenda, you’re leading a coaching team in effect?
Glenda : 18:55 I’m trying to, definitely. But she’s right. And they all know that the priority above everything are the students and the teachers and being in those classrooms the majority of the time. And I know, you know, that big question has always come up, you know, “how many additional duties do you have?” Steve, I’ll tell you, I try to limit as many as I possibly can because their priority is the classroom.
Heather : 19:25 And I feel like in the beginning it was, we just didn’t have as many leaders. So yeah, and whoever was the coach or the resource teacher, you probably had a lot of extra duties because we just didn’t have the people that were willing to step up and assist with those things. And I think that these past three years we have built capacity in our school and you know, that’s why we’re able to kind of have equal partnership in everything and realize that we’re all helping to improve student achievement. It’s not just on one person full shoulders.
Steve: 20:02 It is the team.
Heather : 20:04 Yep. It really is the team.
Steve: 20:07 It’s been great listening to your conversations. I’m so glad we are capturing this for lots of folks to get to listen to. In closing out, I’m wondering if both of you might give your thoughts of advice for a new coach, principal partnership. You know, we ended up in August with two people coming together to work for the first time as a team. What are what are a couple of the critical things you’d you’d lay out for them to think about?
Heather : 20:42 Well, number one I would say is communication and having that clear, like, being able to communicate with each other on a regular basis, but having that clear expectation from the beginning. What is it that you expect me to do in my role? I think a lot of times, I mean, our district is huge and I have heard from other coaches where their principal may not look at a coach the same. The same as I, like, I’m very lucky to have the partnership that I do because I know that other schools don’t. But I think being clear about what the expectation is is key in being able to communicate with each other.
Glenda: 21:26 Steve, you know, Heather is a leader in my school. I can’t do it alone. And I always tell the entire leadership team that this is truly a team and that to move the school forward and we all have to work together.
Heather : 21:41 First and foremost, we’ve got to have trust between us, an open line of communication. We do meet, I’m not going to say
weekly, but we do try to meet as a team together at least on a monthly basis. But, you know, Heather along with everybody else, they all know that at any moment you can come into my office, sit down and let’s talk about what’s going on. And the same, you know, walking the buildings, going into classrooms. Sometimes I’ve got questions and that’s the great thing about us is that we communicate, I feel like all the time. So because we’ve got such an open line of communication, I think it helps. Like she said, the expectation for what I want to see first and foremost is to be in front of kids as much as possible and to work with teachers to build capacity among teachers where they basically are working themselves out of a job. That would be the goal one day is where they’re not, I wouldn’t need them because we’ve built such a strong team of teachers. But as we all know, you know, teaching and learning is continuously changing so we will always have the need for coaches.
Steve: 22:57 In my mind, the stronger your teaching team gets, the greater the demands will be on your coaches. Because they’re going to have to learn enough to to be able to offer strong people something. And that’s why my phrase for it is “there is no mountaintop to teaching.” So every teacher strives and as they climb their way up, they see a vision that extends beyond where they’ve gotten to. And because there is no mountaintop for teaching, there isn’t a mountain top for coaches. We’re in that together. You pull that whole piece back together that it is continuous learning. That is what serves the kids. Well guys, I’ve I’ve enjoyed this. Thanks a lot.
Glenda & Heather: 23:46 Thank you Steve. Bye.
Steve: 23:46 Take care. Bye, bye.
Steve [Outro]: 23:49 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.