How does a teacher gain a maximum positive impact on student learning through partnering with an instructional coach? Kathy Perret and Kenny McKee join the podcast to share insights from their new book, Compassionate Coaching: How Educators Navigate the Barriers to Professional Growth.
Find Kathy & Kenny’s book, Compassionate Coaching here.
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Steve: 00:32 Gaining autonomy, belonging, and competency through coaching. On our podcast today, joining us are Kathy Perret and Kenny McKee, experienced teachers, instructional coaches, and the authors of “Compassionate Coaching: How to Help Educators Navigate Barriers to Professional Growth.” Welcome to both of you.
Kathy: 00:57 Thanks so much for having us, Steve.
Kenny: 00:58 Yeah, we’re excited to be here.
Steve: 01:00 I enjoyed reading through your book and I was so excited that you that you agreed to to join us. I frequently have shared a vision that I work from that coaching is something all teachers deserve rather than need. And as I read your book, I thought that would align with your thinking. I’m wondering if you’d start us off with a response to that.
Kenny: 01:29 Yes. I mean, one thing that Kathy and I do is, we really, for fear of the work that teachers do, as coaches, we feel really lucky to work with teachers because we find teachers to be some of the smartest, most caring and really most interesting people out there. If you want to have a good conversation, find a teacher. But teaching is a tough job and it always has been, but it’s also really rewarding. So setting goals through the coaching process can be really powerful for you as a teacher. So often teachers lack effective ways to measure their impact on students. The ups and downs of the school day can distort an objective view of your work. And external assessments may give us some insights into the school or students as a whole, but they don’t often correlate with the everyday classroom work of teachers. So coaching allows teachers to set meaningful goals, engage in personalized learning, and measure that impact aligned with the needs of their students and the goals that they have personally and professionally.
Steve: 02:31 Are you okay if I draw the word reflection through everything I just heard? That’s what kept going around in my head as you were laying those pieces out there.
Kenny: 02:43 Right? And that’s part of the process for everyone.
Kathy: 02:46 Pete Hall and Elisa Simmer alway talk about the more reflective we are, the more affective they are. So I think coaches draw upon their work as teachers from their past. And I know some of my teachers always told me, you never lost the teacher in you because a coach will know when to push and when to hold back a little bit because we understand the job of teaching. No teacher wants to go through a reflective conversation as they’re getting ready for parent teacher conferences. We just need to have that humanistic approach to coaching so that we do help the teachers.
Steve: 03:36 So as a teacher, how should I look at coaching to impact my continuous growth?
Kathy: 03:46 Well, I would think a teacher looking at that coach as a partner, as that second pair of eyes. I remember as a classroom teacher, especially when I had a co-teacher, a title one co-teacher, that was kind of some of my best learning because we were able to co-plan and co-reflect and co-teach. So that second pair of eyes, that second pair of reflection, those coaches are sounding boards. You’ve got great ideas for your students. So that coach is a great sounding board to help you flesh out, peel back the layers of that idea that you might have for a unit or a lesson so that together, you’re focusing on the needs of your students and empowering your students as learners. Coaches want the best for teachers and they want them to discover the best for their students.
Steve: 04:46 You talk in the book about teachers gaining autonomy through coaching, but I got a thought in my mind that some teachers think coaching would decrease autonomy. I’m wondering if you’d kind of walk folks through that?
Kenny: 05:04 Well, it’s funny because when we’ve talked to teachers that have expressed dissatisfaction with a coach where they don’t really know much about what a coach can offer, we find that the teachers usually have never approached that coach about a goal they’re pursuing. And I mean, the way we look at it, the coach works for you as a teacher. It’s the coach’s job to support your goals. Now, of course, there may be some specific limitations of what a coach can work on depending on what the coaches assignment is, but it’s always worth initiating a conversation with the coach. Tell the coach about something you’re wondering about with your students or an area that you want to improve and ask the coach how you can partner together to pursue that learning. You can really set the agenda of what that partnership looks like.
Steve: 05:48 So it’s not waiting. It’s not sitting and waiting for the coach to find something for me, huh?
Kenny: 05:54 The coach needs to go around and really make sure that they’re touching base with everybody. But I’ll tell you, I was a coach in three different high schools, so sometimes, people might disappear off my radar, so please contact your coach.
Steve: 06:11 We’re looking to build that component of students being able to advocate for themselves so the teacher advocating for him or herself is gonna gonna get the most from coaching.
Kathy: 06:26 And when you’re asking a coach for – to talk through goals or something, that’s what the coach’s role is. But a lot of times we’ll see a teacher will ask the coach to run off these papers or to cover a class for something. So it’s being careful of what you seek to partner a coach with. I know from being a coach, you’re sitting there in a room and you’re not surrounded by kids all day could have that perception that she has nothing to do but sit in that office all day. But teachers reaching out and asking the coach to partner with them is going to be a situation where it’s going to build that autonomy into the school.
Steve: 07:20 How do you how do you see teachers working in grade level teams or departments or or professional learning communities gaining the most from working with an instructional coach?
Kathy: 07:38 Well, I think the coach can be there in the beginning to help facilitate maybe some of those conversations. I remember when I was a
coach, we had a, kind of a great upon agenda that we set up and myself and the principal when we met with the teachers and grade level teams and so forth, we’d use that agenda, but it was really to build the gradual release of responsibilities. So we had that agenda set and the principal may have used it for a certain meeting she had, or I may have used it for a meeting that I facilitated, but then it was relinquishing that to the teacher. And then they felt comfortable using that agenda so they saw that they could take a 30 minute block of time and stay focused and get something accomplished rather than just kind of bird walking through an agenda. We don’t stay focused that way.
Steve: 08:45 I’m wondering of the perception that the instructional coach is someone to invite to our our PLCs or department meetings from time to time, less inviting them to come with a solution, but more inviting them to come in and help us explore?
Kenny: 09:04 Yeah. When we talked earlier about how sometimes, administrators think that it might be the coach’s job to run the PLC, but that that’s not really the case. So if an administrator or a teacher or a PLC contacts me, I always say, what skill or what work can I provide? Do you want me to help facilitate a meeting on a data analysis for you all and show you how you can do that? Do you want me to bring some professional literature with me? What is my role? But I make it really clear that it’s not my role to become the de facto leader of the PLC. I might take a leadership role sometimes, but they’re going to define when they need that.
Steve: 09:50 What what insights would you share with teachers regarding working with coaches? So if as a teacher, my goal is to maximize student success, I’m wondering some of the insights that I, as a teacher should keep in mind as to how I work with that instructional coach.
Kenny: 10:11 I think taking time to really visualize what success looks like for their students is a great starting point. And so talking out that vision with one another, and then once you can do that, you can work together to create some criteria for success and determine how you’re going to measure that. Is it going to be through looking at student work? Is it going to be an assessment? Is it going to be listening to the student talk? Is going to be listening to the teacher’s languag? Is it going to be watching a video? Trying to determine what’s going to be the best
way for you to have some objective, within reason, measure of success for your students.
Kathy: 10:51 Tst teachers want the best for their students, coaches want the best for their teachers. So finding those ways to partner, bringing to the table, your hopes and your dreams for your students can really help provide the coach with an insight to know the direction you want to go with your students so that you can maximize that student success.
Steve: 11:18 What’s going through my mind is the difference between students who work to get the most from their teacher versus the student that the teacher has to work to pull into it. I’m almost seeing that twist back to, as a teacher, I can wait here for the coach to be bringing me something versus really taking that empowered part of being a teacher and recognizing that the coach is a resource to my school, like a whole lot of other resources with technology or media and texts that are available to me to, professional development is available to me and really stepping out to get the most from it.
Kathy: 12:14 And this past year has kind of opened our eyes to using technology to research our own goals and what’s really out there for us as teachers. So the coach can always probably share a few resources once they kind of know what some of their goals are, but it’s also their own exploration of finding something, because that’s probably going to be truer to hit the mark to their goal when they do the searching, because, the coach might provide something generic to start them off with, but it’s doing the work yourself, but having that partner with you to help you through it.
Kenny: 13:03 Sometimes I see coaching as like an experimentation mindset, like let’s find out together. And I think that what Kathy is saying is a good point. Sometimes teachers are going to have researched an idea and brought it to you and you’re going to work together to figure out how’s the best way to pursue that.
Steve: 13:22 It’s striking me that it could be neat for a coach with a group of teachers to do a book study with your book and to reflect the comments back and forth with each other. So how’s the teacher hearing this piece that we just read versus how the how’s the coach hearing it. And I could just see some great conversations coming out of a dialogue like that.
Kathy: 13:57 And there’s a couple of guides for that. There’s a free study guide on the ASCD website that we wrote that is a companion to the book. And Kenny and I also are going to be starting up a book study through a Facebook group coming up and we call it compassionate coaching for educators because t’s for everybody. We’ve all gone through these barriers. Kenny and I probably went through these barriers the most through writing this book because of a lot of life things that happened for us along the way, and we felt the highs and lows of each of these barriers. So we’d love for the people to join that Facebook group, and we want it to just continue on besides studying the book to have those conversations, but we’ll start posting questions come August 15th and people can jump in anytime.
Kenny: 14:52 Yes, it’s asynchronous, they can come anytime. And like Kathy said, we also experienced barriers. This is my first book and there were a lot of times we didn’t know if there was going to be a book and I’m just happy we persevered because we’re really happy.
Steve: 15:13 I’m glad to you did. And I’ll make sure the link to your book and both your email addresses are in the lead-in to this this blog. I’ll put the EduCoach one in there as well. I hope people step forward and and follow up with you. Thanks so much for sharing your thinking with me.
Kathy: 15:34 Well, thanks for having us, Steve.
Kenny: 15:36 Yeah, it was great. Thank you so much.
Steve: 15:37 Have a great day.
Kathy: 15:38 You too.
Steve: 15:38 Take care.
Steve [Outro]: 15:41 Thanks for listening in, folks. I’d love 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