In this week’s episode of the Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud podcast, Steve looks at the process of implementing effective coaching.
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Steve [Intro]: 00:17 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: 00:44 Getting coaching started. This podcast was triggered by an email I received from an instructional coach. It stated, “I’m new to my building this year and it is the first year that they’ve had a fulltime coach. Most teachers plan on their own or with one other person. There aren’t a lot of teams planning together and teams are given the choice to use time together as they choose. Some teachers are eager to work with me and start coaching cycles. Many are not interested. They like resources that I’ve created and they may have brief questions, but they don’t want to follow with the cycle. Do you have any suggestions for podcasts or other ideas?” My first response to this coach was that she’s in a situation where she’s going to have to educate the staff about what coaching is and have the staff discover the benefits of coaching and of a collaborative culture.
Steve: 02:01 I mapped out three different areas that this coach might want to consider as she plans her purposeful, conscious coaching behaviors. Number one, I suggest that as a new coach to a building, a critical starting point has to be in the conversations that are held with the principal regarding his or her picture of the desired staff relationships that the principal wants to have in the building. How does the principal wish for the staff to cooperate and or collaborate? Do they want teachers to have a shared responsibility for student success? I suggested my video “Teaming or Franchising” could create a conversation with the principal where they agreed on an assessment of what now exists in the culture of staff relationships and what the principal would like that picture to be. This conversation, I believe, is important in building the coach principal partnership because for the principal to have trust in the coach, the principal wants to know that she and the coach are focused on a common outcome.
Steve: 03:54 Another part of that conversation with the principal should be built around defining instructional coaching. In a blog on the instructional coaching group website titled, “Preparing For the New School Year”, Matthew Kelly describes the importance of role clarity for building a coach’s success. The links to this blog and other resources mentioned throughout this podcast are available at the lead-in to the podcast. Kelly writes, “one of the most crucial factors of a coach’s success is how clearly their role is defined in a separate study of coaches within a major urban area. Every single coach in the study struggled with the role ambiguity within their districts and schools. To help ensure that coaches flourish and succeed, it is crucial to clarify their role and how their time will be used.” My video clip, “The Gift of Coaching” might be used to spark this conversation with the principal.
Steve: 05:24 Is coaching viewed as a way to fix problems or is it something teachers need or deserve? A common agreement must be reached on defining coaching with the principal before the coach and principal together can . that role to the staff. With a common understanding of desired picture of staff relationships, a coach and principal partnership can now build plans for moving closer to their desired picture. Using one of the videos that I mentioned might be a conversation starter with the whole faculty in moving towards clarity of coach’s role and of principals’ expectation and desires for staff relations. The second area that I suggested this coach might want to explore is to begin conversations with teachers around students whose learning progress is insufficient, and from that conversation, identify the needed student learning production behaviors. In other words, what does the student need to do for the student learning to be more successful?
Steve: 07:07 By starting conversations with how students need to change rather than how the teacher needs to change, it is easier for the coach to begin to create a partnership. It allows a goal focus on student learning outcome rather than on teachers’ successful practices as an outcome. This point was reinforced in Matthew Kelly’s blog that I mentioned earlier when he wrote, “From the beginning of the teacher coach relationship, it’s important to make sure that the coach respects the teacher’s autonomy and fosters a dynamic where the teacher does most of the thinking and the coach provides support to reach their goals. If the teacher is treated as an equal and remains in control of what they do, they will be more open to the process and improvement will follow.” Teachers who are new to coaching and new to the relationship with a particular coach need to be able to separate coaching from previous and current supervision activities.
Steve: 08:45 The focus on a student goal outcome as the basis of the partnership and changing student behaviors to achieve those outcomes helps in the teacher changing that view of coaching. My third suggestion to this coach was that she begin to build toward a coaching culture with the introduction of peer coaching. If she began with those couple of teachers who have initially opened up to her work as an instructional coach and looked at creating a peer coaching group among them, she might start this by first asking those teachers to coach her in any model lessons that she might be providing as an instructional coach. The next step could then be to move towards getting teachers in that group to coach each other. And then lastly, those teachers beginning to invite other teachers to provide coaching feedback. Creating some excitement around this process would hopefully lead to some additional teachers beginning to invite these early adopters of coaching to provide peer coaching to those teachers.
Steve: 10:36 I have sometimes describe the role of the instructional coach as being somewhat like a plate spinner in the circus. They get two or three teachers working together coaching each other learning and growing together. It’s kinda like having a spinning plate. The coach can then sneak out of there, go find another group and get those people started from time to time having to go back and re-energize in order to keep that peer coaching growing. In effect, a strategy here is for the instructional coach to become a coach of coaching rather than a coach of teachers. In creating that coach of coaching environment, the instructional coach should be the most coached person in the building. I’d be happy to hear your thoughts in how to get coaching started. Please feel free to forward them to me. Several opportunities are found on my website, barkleypd.com. Thanks for listening in.
Steve [Outro]: 11:55 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.