Most teachers have never had a coach and are not sure what to do with one. Many have had a mentor and all have had a supervisor/evaluator but not an instructional coach. Considering the cost to school systems, when they decide to invest in instructional coaching positions they should be considering how they educate teachers about coaching and what expectations they will present to them.
Nina Morel has just provided a great supporting resource to educate teachers about coaching with her new ASCD publication, Learning From Coaching: How do I work with an instructional coach to grow as a teacher?
Nina built her book around five beliefs about coaching:
Anyone who wants to excel and be the best at his or her chosen profession needs coaching.
Coaching is about helping you think more deeply about your work, organize your thoughts, set your own goals, and develop a plan to meet those goals.
Coaching is controlled by the teacher, not the coach. You are in the driver’s seat.
Coaching is a relationship between two or more people, and all parties to the relationship are responsible for its success.
Coaching is confidential and based on trust.
In the following chapters Nina defines coaching and why it’s important, describes what to expect from a coach, presents the coachee’s role in coaching, and provides advice for increasing coaching effectiveness and productivity.
Writing in the Guardian, teacher Andrew Jones explains the difference between coaching and mentoring, (See how his definitions compare with yours.) and how they suit different professional development needs. His own experience with coaching which he shares he approached with cynicism, had positive outcomes:
“The best thing about it was that it gave me the freedom to discuss my needs and wants openly; I wasn’t self-conscious when assessing my strengths and weaknesses and had a chance to properly think about the direction I want my career to go in. My colleagues who coached me kept the conversation focused, realistic and effective. Interestingly, some of the most productive sessions came from being paired up with colleagues in very different roles….”
I believe that modeling coaching sessions for teachers is another important educating activity. Instructional coaches, teacher leaders, and administrators who coach each other publicly at PLC, department, and faculty meetings can model the value of being vulnerable and illustrate “how to use a coach.”
It’s important that teachers are aware of what expectations the system and administration have for their involvement in coaching.
Several years ago I worked with a superintendent who suggested that her strategy was to bring new things to a staff as invitational and move over time to it being “expectational”. Not a bad way to have your risk taking staff experience coaching and share the results with others. As evidence grows as to the value of the coaching experience, the practice becomes an expected behavior from all staff.
If an instructional coaching program is already established in a building, I think that administrators should share the expectation of participation in the interview process with candidates. Scheduling time with the instructional coach is added to the list of “early to do things” for the teacher new to the school.
Principals can communicate their expectations of teacher work with coaches in their day to day dialogues with teachers:
* If a teacher shares with an administrator that she is frustrated by some students’ progress, the principal can respond with, “What thoughts did the coach have when you shared that concern with her? “ Should the teacher respond with the fact that she hadn’t spoken to the coach, the surprised look on the principal’s face should communicate an expectation.
*During a teacher’s supervisory/performance conference it would be appropriate for the principal to ask, “As you develop your personal growth plan for next year, how do you see coaching experiences fit in?”
If instructional coaching is new to your school or you have teachers new to an existing coaching program in your school, your leadership team should be developing a purposeful plan for educating about coaching and sharing expectations for participation.