Sometimes I feel stuck in the middle of…well, everyone. Not only am I navigating and sometimes mediating relationships among teachers, I also wind up third party to student-teacher, counselor-teacher, or administrator-teacher interactions. Let me be clear: I do not take sides and I do not […]
What is the missing piece in most professional development sessions? Why is it so hard to change teacher behavior in learning new knowledge? What can we do to make teacher learning stick? We’ve all asked these questions. No matter how thoroughly we prepare or how […]
There is power in modeling. Whether you are a Math, Reading or Language Arts teacher, teacher modeling is extremely important when trying to get students to begin to understand and learn key concepts. As simple as it seems to incorporate
According to Barak Rosenshine, writer of Principles of Instruction:
One way a teacher can model their thinking with students is to think aloud as they annotate or read a text, work through a math problem, or share thoughts/feelings about a topic. Students need to observe, discuss and be a part of the modeling process. By having students become a part of the process, they begin to understand the concept quicker because they are able to explain and communicate the learning concept. It helps students to become critical thinkers and to be able to express themselves and their learning.
Scaffolding, having student(s) work with the teacher and provide examples, is a technique that allows students to actually see what is being asked of them to produce with teacher support. Scaffolding for students is extremely important before they begin to try a new concept or strategy on their own. In an article by Northern Illinois University, it states when [teachers] incorporate scaffolding in the classroom, [they] become more of a mentor and facilitator of knowledge rather than the dominant content expert. This teaching style provides an incentive for students to take a more active role in their own learning.
Students as Models:
There are many ways teachers can utilize students as models in their classrooms. At times, students can explain and model for their peers in a way that the concept is made even more plain to them. This is usually done after the teacher has modeled the learning concept for their class. Teachers can call a student up to model in front of the classroom or they can pair/group students and have students model within the group. Either way that is decided, it can be a powerful tool and at times students can explain it even clearer than teachers can. Let the students lead them, right?
Modeling in education is one research-based strategies that often gets overlooked. Let’s remember its power and use it to effectively teach students while providing the necessary support for our teachers.
As coaches here are some ways to support teachers in embedding the use of modeling in their teaching practices:
- Model modeling for teachers
- Co-plan lessons that intentionally embeds the use of modeling
- Provide professional development about the importance of modeling for students
- Complete article studies (links above) with teachers
- Have teachers observe other teachers using this research-based strategy
Coaches have a vital role to play in teacher self-care. That statement almost sounds counter-intuitive. Honestly, I kind of hate the term ‘teacher self-care.’ I worry it puts the onus of caring for teachers only in their own hands. As coaches, as schools, as districts, […]
It seems like things are slowing down a bit during this time of year. It never fails. Teachers are finishing up last minute to-dos before finals, crafts are being created, and the school has turned into a sea of red and green. All the while, […]
In the life of an Instructional Coach, we are there to support teachers. We love seeing teachers continue to grow. We want to be there for them, provide feedback and do all we can to help facilitate their development. However, we often put our all into the growth of others so much so that we often find ourselves depleted and neglecting our own self-care in the process. As a coach, I have been known to do this on more than one occasion. Although I have known better, I know that I cannot pour from an empty cup and that I must take care of myself first. But when you are a new coach and still learning how to best serve in your new capacity, you often fill your plate to the brim. You are so happy to be utilized for the purpose of growth that you want to support everyone at all times. In my first year of coaching, I learned fairly quickly how burnt out you can get if you do not do certain key things to keep your cup full. One of the key things is balancing your schedule to relieve stress.
I know that I cannot pour from an empty cup and that I must take care of myself first. But when you are a new coach and still learning how to best serve in your new capacity, you often fill your plate to the brim. Click To Tweet
Pouring from an Empty Cup
As an Instructional Coach, your schedule should have balance. This was difficult for me at first because I scheduled every 1:1 meeting, every teacher modeling, every observation during any and all of the open slots of my schedule. I got tired fast. I was taking tons of work home that I could have done throughout my day. The truth of the matter was—I was the master of my schedule (thanks to a very open and supportive principal) and the master was trying to burn myself out and fast. I knew that coaches should be in attendance to collaborative team meetings, modeling for teachers, sending valuable resources, be available for teacher/coach meetings, observing teachers, etc. There was a lot that had to be done, but I was allowing my schedule to control me rather than me control my schedule. Creating a top-heavy schedule with a focus on only one or two aspects of coaching, I felt ineffective and did not know why. I was being pulled in many different directions and stress began to spear its ugly head. Realizing it, I knew had to make a change. I was doing this to myself and I was the only one who could change it.
Realizing the Need for Change
I remember the day perfectly. It was a Monday and I was reviewing my schedule. I looked it over to prepare for the week and my heart began to race. I began to have sweaty palms and I was breathing hard and fast. I believe I was beginning to have an anxiety attack. It was all too much and I finally told myself this is ridiculous. This cannot be healthy. I wanted to be everything to everyone at all times, but I was only one person. It was too much. I knew the first step to releasing this stress was that I needed to find balance in my schedule. I needed to release without guilt. I realized then that just because my plate was filled to capacity did not mean I was being effective. In fact, it was highly ineffective. I was doing a lot of things, but I was not doing them well. I had to slim down my schedule to breed effectiveness. I knew I had to do it and I had to do it without the presence of guilt.
Solutions for Scheduling
After realizing my need, I altered my schedule more times than I could count. It looked very different from one week to the next. But slowly but surely I was releasing stress. This doesn’t mean that I was not doing work. I was doing some of the best work that I have ever done because I was focused and intentional. I was not just filling up my schedule, I was effective because I began giving the necessary time for the work I needed to do. Some ways I did this was focusing certain days for different aspects of coaching. For instance, Mondays are teacher observation, individual teacher meetings, and during breaks planning for school-wide professional development. Tuesdays are for attending team meetings to see where I can help support teachers effectively (within this day I also model lessons for teachers). Wednesdays are usually School-wide Professional Development which I plan on Mondays and Tuesdays (occasionally I have to take it home to complete). Thursdays are Professional Learning Community Days with teams that can focus on a variety of aspects of teaching, data talks, make-and-takes and/or team building. Fridays are usually catch up days, follow-up meetings with teachers, modeling and teacher observations. Does this schedule work this way all of the time, every day, perfectly? No. But it definitely provides consistency for me and my level of stress has decreased tremendously.
My Path to Self-Care
There are other aspects of the coaching life in which self-care is essential. For me, my first step was maintaining a balanced schedule for myself and the teachers. They now know, for the most part, what is happening on what day as it relates to their interactions with me. My motto now is, “A balanced schedule is key to a balanced day.” Instructional Coaches need to practice the act of self-care in order to effectively support teachers. My first step in doing that was creating a balanced schedule to maintain overall balance.
How soon is too soon to visit classrooms? Maybe that is the wrong question. How soon is too soon to start observing teachers and providing feedback? This is my struggle. Of course, as a coach, I want to get into classrooms as soon as possible. […]
A typical response when I tell other educators that I am an Instructional Coach is, “Wow! That sounds awesome. How do you become a coach?” The response that I give them is usually the abbreviated version of the steps I had taken to become a […]
As a coach, there comes a time when you are asked to work with a teacher who has not been one of the ones banging down your office door. This situation can cause feelings of discomfort for you and the teacher. Sometimes it is not that the teacher does not want to work with you as a coach. However, there could be some feelings of inadequacy, reluctance, and resistance to change. These feelings most likely have nothing to do with you. The idea here is to not take it personally. You are not there to have hurt feelings because you are not at the top of this particular teacher’s “friends” list. Being an Instructional Coach is not about any of that. It is about fostering a relationship with teachers to foster their growth in order to produce adequate growth in students.
According to the article produced by the Pennsylvania Institute for Instructional Coaching, it states, “while building your relationships with teachers in your school find out what they need, what their teaching insecurities are, and how you can support their growth.” In order to reach this plateau of growth, there must be a partnership that is built for it to occur. The teacher has to make the decision to be open and willing to grow and change. You, as the coach, have to be willing to facilitate the process, be open and leave judgment at the door. Here are some researched based strategies that you can help with the feelings that the teacher may have.
Feeling of Inadequacy: There will be teachers that you work with that feel inadequate in their teaching practices. One thing that helps before I even walk in the door is allowing myself to think back to a time when I felt the same exact way. No teacher has “arrived.” Every teacher can think of a time when they have had these feelings. Remember and hold on to your past feelings of inadequacy in the field of education because you are going to need to mentally refer to that while facilitating conversations with the teacher. Another way to begin to lessen the teacher’s feelings of inadequacy is reassurance that you are there to help and to build a partnership. Reiterate the fact that you are not there to judge them or to ridicule them with your note-taking, observing, modeling, co-planning, etc. You are there to facilitate and aid in the teacher’s growth so that ultimately their students will make strides.
Feeling of Reluctance: There will always be teachers who are a little reluctant, especially in uncomfortable situations such as involuntarily working with the Instructional Coach. However, there are ways to help with this. One way is to have open communication with the teacher and let them know that what you discuss is confidential. Remember, as the coach, you are in their room without invitation. However, I would state that working together can be an experience of both growth, exploration, and celebration. But be honest that there will also be constructive feedback that will be given in the process. In order for that growth to occur, there has to be openness, willingness, and honesty. The teacher will have to let down some walls and for you to help them do that, they have to see you as a support system that they can trust and with whom they can be open.
Resistance to Change: “I’ve always done it this way,” or, “This is the way it’s always been done,” are comments you often hear from teachers who are not ready and sometimes unwilling to alter their instructional practices and are reluctant to change. However, with a solid relationship established, a supportive environment and building trust, you will be amazed as to how much teachers are willing to change and expand their instructional horizons. One way for this to happen is through other teachers that you have coached. Once the “word” begins to spread about the work you are doing in other rooms, along with student growth, more teachers will begin to open up and allow small significant changes to their instruction.
Sometimes as a coach when we are putting in the authentic work of building relationships, building trust and supporting teachers, we can become discouraged when there are teachers who are not as receptive to our work. The key is, to begin with the end in mind and remember, ultimately you are there to support teachers to aid in student growth. When we keep that at the forefront of our minds, we will be able to keep pushing forward in doing what is best for students.
Evaluating materials is often a part of the coaching gig, even though it isn’t in the typical coaching job description. We are often called on as experts to evaluate a variety of instructional materials, books, and programs. There are so many things to consider when […]