I just have to say that I am thankful for the opportunities I have to grow and expand my expertise as an instructional coach. Last week, I was able to accompany another coach to promote the coaching program at a local elementary school. It took me over a year to become comfortable with public speaking, but I was finally able to speak to a room full of knowledgeable professionals and discuss the coaching program with confidence. The room was quite small, yes, but it would still have been intimidating to me a year ago. It may seem unreasonable that a teacher accustomed to speaking to classes of teenagers would be fearful of adults, but somehow that was the case.
Perhaps it was because I believe so deeply in the coaching program that I could speak at length about it with passion and persuasion because I wish I could visit all of the teachers in our district! I would love to see what they are doing, borrow some of their strategies and materials, and use the tips and tricks I learn from them each time I go into one of their classrooms. I really believe that we have some of the best teachers in the country, and that we work for the greatest district around.
The principal of the elementary school was welcoming and kind, and he spoke warmly of the coaching program, mentioning that even doctors use coaching services to improve their skills. The biggest obstacle for the coaching program seems to be that teachers – especially more experienced teachers – may not feel comfortable reaching out. Maybe they do not fully understand the role of the coach. I think that if people understood how valuable a resource we can be, we would seriously have to knock them back with brooms because they would be clamoring to secure us for themselves.
Most people don’t like having visitors watch them teach. Especially at secondary. Maybe we are used to doing everything ourselves, being fiercely independent and isolated in our rooms. Maybe we feel that a visitor is observing us, judging us, mentally evaluating us, even if it is clear that is not the purpose of an instructional coach. Maybe we don’t trust people and feel like anyone who senses our weaknesses will go announce them on social media and we will become the laughingstock of cyberspace.
I would probably feel the same, but being on the other side, I know that coaches do not harm. Our position is based on a mutual trust and none of the coaches I know would denigrate anyone’s teaching or use something from the class against a teacher. We love to meet with teachers and listen to their stories. If we can help in any way, we are certainly more than willing to assist, but the main goal of a coach is to guide teachers on a path of self-enlightenment, where they figure out solutions on their own.
We have a “toolbox” of techniques and practices, but these general tools can only help so much. Teachers know their students, the climate and culture of their schools, the spirit of the neighborhood and the soul of their clientele. They know what is best and useful for their particular subject and situation. We are honored to teach demo lessons or lead professional development sessions, or to do whatever else teachers need, but mostly we just want to be there as a support, a sounding board, and a friend. Our district established this program to help teachers be their very best and serve students at the highest levels of quality possible. I am thankful to be part of such a progressive idea, and hope that our program will continue to grow and expand.
Best wishes to my readers for a Happy Thanksgiving. May your blessings be abundant.