Monday, January 21, 2019

#EduroLearning Course: Coaching Models Reflection

How does coaching work at your school right now?

We are really working on building the culture of coaching right now in my school. The school is 11 years old and has gone through a significant amount of change and growth in a relatively small amount of time. I think due to the turnover of teaches in the past, it was hard to get a consistent culture built. For the last three years, turnover has been very limited, so we are able to see some very positive change and growth. Last year, all three divisions instituted Pineapple Charts as a way to push more peer observation. I would say it has met with limited success; there is no specific protocol in place for teachers to observe peers. If we continue with peer observation, I would like to see peer coaching become part of the approach, so that teachers could be identifying something they specifically want colleagues to observe and comment on. Right now it is more like showing up and simply watching another teacher teach; it isn't a bad thing, but it could be a little better.

With regard to division directors, the curriculum coordinator, and myself, many teachers are still not really sure how or why to make use of us in their own professional growth. Some teachers are and it is very enjoyable to work with them and see them improve as professionals, but it makes the ones not utilizing us as tools for improvement that much more painful to watch flounder. This led us to want to change the evaluation system of the school and do more walk-throughs with immediate and specific feedback.

How would this model fit within your current coaching culture at school?

A model I would like to see adopted would be cognitive coaching, because then potentially anyone from a pool of professionals could potentially help/support other educators. It would provide more support for all levels of the school. Essentially it would be more bang for the buck, because it wouldn't rely on one or two people, but a team of people. The team could always be expanding so that as teachers eventually left the school, their position on the coaching team could be easily filled by another member of the school community. 

What elements of this model would improve the coaching culture at your school?

Because of the size of the school, educators have a tendency to be very busy and being busy becomes an excuse for not doing extra work. It is true that we are busy, but we are all doing things that are important and the admin team is good about not putting busy-work on teachers, so the excuse gets old to my ears fast. But the excuse also comes from a lack of clear focus and clarity on the part of the admin team with regard to professional development and teacher evaluation. I think the cognitive coaching approach would resolve some of this issues in the long-term, but possibly cause some more confusion in the short-term. I think many of our teachers are younger and sometimes they simply want an answer, they don't want to go through a long process to discover the answer themselves. I believe once they understood how empowering it can be to learn and discover on their own, they would learn to enjoy the process, but initially it could be off-putting for some of the faculty.
Why might this model work best for your school?

As I stated earlier, the idea of not being stuck with one or two people who hold the knowledge/skill and then when they leave we have a power vacuum is the main reason for me. Our previous HS Director was a great guy, but he was terrible about delegating jobs to other people, so he would simply do all the work. So when he left, there was a huge amount of work that no one was doing because no one realized he was doing it all. This left a vacuum and we have struggled to repair that loss. Institutionally it made me realize that we need to spread the leadership out more so that the school is more flat with that regard. When someone leaves, rather than rebuild, we can reload (gun analogies -- you can take the boy out of Montana, but you can't take the Montana out of the boy).

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