On coaching and on being a specialized teacher

As we entered the final part of the COETAIL course and started to dive into a full experience of implementing or redesigning a unit of our choice, to be taught at our school,  I  was skimming through some of the Eduro Learning publications, and quickly came up with a topic of interest: I have been meaning to find out more about a coach’s role.  Finding out on my own first might take away the apprehension to contact our own team of coaches (I know, I know! I am being honest here…).
Actually, some of my Cohort 12 COETAIL-ers have that role in their respective schools, or will next year, and it further prompted my curiosity.

Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash

What is an Instructional Coach?

The Pennsylvania Institute for Instructional Coaching defines an instructional coach as “someone whose chief professional responsibility is to bring evidence-based practices into classrooms by working with teachers and other school leaders.” Coaches are often experienced educators who have moved away from full-time teaching to work directly with other teachers and help them improve their practice. Sometimes, they are still teaching in the classroom part-time, or hold an administrative position.

Why Should Teachers Work with Coaches

In this short video which, like the others in this series produced by Eduro Learning, is less than 5 minutes long, educator, Technology & Learning Coach & librarian @nzchrissy explains what are the three main benefits for teachers to work with coaches:

  1. make your teaching better
  2. get support
  3. be exposed to a different perspective.

The proven bonus of working with a coach is to shorten the learning curve inherent to absorbing new knowledge. And that is especially true in the technology domain: the coach can help you find a solution for your specific need, or help you understand how to directly use new tech tools.

I remember those former training sessions aimed at all staff, which seems logical until the moment you find yourself alone in front of your PC screen and unable to replicate the steps, with no one to ask for help. I believe instructional coaching is a tremendous addition when schools embed professional learning opportunities into the day-to-day work of teachers. Coaches can directly support the development of specific teacher knowledge, skills, and motivation while fostering collaboration.

“Coaching is an essential component of an effective professional development program” explains Elena Aguilar in How Coaching Can Impact Teachers, Principals, and Students, adding that a “coach can foster conditions in which deep reflection and learning can take place, where a teacher can take risks to change her practise, where powerful conversations can take place and where growth is recognized and celebrated”.

Copyright Luis Carlos Moreno (ISP)

As another Cohort 12 COETAIL-er, Luis Carlos Moreno, aka Mr Luis Teach, published in a recent blog post, titled Coaching à la Carte, the list of what coaches can help with and came up with a rather long list!

With his team, he then organized all those detailed options into a structured program “à la carte” (choose your favourite from the menu).
Finally, he turned it into an easily readable infographic (see right) that can now be found on their school website (see more information in Luis Carlos next blog post: Taking Coaching Online). I am quite confident that it will help promote what coaches can bring to colleagues in the classrooms!

 

Indeed, it helped me realized that I could myself approach a coach for a specific (smaller) question, or for support request, and not only for developing an entire coaching program.

The past year, the COVID 19 pandemic and its consequences modified all our landmarks and forced us to adapt our practices. In Virtual Coaching Takes Off, American literacy coach Kimberly Blumke explain that coaching online is at the core of instructional coaching, as the entire process becomes more efficient and effective.
Despite so many difficult situations, we were forced to innovate and quickly learn how to use new tech tools for Distance Learning, and I am sure that we will keep some practices implemented during the past year. Working with coaches online, or having learn to value the help coaches bring to us might be one of them.

Through some other readings I also understood that even if you are not a coach in the title, as a specialized teacher, you are probably having coaching conversations – with your colleagues, parents of your students, maybe even your students!

As a school teacher-librarian, our roles are surely diversified (and I love it!), and as we can’t always teach all classes of every subject in each grade, the best option is to model some classes with teachers who can then deliver the content to their students, or help with the follow-up.
For example, I used to spend a lot of time teaching academic honesty along with how to create bibliographies and citations. I still do, but whenever possible, I try to involve middle and high school teachers by transferring at least part of this knowledge to them: after all, I will only be in their class occasionally while they can help their students who have questions afterwards.

At some point, we also wanted to help parents experience what their kids get familiar with at school. Therefore both library teams organized workshops for Early Childhood Center and Elementary schools parents. We could say that we played the role of a coach during those technology workshop sessions.
It was a success and everyone enjoyed those fun mornings.
We will plan some more as soon as parents are allowed on campus again!

 

Although there have been tech integrators at my school for quite a while, it was always a part-time divisional role added to another teaching assignment. In  2019-2020, the first full time and cross-divisional middle and high school Tech Integrator was hired with the following official title: Media Resource & Tech Integration Teacher. Obviously, it was a blessing when we started to prepare for a then “possible” lockdown, in February 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic (if only we knew that we even went back for a short time on Distance Learning earlier this month, in April 2021!!).
For information, our Head Librarian’s title is Head of Digital Media and Libraries. But another great decision was to combine the Tech and Libray teams in the same space: everyone has their own area of expertise but we are working towards the same goal in term of promoting the integration of technology. While we continue to encourage reading, the library’s role is also evolving to become a Technology Hub: not only do we have a Creativity studio with a green screen, and other sound or image recording, but also have 3D printers that students can use for projects outside specific classes, iPads, a GoPro, etc. Although we couldn’t run some activities or clubs this school year (here again, the pandemic is to blame), the library has become in the past few years a busy place, replacing its image of a quiet reference room with dusty books with a more modern one, involving lots of cool tech tools, bookbowl quizzes… and nice smiling librarians 😉  (I hope so!)

Coach.Better: Ep 6: We’re All on the Same Team: A Librarians Perspective with Philip Williams

Finally, coming back to the Eduro Learning material, I watched this “Coach Better” episode, featuring a discussion between Kim CofinoClint Hamada and Philip Williams, Head Librarian at NIST International School in Bangkok, Thailand. As a librarian at NIST, Philip is part of the coaching team, so this episode in particular highlights the overlaps of how a modern librarian fits into a culture of coaching at a school. Philip shares lots of great examples of how, even in schools without a coaching team, a librarian can be a stepping stone into building that coaching culture – with librarians as an information literacy coach.

And what about you? Did you ever work with a coach? How would you describe the experience?  What about your school library?