Sunday, February 17, 2013

Coaching Q & A

This Wednesday I have the opportunity to be on a coaching panel for a class at Drake University. The professor for the course kindly sent me the questions in advance. What a better place to reflect on these than here on the blog?
    1. How do you manage your time, and how do you communicate how you will spend your time to the staff? 
      I try to focus my time by setting priorities that will help our building reach our goals. I used to post a calendar outside my door but found the only person who used the calendar was our building principal. I now share my calendar with the building secretary and  administrator. I try to share my role and priorities with our building leadership team.
    2. Compare and contrast your role as a literacy coach to your role as a classroom teacher.
      Both roles are very challenging, rewarding, and exhausting in very different ways. I always have to be thinking ahead to that next question, next response, that will help move a team or teacher forward in their learning. The same is true when you are working with students. You need to have a solid understanding of adult learners.
    3. What is the ratio of time you spend working with teachers and working with students?
      I can't put an exact ratio on this, but I should find most of my time is spent with teachers. My job is to help them reflect on their practice and set personal learning goals. If I am the one working with students it is only so the classroom teacher can observe their students or observe a strategy I am modeling.
    4. How did teachers and parents first react to you as literacy coaches?
      I have had a parent (not from our district) almost physically attack me because "why do our teachers need someone in their room telling them what to do?!" After explaining what my role really was, she had a better understanding. I felt like our first couple of years we really had to sell the program as many school board members were unsure of the value of the role. Now that teachers see the value of the role, I feel I can focus on more important things.
    5. What did you do to gain the staff’s trust?
      With every interaction, you have to come from a place that's genuine. There really are very few bad teachers out there (and none that I have ever worked with). Everyone is trying to do what they think is best for their students. Once people understand that you are genuinely there to support this, they find it easier to trust you and work with you.
    6. How do you work with resistant teachers?
      Again, this goes back to the trust issue. Also, different teachers need me for different reasons. It depends on what their learning needs are. So while it appears they are resistant, they really may just not need my help in a particular setting. If teachers are resistant to something, it's because they have a belief about what you might be talking about. If they don't understand the connection of how the strategy will help their students (or feel it is a waste of time) they will be resistant. Can you blame them?
    7. What was included in your preparation to be a coach?
      We were able to attend a coaching seminar and a workshop our first year as coaches. We also were able to meet as a PLC to learn from each other. Since then I have completed the Literacy Coaching Certificate program through Iowa State. Most of my preparation has come from reading on my own and working with my team.
    8. When considering making the move to becoming a Literacy Coach, what would you suggest doing to prepare for this role
      First and foremost, ask yourself why you want to make the switch. If your answer is because it's easier than being in the classroom, you will need to rethink becoming a Literacy Coach. Read a lot...about coaching, about literacy, about adult learning and best practices in the classroom. Read about inspiration and data. Never stop reading!
    9. How/when are you evaluated?
      I'm evaluated on the same criteria and time-line as a classroom teacher. The artifacts in my portfolio look a little different and I use video clips from PD or classroom modeling rather than teaching.
    10. What is the most challenging aspect of your job?  The most rewarding?
      The most challenging aspect of my job is the constant nagging of "Did I approach that situation in the best way? Is there something else I could have asked, done, or said to move the team or teacher forward? Did I push too hard? Did I shut learning down?" I literally lose sleep over these things.
      The most rewarding aspect is watching a teacher look at student learning in a new way, share out what they've tried, and reflect on how it went for students and what they might try next time. When collaborative teams are able to do this where they might not have been doing this before is also a great reward.
    11. What is one source of inspiration (a book, a person, etc.) that has helped you through your journey as a Literacy Coach?
      My fellow coaches are always a source of inspiration. They are amazing people who are always willing to share out resources, how they have problem solved through challenges, as well as "coach" me through situations. 
      Also, anything by Jim Knight, Steve Barkley, Carol Dweck, and Susan Scott are always great resources.
      Seriously...start with people first! Just like you would do in a classroom. And know that you will constantly be learning along the way.

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