Coaching the Players: Teaching the Teachers

About Jess Field

Jessica Field holds a Masters degree in Teaching & Learning. She is currently in her twelfth year in education, and lives just outside of Richmond, VA. She has taught every grade level in elementary school with the exception of Kindergarten. Currently, she works as an Instructional Coach to lead middle school teachers on best practices in literacy. She also works with teachers within the DoDEA (Department of Defense) schools sporadically. She also works with Grand Canyon University as a Student Teacher Supervisor for the past four years. In the past, she had the unique opportunity to virtually coach beginning teachers for the National Education Association (NEA), and has been very active with the NC Department of Public Instruction (NC DPI). She worked for several years with a local community college to teach Substitute Teacher courses, and was a Consultant with NC State University on text book committees, and created/evaluated test-bank items for various assessments including common assessments, and NC Teacher Licensure exams.

Note: This idea came to me upon receiving my promotion as an Instructional Coach. A close friend gave me a (Sports Coach) whistle, along with a great card and a balloon to help me celebrate. I keep my whistle hanging in my office right next to my calendar to remind me of the similarities in coaching and teaching.  

(Players are prepared, suited up, and ready for the game.) The National Anthem plays in the stadium and (nearly) everyone stands. Cue the coin toss, and eventually all hands in a circle.) “1, 2, 3,  Team!” and break! Whether you’re a spectator at a professional game, have a child participating in a little league game, or a staff member of a school, the theory is the same: Teamwork. Wait, but in education should it be teamwork or rather “growth”?

Teamwork

If the team has poor skills, then they’re going to play a bad game. Teamwork is important, but fundamental skills are a prerequisite even to being able to work as a member of a team. A player can’t play in the game without basic skills and therefore might need to be benched. The team depends upon all of its members to come into the game with the same determination and a certain level of skill. The team is only as strong as its weakest player. (Whistle blown)

Certainly, the school has to work as a team; there is no doubt about that. The grade level or department has to work together, as well as the Instructional Coach with the “players” (teachers). Of course, the Administration has to work with their Instructional Coach(es).  If any of these pieces are missing, then “touchdowns” are being missed, and “yards” are being lost. These might even go unnoticed by the referees and fans.  The fans, of course, are our students who worship us and in some part are also our referees; the referees are our Administration. Both keep us accountable for treating students equitably and enforcing procedures, rules, and consequences.

Adult learning theory says that adults need to immediately see how learning will benefit them. Click To Tweet

Adult learning theory says that adults need to immediately see how learning will benefit them. That being said, some teachers may be complacent about being mediocre if they are not willing to trying new strategies. These teachers may bring to mind the football drill of “dead weight” being plowed across the field on that special machine, powered by the brute force of other players. Some teachers might be willing to try some new strategies, and some teachers are eager to try anything in their classroom. As a team, it is the responsibility of the Administration to work with Instructional Coach(es) to devise a plan of how to help teachers and differentiate the level of support each teacher needs. Ongoing conversations about progress being made by each teacher are crucial to both teacher efficacy and teacher growth.

Growth

Coaches don’t encourage failure and don’t harshly punish players for making mistakes. Instead, they review the mistake with the player and then move on to the next play for improvement. This may vary depending upon how Instructional Coach positions are being utilized. However, simply put, it should not vary- an Instructional Coach is a Coach. Any district that utilizes the position as a means to “catch them” is underutilizing the role and doing a severe disservice to its teachers, administration, students, and stakeholders.

I have had the pleasure to teach in three different states; in two of the states, the role was utilized to help teachers. (Disclaimer: I have not taught in multiple schools across each of these states.) In one of the states, the role was solely used as a “gotcha” position. The Instructional Coach’s role was to try to undermine teachers and point out every single thing that they did wrong. She was there to criticize teachers accordingly in other to demean them into feeling less than adequate and doubt their chosen career path. (This was the impression of the majority of the staff.)

However, an Instructional  Coach is there to be non-evaluative. That means that a Coach is there to ask questions of their teachers; what their purpose was, what they noticed, and how will they use this in the future. This takes so much skill to be able to ask purposeful questions of teachers, and have it not be “canned”, in order to guide them into best practices.

What I had at the school mentioned above was anything but a “Coach”; I’m not sure what that was! This is my first year as a Coach, and I certainly know what not to do now as I reflect back on their experiences.  I had been teaching for eleven years and expected a lot out of myself. Was I perfect? No. Did I do a lot right? Yes. My growth should have based on what I (as a Teacher) saw in the classroom, and not what she thought was “wrong”.

Tune in next week for the article…”Designing Training Camp (Summer Professional Development for Teachers”

During training camp, multiple athletic trainers line the fields in case players need assistance. The NFL’s first week of Training Camp is the most dangerous; there are too many unprepared players. How can a “Training Camp” help to prepare teachers for the upcoming year? Stay tuned for next week.

 

 

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About the Author:

Jessica Field holds a Masters degree in Teaching & Learning. She is currently in her twelfth year in education, and lives just outside of Richmond, VA. She has taught every grade level in elementary school with the exception of Kindergarten. Currently, she works as an Instructional Coach to lead middle school teachers on best practices in literacy. She also works with teachers within the DoDEA (Department of Defense) schools sporadically. She also works with Grand Canyon University as a Student Teacher Supervisor for the past four years. In the past, she had the unique opportunity to virtually coach beginning teachers for the National Education Association (NEA), and has been very active with the NC Department of Public Instruction (NC DPI). She worked for several years with a local community college to teach Substitute Teacher courses, and was a Consultant with NC State University on text book committees, and created/evaluated test-bank items for various assessments including common assessments, and NC Teacher Licensure exams.

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