Because Counting Our Blessings Just Isn't Enough

 

cc licensed image shared by flickr user ell brown

The past six months co-moderating educoach on twitter with Kathy Perret and Jessica Johnson, interacting with a growing number of wise and creative instructional coaches, principals and teachers, has helped me move a quantum leap forward in my thinking about professional learning in my school. During this time I’ve also been blessed as an educational leader to work with my own instructional coach who has helped me to stretch my thinking and reflect on challenges and successes, nurturing my own professional learning.  Complementing my journey into the potential of instructional coaching I’ve learned along with mentors in our school, trained to coach new teachers by the New Jewish Teachers Project. I’ve begun to immerse myself in literature about instructional coaching, seeking ways to support faculty in my school. The impact for me has been powerful. 

My learning has led to action. I’ve been planning with educational leaders, both administrators and teachers, brainstorming ways of creating a team of instructional coaches for our school. Tomorrow in a blog post on my school blog I’ll be sharing our plans with the school community.

While much is in place, a tremendous amount of planning remains and I feel grateful for the thoughtful collaboration of my educoach colleagues. I share with you in the hopes that you can continue to help me think through ways of designing and supporting a team of instructional coaches.

By transforming existing positions, we are creating a team of seven individuals who will work as instructional coaches. Most have additional responsibilities in the school and over time, by developing the capacity of our teachers, we hope to support our instructional coaches to focus more of their time on enhancing professional learning in our school.

Our Coaching Positions:

Singapore Math Coach: As we implement aSingapore math curriculum in the school, we will benefit from an outside coach providing five days of intensive training for teachers as well as a workshop for parents, alongside a full-time in-house coach to provide ongoing professional learning and training for our teachers and support for our parents. We have had a math enrichment specialist and over time have begun to transform this position into an instructional coach. Our math coach is the “purest” of the instructional coaching roles we have been able to create, focusing almost exclusively on math instructional coaching for our faculty. An additional responsibility will be communicating and partnering with parents to help them become knowledgeable about our math curriculum.

Hebrew Instructional Coach: We are a K-12 dual curriculum Jewish day school and we teach Hebrew language from Kindergarten. For several years, we have had a K-12 Hebrew coordinator who functions as the Hebrew Department Chair in our Middle and High Schools.  This year, in ourLowerSchool where I serve as principal, we have shifted her role from department chair to instructional coach. She spends 1 ½ days per week in theLowerSchool and we hope to extend that to 2 full days weekly next year. During her time in theLowerSchool she functions exclusively as an instructional coach; supporting teachers to develop units and lessons, modeling lessons, observing and providing feedback, developing student assessments and supporting teachers to analyze assessment data, and reflecting with teachers on teaching and learning in their classrooms.

Science Instructional Coach: Our science instructional coach began her position this year, replacing a science enrichment specialist. In the past, students benefitted from supplemental science instruction in our lab most times supporting curriculum but at times stand alone science experiments. Our science instructional coach teaches students as a means of modeling science instruction for our teachers. Lessons occur in our lab, our classrooms and our outdoor labs – walking trails and our vegetable and butterfly gardens. The science instructional coach assists teachers develop science units and lessons and models many lessons. Over time, she will take on additional coaching responsibilities as our teachers gain confidence providing more of the direct science teaching to students.

Educational Technology Instructional Coach: Technology can no longer be relegated to a lab, but must be infused within classroom experiences. An educational technology coach will provide students with a comprehensive technology curriculum, but even more significantly, will support teachers to infuse daily learning experiences with technology in order to enhance and improve the quality of learning at our school. We have had a computer lab teacher and our educational technology coach will continue, for the foreseeable future, to provide direct instruction to students. However, substantial time will be devoted to coaching faculty. Even when providing direct service to students, the educational technology coach will simultaneously be modeling technology learning for our teachers.

Enrichment Instructional Coach: An enrichment coach whose role will be to support teachers to design enrichment experiences for students will join our department of student services. This educator will work directly with students who, based on assessment, demonstrate the need for enrichment or acceleration exceeding grade-level learning. The enrichment specialist will be able to teach students in their classrooms and, as needed, pull students out of class to provide an enriched curriculum. Our enrichment specialist will also serve as a coach to teachers, assisting us to design enrichment experiences that will challenge and nurture the talents and passions of all our students. We have created this position by a redesign of our student services department so that we can manage with one less learning strategist.

Library/Media Specialist-Research, Media and Literacy Instructional Coach: Leading the process of shifting our library into a twenty-first century library/media center is vital to our efforts to prepare our students for success in our rapidly changing media-rich world. We will be welcoming a library/media specialist to our faculty who will support our students to develop research and media literacy skills. Our library and media specialist will also coach our classroom teachers in more skillful integration of research, media, and literacy skills into educational experiences in the classroom.

Literacy and Learning Strategies Instructional Coach: The role of the chairperson of our student services department will shift to focus far more on instructional coaching in literacy and learning strategies. She will work in concert with a number of other faculty leaders highly skilled in literacy instruction to provide our teachers support. While we would very much like to hire a literacy instructional coach, we do not currently have funding for this position and will therefore create a team of faculty leaders, led by the chairperson of our student services department, who will spend much of her time on instructional coaching. 

Instructional Coaching Team:

Our instructional coaches will work together as a coaching team, supporting meaningful professional learning designed to meet the specific needs of our teachers.  We hope that the sum of that instructional coaching team will be greater than the parts and a creative energy and collaborative learning spirit among our coaches will both support their effectiveness and spread throughout our faculty. While in most cases our instructional coaches also have teaching responsibilities with students, we hope to transform that challenge into a benefit, as coaches will speak to colleagues from the trenches, experiencing daily the difficulties and rewards of teaching children during times of rapid change.

In these initial stages of our thinking on creating an instructional coaching team, I turn to colleagues for insight and ideas. How can we prepare our instructional coaches? What challenges can we anticipate and how might we proactively address them? What professional learning will be valuable for our coaches? How might the roles of principal and assistant principal shift in order to enhance the momentum produced by instructional coaching? What other questions should we be asking?

Thanks for your input!

Cross posted at connectededucoach.wordpress.com

Comments on: "A Team of Coaches" (4)

  1. I think this sounds like the PD support of the future. Very innovative. From my own experience, I have found that at first, teachers don’t understand what to ‘do’ with a coach. Presented together, though, with specific goals in mind, I believe that this group of individuals could significantly impact the learning culture of a school.

    • Shira Leibowitz said:

      Hi Laura,
      Thanks so much for the encouragement! We are hopeful that our team of coaches will be able significantly to impact the learning culture of our school. We do want to find innovative ways to provide the support teachers deserve and believe in the possibilities of instructional coaching.

  2. Shira,
    Do make sure that you provide “collaborative” time for your seven coaches together! I remember when a colleague and I worked within the same building that it was imperative that we communicate regularly. Otherwise, some less-confident teachers were apt to “mom and pop” us all the time. That was the basic “okay,mom, you said this; I’m going to check and see if I get the same answer from Dad!” And the conversations that were the hardest happened in the grocery store when a teacher would ask about something from school, and I was trying to match the person with the right building 30 miles away!

    You have a plan and specific targets! You are on the path to improved learning for ALL!

    • Shira Leibowitz said:

      Hi Fran,
      We have worked in collaborative time for the coaches with two groups: the coaches alone and the coaches along with our faculty grade level team leaders and our educational leadership team (Principal, Assistant Principal, Psychologist, and Admissions Director). We understand the “mom and pop” dynamic as well as the need to steer a common course and support one another on our journey. The demands of cultural change are enormous and we agree, cannot be accomplished alone.

      My biggest concern is that except for our math coach who is a full time “pure” instructional coach and our Hebrew coach for the 1 1/2-2 days she is at our Lower School, each of our coaches has significant responsibilities for direct student support. We recognize this is not ideal; yet it is simply the nature of responsible budgeting with finite resources. Over time, as we build teacher capacity, we hope to be able to give the coaches more time for instructional coaching. In the meantime, we will strive to preserve and protect the time our coaches do have to work with our faculty.

      Thanks for your insights and encouragement! I appreciate and grateful to be able to turn to you to brainstorm as we move forward.

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