This is our third episode in our short #coachbetter series on Coaching in Practice. We often get questions about what coaching looks like in practice so we are excited to share this short series with you. In this episode we have a team conversation with two coachees (Nellie & Jackie) and their coach, Megan. Nellie, Jackie and Megan work together at the American School of Madrid, where Megan is a “coach in residence” and Nellie and Jacki teach grade 1 and learning support. This conversation is a fascinating insight into how coaches can differentiate their approach based on teacher needs, level of experience, and years in teaching. We discuss deeply exactly how coaching works for these two teachers, and the ways that coaching has impacted their teaching practice over several years. For coaches looking to better understand how to build, adapt, develop and sustain deep and meaningful coaching relationships over time, this episode is for you!
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Nellie: 7 years at American School of Madrid (ASM), grade 1 teacher, first co-ed, first international school
Jacki: learning support, 30 years at ASM
Megan: independent consultant, 3 year partnership
As a coach, how did you approach and develop your relationship with Nellie and Jackie? What did that feel like for you, Nellie and Jackie?
Megan: First year, establishing myself as a colleague from the upper school. Was clear in the first year that I was in the wrong position, wanted to be in a coaching role. Years 2 and 3: started with: How can we make it look more like an “instructional coach in residence”?
Nellie: mixed feelings, not in a position where I had been coached for a long time. It was exciting to get feedback, but it was also nerve-wracking to put myself out there. It was unfamiliar at that time. Megan made it really easy. She has a way about her that makes people feel comfortable. We started with just conversations and then transitioned to her modeling for us, there was a time for me to watch her and learn from her. Us talking about what she did after, then us doing stuff together, and then team teaching (Megan would coach on the side), then transitioned to me teaching.
Jackie: Always having people watching me teach, never bothers me. As a veteran teacher, coaching felt differently. Because Megan listened to me a lot and was a thought-partner before she ever came into my classroom, it felt really natural. The biggest thing she did to help me, was script my lessons and then we could go back and look at the data. Totally changed my practice – watch how I don’t rescue and constantly question. Megan is the only one that I allowed to have that authority over me – and she was non-judgmental. Megan never puts herself in that position of “what I would do”. I think her language of “I’m wondering whether, I’m wondering if” and letting the data speak for itself was very helpful, no judgment. This is what you said, this is how many times you said it, this is who you said it to… Enabled me to look at the data
Nellie: Megan has figured out the perfect balance of what you did well, and one thing to work on. Really good about selecting one thing that was manageable to work on, rather than a list of too many.
Megan: I didn’t honestly go to either person with a specific awareness or purpose. I connect with people where they are and then offer gradual release. Shared some ways that coaching could look. And then met them where they were most interested. I knew for Jackie that data would be important. What are students doing? What led to that engagement? Literally scripting of what’s happening in the classroom. TS, 3rd column: I saw lots of this, I’m wondering if there are opportunities for XYZ
How did the relationship develop? What was the outcome?
Nellie: She (Megan) established personal relationships with us, showed a level of care on a personal level. Checking in on us personally. Developing a successful relationship with us as individuals. Helped me trust her more. Megan is always very positive and encouraging when she speaks with us. Other coaches look at what I haven’t done, instead of what I have done. Megan saw what I was working on, complimented me, and then moving me forward from there. A lot of her talking about me and my practice and what I was doing. She would talk about things I was doing well. Megan made me aware of myself as a math teacher in a way that I wasn’t. It made me feel seen, known, and appreciated in a way that I didn’t feel appreciated in myself. Anyone in a vulnerable position of putting themselves out there needs to feel that the person is on their side. What I remember from the beginning was wanting to just watch, and I was so inspired by her.
Megan: I remember that we talked about the kids.
Jackie: I felt like it was never about my practice in general, it was about my practice with that student. What are we noticing about what he is doing and what he needs? Making it student-driven. How could we do something to help the student? Planning lessons on how we could make differentiation happen naturally in the classroom started at the end of last year. Didn’t start so strong at the beginning of this year. Started planning more center-based lessons.
Megan: Goal was to get more push-in. Jackie was able to model for other teachers how she was using instructional interventions. #observeme The work that they’re doing can benefit others. This work needs to be shared. Jackie modeled, and then asked for 2 statements for feedback.
Nellie: I wasn’t ready to do #observeme 2 years ago when I first met Megan. She helped get me to the place where I can have 8-10 adults watch me teach. I was ready for it because of the coaching I had done with Megan.
What did you learn from this experience that would be relevant for other coaches and teachers?
Jackie: Teaching is very isolating a lot of times. Teachers don’t often get to see others teach. Don’t be afraid to have people in your classroom. Be open-minded to the idea that you can learn something from everyone. If a coach can facilitate teachers watching teachers, that’s powerful
Nellie: Unless someone facilitates it and makes it happen, it’s too easy to get caught up in your days, to make it happen. It took having a coach to work to make it happen. We all can learn from each other if we’re given the opportunity.
Megan: ASM sees coaching as an additive model. It’s not a deficit model. There’s nothing wrong. It’s a lens on teaching and learning. Not looking for fault, what are we doing and how can we be consistent across teams and divisions. How do we sustain the models of coaching?
Why is coaching so valuable in the education profession and how can schools make coaching a priority?
Megan: If schools approach it as a deficit, we’re starting at a negative perspective. Most look at it as a way to develop it further, deepen practice. This is good work, how do we socialize it? How do we make it part of what we do? The coach is a thought partner, becomes that other colleague who has the expertise, opportunity, time, and schedule to be alongside teachers and students. Often lost when it’s a coach and something.
Nellie: As a classroom teacher, I don’t get the opportunity to observe others, or have others observe me. As much as we want students to be growth-minded, we need to build that in ourselves. It’s hard to know how someone could push me without knowing me. Having that relationship where someone can meet me where am and move me forward.
Jackie: It’s easy to get stuck in the way you do things. Part of the coach’s job is to socialize the idea of keeping your door open and allow people in to see you. It’s been a breath of fresh air, really renewed us as teachers. Makes you proud because you see what your colleagues are doing, and realize what a great school you have.