We're All on the Same Team: A Teacher's Perspective with Nici Foote
In this episode we’re chatting with Nici Foote, Grade 3 classroom teacher at Western Academy of Beijing in China.
Bonus: Watch the video of this episode on YouTube!
Nici has just arrived at WAB and in her previous school she was a coach, so she brings us a very important perspective: the classroom teacher who was just a coach! In her current role of classroom teacher she is reminded of all the critical things that coaches can easily forget when they move out of the classroom. Our conversation highlights all those essential ways that coaches can support very busy classroom teachers. For coaches who are looking for insight into how and what classroom teachers are thinking about their coaching role in the school, this episode provides tons of very practical feedback from Nici!
What do you think coaches do?
Coaches support teachers within the classroom. As a coach sometimes you forget how much teachers are juggling every day, that contact with students every day, the curriculum expectations, meeting the needs of the community, it takes a lot of brainspace. Coaches shine a light on the good stuff that I’m doing. They work with me in a way that creates a safe environment, where I can “unload” a little bit, and share the things that you go home wrestling with. Coaches have all these tips and tricks, and see all these different parts of the school that teachers can’t see because they are so busy. Coaches need to see the teachers perspective and come in and work in my classroom.
How do you work with the coaches at your school?
Two coaches within her team: learning support and EAL. Coaches come to all planning meetings, come into classrooms in timetabled sessions to work with individual students, also has 1:1 planning meetings with coaches. Tech coaches are also available for support, and can be booked in for meetings. In the past, brainstorming meetings with coaches were very helpful. Can also work with HS coaches as needed.
The brainstorming over coffee is so valuable because it’s an opportunity to step outside of the classroom and get a more school-wide perspective. Having that time to be listened to is so valuable because you start to find the answers for yourself.
What are some good opportunities for coaches to work with you?
Support when she has roadblocks. In particular, working through the problem – problem-solving with technology. Helping her implement her vision and then building the idea out to be even better, keeping it fresh and useful for all teachers and students.
Challenges arise when coaches put roadblocks in place based on their own agenda and perception of what the teacher should be doing. Teachers need the confidence to start to wonder themselves about what they could be doing. Critical to build trust, a safe space, tuning into what their fears are, notice little things that might drive them forward and what they’re passionate about.
What do you do when you don’t have the opportunity to work with a coach?
Reach out to your wider community, use your personal learning network. Take advantage of what you can learn from Twitter. To be inspired, she takes photos in the classrooms in her team so she can reflect on what others are doing.
What are the essential elements for coaching success in a school? What’s needed to build a coaching culture?
Build trust in teams, make sure that you build teams of people who can connect and enjoy spending time together. In every team meeting there is always 15 minutes to share something – it’s on the agenda. There’s always snacks on the table. Personal connections
Where do coaches / does coaching fail? And what can we do about it?
Coaching fails when it feels that the coach doesn’t understand time pressures. Juggling so many responsibilities as a teacher (so many individual students, parents, admin, emails, etc). As a coach, you need to make the visible effort to come to the teacher. Cancelled meetings are difficult. Teachers are essentially “trapped” in their classroom and they don’t have the time to think and be still, they need coaches to shine that light.
What makes a coach invaluable to you?
Being told to slow down and breathe and not think of everything, take your time, take baby steps. Celebrate the little things that you’re doing and challenges you’ve overcome. Coaches can tune in and shine a light on something that you can’t see because you’re so focused on your own perspective. Having someone look at something from around the corner that you haven’t thought of before. Often when we talk about observation, we talk about negative cycles of observation, but coaches can come in and look for success.
What was your “aha” moment that shifted your perspective from not caring about coaching to being on board?
Learning more about the power of relationships and the power of deep listening, through a course she took on goal-focused coaching.
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