Listen to Episode 35


In this episode we’re talking with Katy Vance, Librarian at Yokohama International School in Japan.

Bonus: Watch the video of this episode on YouTube!

Featured Guest(s)

Katy Vance

Katy Vance on twitter

Show Notes

Katy talks about how coaches make her a more awesome version of herself! Katy combines a wealth of experience as classroom teacher and a librarian in schools around the world to identify her keys to building a culture of coaching: from prioritizing community and connections, to valuing risk taking and learning from failure, to a culture of openness and collaboration – it all comes down to relationships.


What do you think coaches do? (Coaches React)

I like to think of coaches as people that give me that extra umpf! They help me take my current skills and level them up to make it even better for teaching and learning. Sometimes coaches (and librarians) do the hard/messy/background work to make the classroom experience work really well and streamlined.

How do you work with the coaches at your school?

Coaching is about personality and the relationship you have. Getting to know how you have to interact with that person and how they’re going to respond to that is very important. Each relationship with the different coaches is different based on personality and needs. FInding the rhythm that works with each person. My best coaching relationships (when I’ve been coached) is when that person is just really nice. What does being a really nice easy person look like for you?

What are some good opportunities for coaches to work with you?

With the tech coach, I want to work on the visual presentation of information. This is an area of growth, and I need to be coached through the process of skilling up. With the EAL coach, I want to work on developing our collection to support those students. With admin as coach, I’d like to have feedback on my instructional delivery, what are some areas I can improve on.

I never hesitate to ask for help. These people have made it very obvious that they are there for support. Coaches make a point of introducing themselves, giving examples of how they can help, giving specific examples of what has actually happened in the past. Admin are great connectors so they bring us together in other opportunities for relationship development.

For those that are more hesitant to ask for help, a strategy could be to go into department meetings with a practical skill up and ideas that can give Katy the opportunity to follow up later. Need to leave space and time in your schedule to support those who aren’t always asking for help. Could also provide resources that are almost like coaching by proxy so teachers have an opportunity to work with you – even without working with you.

What do you do when you don’t have the opportunity to work with a coach?

I’m a librarian, I do research! The world is my coach. Finding those people outside of your school, along with other professional learning opportunities. Find a mentor to support you. Pinpoint a few specific people that you can develop a relationship with and develop over time.

What are the essential elements for coaching success in a school? What’s needed to build a coaching culture?

An open door policy, a culture that celebrates failure and allows you to figure out how to move past it. People need to feel like they can take risks, and it will be ok even if it doesn’t go well. A spirit of collaboration, allowing people to work together – even in ways that don’t seem immediately relevant to professional tasks (like wellness days or service learning). The social aspect of schools is really important. Prioritize community & connections.

Where do coaches / does coaching fail? And what can we do about it?

When coaches are spread too thin. In the beginning, targeting what you’re going to focus on, what are your priorities, identifying what are the goals that the school needs you to accomplish, what needs to be done for the students and the community. Conversations with your admin for their birds eye view of the school. Get into the “ranks” and talk to people at the school, ask questions, offer help to everyone, ask for feedback.

When coaches struggle to manage their time. As a coach, if you promise to do things for me, and don’t follow through, people won’t come back to you again. Start slowly. Even though you’re so excited to help, build that momentum slowly so you can follow through.

What makes a coach invaluable to you?

They make me so much better at what I do. They make me a more awesome version of myself. For example hte Maker Saturday’s at YIS were something neither the EdTech coach nor I could have done individually, but working together allows us to both level up our skills.

What was your “aha” moment that shifted your perspective from not caring about coaching to being on board?

In my first job as a teacher, I was not good at what I was doing yet. A librarian saved me, in a moment that I didn’t know what to do. In a moment, that I didn’t realize that I was being coached, or what was happening, I realized that I could reach out to people around me and get support to make me better at my job. The moment I realized that I could be actively seeking the mentorship of a coach was when I became a librarian. Now that I know that’s a role I can fulfil as a librarian, I realize how important it is for others too. It’s important to make what we do explicit for people.


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