Listen to Episode 36
In this episode of #coachbetter spotlight we’re talking about the importance of coaches taking time to visit classrooms while students are learning – especially in content-heavy subject areas like science. Our guest is Merilyn Winslade, IB Diploma Chemistry and Middle School science teacher at NIST International School in Thailand.
Bonus: Watch the spotlight video of this episode on YouTube!
Our guest, Merilyn Winslade, IB Diploma Chemistry and Middle School science teacher at NIST International School in Thailand, shares how valuable it would be for her, particularly in higher level sciences, to have a coach observe in her classroom to help her identify opportunities for innovative learning by seeing exactly what’s happening during her lessons.
What do you think coaches do?
Coaches main job is to help support teachers to become more effective in their role, so they can improve student learning. By being a sounding board, giving different perspectives, giving encouragement, feedback, refining ideas.
How do you work with the coaches at your school?
Standing meeting once a month set aside just for me (Merilyn) with no interruptions – I (Merilyn) keep notes to mention at this meeting. Most effective is casual drop-in conversations. Coach also works in the same year level, and we have a positive working relationship.
What are some good opportunities for coaches to work with you?
Appear more in my classroom, not just to observe, but to get in there and get more hands on to understand the problems that she has with students in the context of science education. I would like them to be able to see first hand the kinds of things I’m trying to achieve in the class, so they might have ideas or questions I wouldn’t have thought of to ask. I don’t know what I don’t know. Being able to see things from a completely different perspective than me. Especially would appreciate support to go more global particularly in DP Chemistry.
What do you do when you don’t have the opportunity to work with a coach?
Google it first. Huge range of knowledge among colleagues, so there’s always someone around who can help. As teachers, we’ve got such a wealth of knowledge amongst us.
What are the essential elements for coaching success in a school? What’s needed to build a coaching culture?
Personal relationships. If you don’t have a good personal relationship with the person, it’s not going to work. Reading the person. Asking questions means you’re vulnerable and if you don’t have a relationship, you won’t allow yourself to be vulnerable. Coaching works really well when it’s very casual. Doesn’t have to be a formal interview style interaction. Coaches talking about student learning (not just tech for tech’s sake) is very important. Really invaluable when the coach is part of the learning environment (also a day-to-day teacher). Building a positive relationship, keeping it casual, focused on student learning rather than the newest tech tool.
Where do coaches / does coaching fail? And what can we do about it?
From what I’ve heard from others, it fails when teachers have the perception that coaches are promoting tech for tech’s sake. Not being able to see the benefit of the tech. Sometimes that comes because the teacher has a wall up and is not necessarily open to new things. In schools I’ve worked at things are always changing, and sometimes tech is just the last straw, one more new thing that they can’t deal with it. The real solution is building personal relationships.
What makes a coach invaluable to you?
Having a coach helps keep pushing me forward. Helps focus me, direct me, keeps me driven to where I’m trying to get to. It improves the effectiveness of my teaching, and therefore improves student learning.
What was your “aha” moment that shifted your perspective from not caring about coaching to being on board?
I’ve always thought “I need help” as a teacher. When I went to YIS, that help came from my coach. It’s a mindset all the time of “please help me”.
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