Listen to Episode 38
In this episode of #coachbetter spotlight we’re chatting with Jen Clark, Library Media Specialist and Tech Coach at Canadian Academy in Kobe, Japan. Jen is in the unique perspective of being both a coach and a librarian at the same time, so we had a great opportunity to take a deeper look at how these two positions can truly overlap in a school setting.
Bonus: Watch the spotlight version of this episode on YouTube!
Jen is in the unique perspective of being both a coach and a librarian at the same time, so we had a great opportunity to take a deeper look at how these two positions can truly overlap in a school setting. Jen describes the role of the coach as persistently present personalized professional development and highlights the value of starting where teachers are to help everyone “bloom where they’re planted”. There are lots of great connections here for both coaches and librarians!
What do you think coaches do?
Because so much of their work is collaborative, it changes day to day. A coach is persistently present personalized professional development. A coaches question is: what can I help you do? It’s critical to be visible and to meet people where they’re at.
How do you work with the coaches at your school?
I try to work with as many people, at as many different levels as possible. Attend all meetings, being part of whole-school planning meetings. Goal is to get into the door as early as possible, especially with interdisciplinary units.
What are some good opportunities for coaches to work with you?
A guiding statement is: “yes, and….” Any opportunity to add new ideas and geek out and inspire new ways of thinking. To help maintain that sense of excitement and how to make new things possible. To be part of the holistic process, particularly in project-based learning. Tech coaches can bring the whole experience full circle.
What do you do when you don’t have the opportunity to work with a coach?
The importance of your PLN can never be overstated, whether it’s in person, or growing your Twitter following or finding a forum online that you can be a part of. Do what you can to find even just one teacher that’s willing to grow with you so you can “bloom where you’re planted” and celebrate what you achieve.
What are the essential elements for coaching success in a school? What’s needed to build a coaching culture?
It begins with relationships. Difficult conversations are always smoother if a relationship exists already. Find a way to establish relationships with individuals – it makes so much of what you do so much smoother. Makes it much easier to be invited into classrooms. Establish yourself as an approachable, open-minded person, and be interested in supporting teachers where they are at.
Fear and vulnerability keep teachers from reaching out – if they are afraid that others might know / notice that they can’t do certain tech things, may keep them from reaching out. To counteract that, meet people where they’re at, never make them feel like they’re behind, be open to the possibility that maybe that wasn’t the best too.
Where do coaches / does coaching fail? And what can we do about it?
Being openly judgemental or negative or evaluative. I think occasionally coaching can fail if it doesn’t begin with your learning outcomes, if it’s not content driven. Tech can be a lot of fun and engaging, but it’s not going to work if you don’t begin with the end in mind. Those are the times that teachers can look back and wonder “what did we gain from this experience”? What you want to be able to do is look back and be able to see how much student (or teacher) growth there was as a result of this work together.
What makes a coach invaluable to you?
Because of the nature of coaching in the unique role that it plays in a larger community. As a coach, a lot of my value lies in the fact that I’m available to teachers and I can be a part of just about anything. I’m not limited by a subject area, or grade level, or part of the school. I can go anywhere and do anything. It comes back to being a lifelong learner.
What was your “aha” moment that shifted your perspective from not caring about coaching to being on board?
Change can be really valuable when it is holistic and comes from the bottom up. So much of what we can do as educators and coaches does have to do with little interactions and personal connections. Conversations, even informal ones, can have a big impact. The small conversations can create big “aha” moments.
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