Today, Clint and I are chatting with Ana María Gach, Middle School Digital Media Teacher at Singapore American School in Singapore. Our conversation covered a lot of ground, including the awesomeness of being a middle school teacher, the challenges of representing diversity in educational contexts, and the realities of sometimes feeling left out of the coaching loop when you’re a specialist teacher. Ana María shares several concrete examples of what makes coaching a transformative experience, particularly for teachers who are in the fine arts. If you’re looking for ways to reach out to your specialists, or you just love middle school, this episode is for you!

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Show Notes

Originally from Puerto Rico, raised in the US. Originally majored in Broadcasting and Spanish, alternative teacher certification. Started as a Spanish teacher. Currently at Singapore American School. Originally hired as a Spanish teacher, became Digital Media Teacher in MS in 2013. Gotten to make it what it is, originally a film class, and has transformed into a broader perspective. 

Who wants things to count when you’re going through puberty?

Something you’re excited about in terms of learning/learning innovation – as a warm up / intro to you as an education professional

Just came from L2 in Nanjing, some conversation around the lack of diversity in international schools in Asia. Being away from our home country and being mindful about incorporating those conversations. Social and emotional learning is so integral to a kid’s experience in school, the emotional elements are the things that stand out.

I like the process of change, and you learn a lot about yourself as an educator when you go through change.

Middle school is almost the last place that you can redefine yourself because everyone is so forgiving. Everyone has a “reset” button, every hour. I appreciate that.

Our staff doesn’t mirror our students. For example, the third largest population at SAS is Indian, but the faculty is maybe 4-5 out of a staff of hundreds. Who are we hiring?  Kids are very disconnected to what’s happening in both their home country and the country they live in. Have to navigate those conversations delicately. Children are ego extensions of their parents, so you have to be really careful how you talk about these things.

What are you doing that is challenging / exciting / interesting your school? 

“Try time” Inquiry driven 3-week period, twice a year. Takes personalized learning and puts it in the kids’ hands. It’s terrifying! Have seen some incredible things happen. 

Adobe illustrator, studying horror movies.

You find ways to guide them. You’re still there, but you have to let go and hope for the best. Kids always come back around to you

Betsy Hall, MS Instructional Coach, makes it happen.

What’s it like being a specialist teacher and coaching?

Both times I have been coached, it was transformative. Often times, electives (art, music, tech) are forgotten by coaches. There’s a huge focus on academics, their energy is focused there, but there’s a whole other group of teachers that want help.

Every time I’ve had a coach spend two or three times with me, it’s been transformative.

Specialist teachers often work by themselves. The amount of time I have to think about my teaching is zero. I have 4 different preps. Once I have it organized, I’m on autopilot. I have to be so intentional about trying something new. It’s so lonely, having a coach come in is a collaborative partner. Having an adult professional conversation is so welcome.

Any idea or tip that we get, we latch onto. Anytime I have any moment to talk to our coaches about what’s going on in the classroom, I cherish that time.

Tell us about a transformative coaching experience you’ve had.

Patrick brought in a guest (Jim Sill) to share his experience. Patrick advocated for Ana Maria and her class. He was my coach, but more importantly he was my advocate. The amount of time and care he took. It was great to have someone to go to check in about issues. He offered context, and helped me navigate the politics of being in an international school. It totally changed my teaching experience here. I don’t know that I’d still be teaching internationally if I had not met Patrick.

When a coach takes the time to know what goes on in our classroom and connect with me to share what they’ve seen. They make feel like I don’t need coaching and but then also share ideas with me anyway. They know what’s going on in your classroom, they’ve been paying attention to what you’ve been doing, they’ve talked to the kids. Then they ask the teacher to share it with them, and then that gives you an opportunity to say what’s worked and what hasn’t, so that opens up a potential coaching conversation. They will ask “how did this go?” You feel like you’re part of them being a coach too. When they still feel like teachers. Sometimes coaches, because of what’s demanded of them, they almost feel like they’re not one of us. It’s important to remember that they are teachers too. They have a lot more people to please (and it’s not the fun ones, the students).

Helping you deconstruct the moment. Another person to give you perspective. When you are not part of team, it’s hard to reflect on teaching experiences.

Noticing what we’re doing, and recognizing that our work is significant is impactful

Please share a reading / resource you have explored recently that you think would be valuable to other teachers or coaches

Brene Brown, The Power of Vulnerability. Being vulnerable and living wholeheartedly. Encourages creativity in learning. 

Digital Minimalism: made me mindful and also appreciative

Level Up Your Coaching with The Coach!

If you are ready to dive deep into your coaching practice, to help you #coachbetter and build a thriving coaching culture in your school, please join us for our next cohort of The Coach!

Wherever you are in building a coaching culture in your school, The Coach will give you the strategies, skills and tools you need to make coaching a success and will empower you to confidently apply instructional coaching strategies in any situation – from building a coaching program, to having coaching conversations, to being a leader in your school community. We facilitate only one cohort each academic year so we can offer individualized support for each participant.

Coaches of all levels are welcome: you’ll start the program with a self-assessment to determine exactly what the next steps are for you!

Registration for our next global cohort opens once a year – check the website for details!