May 12, 2022

Become an educational coach – Education Next

Coaching is widely talked about today as a strategy for teacher professional learning and leadership, particularly as a way to enhance the trajectory of a teaching career. Leveraging the expertise of a great teacher makes sense to support lifelong learning for all teachers and improve instruction for students. However, I wonder why we haven’t been smarter about how to structure the coaching to honor the skills and knowledge of teachers, while allowing them to engage deeply with young people, especially since this It is usually the desire to serve students that has motivated most of us to become teachers.

Maribel Wan and Rene Hayden

So I wanted to speak with a couple of teachers-turned-coaches who are experiencing this tension. My son’s second grade teacher, Maribel Wan, was a master in teaching literacy. So I was not surprised when she was asked to become the school’s first literacy trainer. Rene Hayden, the third grade teacher of my two children, is also moving into a coaching role. I recently got to talk to them both about the transition from teaching to coaching:

How long have you been a class teacher? What did you like the most in this role?

Maribel: I started teaching in 2002 straight out of college. I wanted to make an impact, so I joined the DC Teaching Fellows. At the time, I thought I would only teach for a few years and then get into education politics. I never ended up pursuing politics because working with students was so challenging and rewarding. I left the classroom in 2013 to work as a literacy coach at my current school.

Rein: I have been teaching for about 16 years, but the “real” teaching about eight years. I taught at the university level, then I decided to learn something about pedagogy. I entered an alternative certification program in DC and taught high school English for a year, then settled into elementary education for the past seven years. As a historian and lifelong lover of the humanities, I never had a love for math and science, but teaching these subjects as an elementary school teacher opened doors for me. and blew me away, and now I’m a math and science coach. !

What prompted you to start coaching your peers?

maribel: I became a coach because my school needed it, and my name came out. I wasn’t looking to leave the class, but thought I’d give it a try as it was a good opportunity for growth and I could have a bigger impact beyond my class.

Rein: Basically, I was asked by the administration. I’m split on this because I really love teaching and I’ve never thought of myself outside of it. The reason I accepted is that I feel that our school and our teachers really need support, whether it is from me or not. I’ve always appreciated having my mentors and former manager watching me in a supportive capacity, and I hope I can live up to that. The time and space to reflect on your practice with someone is important. It has forced me to articulate what is important and valuable in my teaching, sparked productive and creative directions in my pedagogy, and helped me overcome my challenges, especially with classroom management.

What is your weekly schedule? What goals do you have for your work?

maribel: My weekly schedule varies, but generally consists of meetings with teachers or administrators, teacher shadowing, lunch service, student reading intervention, and planning time. My goals vary depending on who I work with, but they all relate to improving student achievement.

Rein: My position is a bit strange as the settings are still under development. My goal is to spend about half of my time researching and acquiring resources, and the other half observing weekly and meeting with teachers. I really want to establish myself as a regular presence in the class.

Do you miss the students? How does this fit into your work now?

maribel: There are so many things I love and miss about teaching: the students’ conversations, their thought processes, the sparkle in their eyes when they are captivated by something, and their empathy, their sincerity and their openness to the world and its challenges. I always make it a point to find a way to connect with them. If I work with a particular teacher, I make sure the students get to know me and build a relationship with them.

Rein: Yes, it is one of the things that I will miss the most. I hope being a regular visitor to the classroom will alleviate this, but I know it still won’t be the same.

What is the hardest part of your role? What is more fun and/or challenging?

maribel: Adults are difficult. The most fun or challenging part of the role is asking a teacher to take risks and see them succeed.

Rein: For me, coaching is the kind of effort in which, ideally, the coach makes himself invisible because he works to make the teachers take ownership of the process of reflection and implementation. It will therefore probably be important for me to curb my directive tendencies and my strong opinions. It’s also important to me to help teachers find creativity and agency in their work, so they don’t just see themselves as vehicles of program delivery with other people dictating what they do. This may clash with certain administrative priorities, which presents its own challenges. I also know that I will need to learn a lot more about pedagogical theory and practice, as well as our program content-specific pedagogy and standards at all levels.

What makes coaching in schools possible?

maribel: Funding, support from the administration, a school culture favorable to coaching and receptive teachers.

If you had a magic wand, how would you design the teacher career path?

Rein: The most important thing, in my opinion, is to give teachers the time and space to really assess the needs of students in a particular community, and have the ability to acquire or create the resources and practices to meet these needs.

—Heather Harding

Heather Harding is director of policy and public understanding at the Schusterman Foundation.

This post originally appeared on Rick Hess Straight Up.

Editor’s Note: For more on this topic, please read “Taking Teacher Coaching to Scale,” by Matthew A. Kraft and David Blazar in the Fall 2018 issue of Education Next.

Last updated August 9, 2018