Have you had a chance to listen to the recent Spotlight Podcast with Jim Knight? Though my role has grown to encompass many more things, I will always first and foremost identify as a coach, and the writings and conversations of Jim Knight have been instrumental to that identity formation. I devoured The Definitive Guide to Instructional Coaching, Knight’s newest ASCD book, and the conversation captured on this podcast offered even more insights. Knight speaks of coaching as a way to inspire hope; something we are all in dire need of right now. There are three moments in particular from this conversation that resonated with me, and whether you are a coach, an aspiring coach, or an administrator thinking about coaches, I hope these ideas speak to you as well.
Around minute 21, Knight says, “If you want real change to happen, you need someone in there working with our teachers.”
Just as teachers are overworked and overwhelmed, our administrators are fighting parallel demons, with an extra burden of trying to keep it all together in order to support their teachers who are in the classrooms, each and every day. With parent concerns and masking policies and the overall political climate of today’s society, we desperately need our building leaders to take on this community-facing role. But who, then, is supporting instruction? With instructional coaches or some other form of teacher leadership dedicated to encouraging the heart and soul of teaching and learning, we will see the “real change” of which Knight speaks.
~22:19: “A coach should be communicating: I want what is best for you. I see your strengths. I’m on your side, and together, we can do this.”
Lately, there is article after article about shallow self-care ideas and toxic positivity. To me, coaching is the ultimate form of self-care. No number of ‘jeans days’ are going to take the place of having another educator in your corner, supporting you to show up as your best self for your students. All of the data around teacher burnout and statistics about those who think about leaving the profession – in my humble opinion – boil down to the fact that teachers are being asked to do so much more than focusing on nurturing the development of their students while teaching to the best of their abilities, for nowhere near what their actions are worth. A coach can help remind teachers of why they do the work they do, re-ground them in strategies that have proven to be successful, and help clear the path for greatness to grow.
~35: “Coaches who are flourishing are ambitious for change and responsive to teachers.”
It is way too easy for us to close our doors, keep our heads down, and just do our jobs. But there is a group of educational warriors out there who deeply believe in the power of the collaborative element of education. These are the teachers who might be at that point in their career who are hesitating on the precipice; yet perhaps they see the next step as administration, but that does not feel right to them. They know they want to grow and level-up, but they are searching for an alternative to the traditional hierarchy presented in many schools (teacher – department head – assistant principal – principal). Coaching and teacher leadership could be that alternative. For those teachers who are “ambitious for change” as Knight says, and who have the time and energy to dedicate to supporting their colleagues, I urge all administrators to find a way to create opportunities for coaches. But know that with this great position, there comes great responsibility. Amazing teachers are not always amazing coaches (it’s that whole ‘working with adults thing’ that doesn’t sit well with everyone!). So this means you will also need to find a way to support these coaches (and the support is out there – feel free to connect for ideas!) and give them the training and the network they need to thrive. Because when our coaches are thriving, our teachers are thriving. And when our teachers are thriving – guess what? Our students are the biggest winners of all.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
With more than two decades of experience in education around the globe, Kristen Moreland is committed to bringing humanity back to education. A former middle school English teacher and Instructional Coach, she is currently serving as the Director of Teaching and Learning for the Littleton Schools in Littleton, New Hampshire. You can follow her on Twitter @kmorekin and on Instagram @educatorsforhumanity