Create a coaching culture to support teachers in each school
Kindergarten at Redwood Heights Elementary School in Oakland.
Kindergarten at Redwood Heights Elementary School in Oakland.
At a time when teacher shortages are making headlines across the country, it is more important than ever to find ways to ensure that teachers stay on the ground. And because we know that most teachers leave the field early in their careers, many states are rethinking how they support new and old teachers. Several studies have recently highlighted that lack of support is one of the main issues that push teachers out of the classroom.
California requires every new teacher to participate in two years of mentoring and coaching support – a process called “induction” – before obtaining their full or “clear” teaching degree. But after these two years, teachers are on their own – and they are at much greater risk of leaving the profession. How can school and district administrators make sure teachers get the professional support they need after the induction period ends?
It is often up to the head of each school to organize professional development initiatives for teachers, in addition to giving them individual feedback based on teachers’ observations. This is a lot to be expected of principals, given the multitude of responsibilities that their work already involves. Relying on one person for this level of support can be problematic, whether that person is a principal, another administrator, or an instructional coach.
In order to properly support their teachers, principals need to involve a wide range of individuals in this work, forming a “support ecosystem” for the teachers they serve. Recent studies have shown that pedagogical coaching has the most promise for professional growth, but only when it is individualized, intensive, sustained, context-specific and focused. This is only possible when support efforts are well designed, well coordinated and involve multiple ‘support providers’, which may include administrators, trainers or colleagues. In many cases, school leaders need help not only to provide feedback, but also to set up these support systems.
Elements of a supporting ecosystem
Instructional coaches can be a valuable part of this ecosystem, but a coach is always just one person, and they don’t solve everything. To provide regular, consistent, and ongoing support to each teacher, most mid-sized schools or districts would need multiple coaches. However, budget and other resource constraints often prevent the deployment of multiple coaches in a sustainable manner over several years.
But, there is good news. The impact lies in the Coach interactions between teachers and their entourage, not necessarily by finding additional staff to be coaches. Teacher colleagues can act as effective coaches even in an informal setting. Through coaching, these teachers not only help improve the practice of their colleagues, but also improve their own teaching practice. Good teachers have an opportunity for professional growth by serving as coaches, thus nurturing their need and desire to improve. And the district doesn’t have to hire additional staff to serve as coaches; thus, mitigate the budget constraint that often accompanies coaching initiatives.
However, the establishment of these support systems within schools and districts requires the establishment of appropriate structures and tools. Peer feedback among teachers can be a financially efficient (and quick) way for principals to create opportunities for frequent pedagogical feedback, but it does mean that teachers have to watch themselves being taught, which often requires the hiring of a teacher. substitute and creates more work for the observant teacher. (If you’ve been a teacher before, you know what I’m talking about. Creating lesson plans that subs have to ignore, resulting in a wasted teaching day, is often more complicated than it’s worth. – and that’s not good for kids.) Having a video capture, sharing and analysis tool in place can alleviate this challenge and allow teachers to record their lesson and share it with their students. peers for feedback anytime, anywhere.
Additionally, the video creates objective evidence, so the viewer and teacher can have a discussion of authentic teaching rather than a person’s subjective memory of what happened. By leveraging technology, administrators can connect teachers to each other, creating a peer support system while eliminating the need for subscriptions, creative programming, and extra cash. However, a tool like this won’t be as effective if used on its own. It should be used in a coaching context.
Video also provides an opportunity for self-reflection. For example, if you are not a big football fan, you won’t be able to say that a play was good or bad unless someone explains it. Once teachers know what to look for, they can learn by observing their own instruction as well as their peers, without the need for administrator involvement. Self-reflection can be a powerful tool for empowering teachers to self-train, but it is almost impossible to implement without a supportive school leader and the processes and tools to facilitate this work.
These supports are intended to guide teachers in their progress. The goal of coaching is to help people pursue the practices in which they are most effective and to consolidate the points where they need to be improved in a targeted and content-specific way. When teachers feel supported by a network of supports, from their peers in administration, they are more likely to want to continue their careers in that school or district.
Michael moody is the founder and CEO of Insight ADVANCE, a company that offers a suite of products designed to aid teacher growth and development.
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