The Coaching Chronicles #1: Why coaching?
Updated: Jun 15, 2019
Just under one year ago I began work as a district-level instructional specialist at a large urban school district. Up to that point, I had a varied educational career. Eleven years in the classroom led me to the principalship of an elementary charter school for three years and then district coordinator for the same charter school for four years. What I didn't know at the time, however, is that I wasn't going to find what I was looking for in administration.
As I wrote recently, I firmly believe that one of education's largest blind spots is poor classroom instruction. Students fall further and further behind because our largest weapon to combat inequity and ignorance is, for many teachers, nicked and rusted. While administrators focus on compliance, data meetings, and turning in lesson plans, the quality of everyday classroom instruction varies greatly. What should be a given, that students receive high-quality, appropriately challenging and supportive instruction, is largely an exercise in instructional roulette. After seven years as an administrator in a charter school, I decided that the solution didn't lie in supervision.
This, then, brings me to my current position as an instructional specialist. What I'd been searching for years and years has, for me, finally been found. Impacting instruction for all students doesn't come from writing or mandating a certain curriculum. Even the best curriculum can become lifeless with lackluster execution. Improving teaching also doesn't stem from leadership, though great principals can do marvelous things and poor ones hurt children. Ultimately, my desire to better the lives of children by increasing their educational opportunities falls on teachers. If they grow in their craft, if they reflectively and methodically take continual pedagogical steps forward, my greatest desire would be met. That result comes from coaching.
Though my current title is Lead Instructional Specialist, the name itself can be misleading because it's so overused in schools today. I'm a coach. Just as a sports coach gets the best from his or her players through a variety of techniques, I work with a team of dedicated specialists intent on producing a guaranteed and viable instruction for all students. As they strengthen the knowledge and skills of their teachers through coaching and mentoring, I do the same with them. Coaches know that their value will ultimately be judged by the performance of others. They lead the team but they don't play in the games. Coaching is evaluated through the filter of others' actions. It is the ultimate act of empowerment.
All of this leads me to a new blog series I'm starting called The Coaching Chronicles. As I'm unraveling how to improve my skills as a coach so that I can better empower other educators, I find that instructional coaching is rather nebulous. Should they serve as experts, sharing their wisdom and instructional prowess with others? Should they be more facilitative, bringing out the strengths of the teachers? Should coaches work as partners, striving side-by-side with those whom they serve to mutually improve the lives of children?
There are many coaching models out there. All have powerful components to draw from. What I hope to do through this blog series is to explore a larger instructional coaching model I've been formulating over the past few months. Instead of being limited to a coaching cycle or powerful conversations, I believe a comprehensive coaching model includes those areas and more. How coaches communicate, their character, and their competencies are just as important. The working title of this new coaching model is Team 6.
It's called Team 6 because I believe there are six domains of coaching that contribute to the coaches effectiveness. Each domain is broken down into four subdomains represented by the acronym TEAM. Coaching is a ultimately team endeavor - either everyone wins or no one does.
Character - There, Ethical, Authentic, Motivated
Collaboration - Trust, Encouragement, Autonomy, Mutuality
Cycle - Target, Execute, Analyze, Move
Communication - Timely, Effective, Accountable, Momentous
Conversation - Transparent, Empowering, Activation, Management
Competencies - Teach, Empathy, Access, Mirror
The next installation of The Coaching Chronicles will begin to dive into the character of a coach by looking at the question, "How do you show up as a coach?"