Teach.com

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Trials and Tribulations of a First Year Instructional Coach

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I am about to start my third month as an instructional coach and I have got to take charge of my calendar.

Does that statement resonate with you?  Did you have a certain vision of what it meant to be a coach and now you're wondering if you were under the influence when you had those thoughts?

I will (attempt to) reflect, positively, on my first 9 weeks as the Instructional Coach (IC) for Decker Middle School.  There is nothing worse than reading a whiny, ranting, rambling, mess of a post by someone and you won't get that here (I hope).

So what has gone wrong and how could I have made the experience more favorable?  Let's start with new technology/programs.  As an IC I am expected to be able to help our teachers create common assessments and analyze the results so that our students can be successful learners.  In that sentence there are three components: Creating the test; Grading the test; and, Analyzing the data from the test.

This year we are using a new test creator.  We are creating the answer documents in a new system that helps collect the data.  We are using a new way of scanning the answer documents that puts the data into the system for analysis.  And, we are using the (new) system's data reports to help make decisions about where students were successful and where they have not demonstrated success.

All of this new stuff  is creating an increase in anxiety with our teachers - and with their IC.  I have not done a good job making this transition better and I have made the mistake of letting them see my frustrations.  I want to be a loud voice for our teachers.  I need to let those in decision making positions know how stressed our teachers are and that one thing that might help is the knowledge, and commitment, that we will NOT add another new required technology into the equation for next year.

Another area of frustration is our use of data driven decisions.  The process we are using is new to everyone and, again, this is adding to the frustration levels.   We are using a Power Standards Protocol to select standards that give us the biggest bang for the buck.  Then we create the test and analyze it and this analysis is spiralled into our next power standards protocol.  The tests are given after each unit and each unit is 3 weeks in length.

This cyclical process is, therefore, repeated every three weeks.  Pick the standards, make the test, analyze the results, reteach where needed, pick the standards, make the test, analyze the results, reteach where needed,...  And, at the end of every 9 weeks we set aside a day, we call Meeting of the Minds, where the teachers take the day to plan as much of the Power Standards Protocol, the tests, and any other formative assessments they can plan for the upcoming 9 weeks.

Although I have stayed on top of this,  I could have done a better job in keeping our teachers informed, a better job of visiting them and helping them with the process, and a better job of recognizing their frustrations.  If I had purposefully gone to the teachers I could have alleviated a lot of their anxieties.   I will do a better job with this as we progress.

So where do I go from here?  Calendars are a good thing.  I really should use them.  At least that's what I hear.  All new coaches should be be told this over and over again.  Mentors for coaches should help them set these up.  Then, administrators and coaches should get together and come to an agreement that both of their calendars will be sacred.  Or, at least, as sacred as is possible in this profession.  Let your teachers know when you are available for "a quick conversation." Let them know when you will be in their classrooms.

No matter what "new" things come your way, these times with your teachers are important.  They are important for your knowledge of how things are going within the school.  They are important for improving the instruction going on within the classroom walls.  And, they are most important for the success of your students.  When the coaches and administrators are on the same page as the teachers and when the teachers are using the latest and most affective strategies, then our students will be successful and that is why we are coaches.

My small change that will, hopefully, make a difference is being available and visible. And that will happen through the use of a dedicated (and shared) calendar.  To be honest this feels like a huge change for me.  But I will deal with it because it is just that important for my teachers.