Saturday, September 12, 2015

Book Notes & Reflections: The Art of Coaching (Chapter 1: How Can Coaching Transform Schools?)

I've never blogged my notes and thoughts through a book, but I figure there's never a better time than NOW!

My goal is to create a reference & reflective place for me as I continue growing as a coach.

See my notes from all book chapters on my Coaching Page.

Direct quotes from the book are in blue.

What is a coaching stance?  It is one that "views teachers, principals, and all the adults who work in schools as capable of changing practices". (page 5)  As a coach, I have to believe that people can learn and change - otherwise, why am I even coaching?  Secondly, I also have to have a "big picture" viewpoint of how the school's history and the "larger systems" impact my coaching work.  I have definitely noticed this shift over the last year working as a coach.  I see a lot more of the big picture and all of the moving parts that go into the work that schools and districts do.  Part of this increased awareness (I won't quite say "understanding" yet) is because of my experience in my administrative credential program as well.  As a classroom teacher, I was not aware of a lot of the workings at the higher levels and my focus was much more narrow.  I appreciate seeing the bigger picture, even though it does bring a different level of stress to my position.

I love how Elena Aguilar describes coaching as "a form of professional development that brings out the best in people, uncovers strengths and skills, builds effective tams, cultivates compassion, and builds emotionally resilient educators." (page 6)  I want to make sure I am always bringing out the best in the teachers I work with.  To paraphrase what Aguilar says, I want to meet my fellows wherever they are, accept them where they are in their current learning trajectory, encourage and support them in their current place, push them to continue to grow and improve - all in order to help them be a more competent practitioner than they are currently.

Why coaching?

  • "Coaching can build will, skill, knowledge, and capacity." (page 8)  Building skills and knowledge are the two that I feel come more quickly because they are more surface-level.  To build up a teacher's will requires a deep relationship of trust fostered as well as time.  For some teachers, a light bulb will go on and their will shifts quickly.  For others, it's a battle to fight against ingrained practices.  One of my ultimate goals is to build capacity in my fellows.  I want them to be confident, technologically self-sufficient teachers who have the capacity to explore, play, experiment, and try new technology that could impact teaching and learning beyond our year together.  I think that is how I measure my success with them: as I look at my fellows from last year, are they continuing on with what we learned last year?  Are they trying even more things continuing to grow?  If so, I think I had a successful journey with them.
  • "A coach can foster conditions in which deep reflection and learning can take place, where a teacher can take risks to change her practice, where powerful conversations can take place, and where growth is recognized and celebrated."  (page 8) 
    • One of my focuses this year is on increased reflection.  I have already had the conversation with each of my fellows about the importance of reflection and how we will reflect together orally in our meetings but also individually via our journal weekly.  I really hope I improve in my facilitation of the reflective process this year and that my fellows see the importance of it.   
    • The risk-taking thing is also important, and was mentioned in our "norms" for the year.  I really sense the teachers on campus as a whole more open to risk-taking and trying new things this year.  
    • I haven't really thought about how I recognize and celebrate growth outside of the reflective conversations where we see success and improvement.  Is there something more or different I could do?
  • "Effective coaching encourages collaborative, reflective practice." (page 8)  This is what I want to facilitate, as I mentioned above.  I'm a collaborative thought partner, and I strive to help facilitate a model of collaboration that could be replicated with their colleagues and PLCs even beyond the fellowship.
  • "Coaching supports teachers to improve their capacity to reflect and apply their learning to their work with students and also in their work with each other." (page 9)  Don't we love the phrase "improve their capacity" :).  I feel like I have heard it so much over the last year. 
  • "The likelihood of using new learning and sharing responsibility rises when colleagues, guided by a coach, work together and hold each other accountable for improved teaching and learning." (page 9)  Several of my fellows mentioned that they are looking forward to the fellowship because of the increased (positive) accountability it puts on them to really apply their new learning and make some changes in their classroom.
Here is a visual I provide for my fellows as we start our work together, that I think lines up with a lot of what Aguilar says.

Aguilar addresses a concern that I've had - there is no formal training for teachers entering into a coaching role.  As teachers, we go through a year long credential program with student teaching, evaluations, and hands-on learning.  As a coach, we have a little bit of training, talking about best practices and expectations, but there's not really a "program" to go through.  Being self-directed, I went through ISTE's Coaching Academy, which was incredibly helpful for me.  I've also read numerous books on coaching and got connected with other coaches to learn from them.  But, it's definitely more "all over the place" in terms of training.  Most coaches are teachers who have done great things in their classroom, but how does that translate over to coaching?  It's a completely different skill set that must be learned, practiced, and refined.  I feel so much better starting my second year as a coach than last year, but I know I still have so much more to learn.  Aguilar says, "While content and pedagogy are foundational knowledge for a school coach,there are many more skills and capacities required for working with adults." (page 10) I am planning on learning more about adult learning theory this year and improving in that area.

A great resource on pages 12-14 are a list of questions for potential coaches to ask at an interview as well as questions that the interviewer may ask the potential coach.  Some of them are pretty tough and I'm not sure if I even have a clear answer right now.  I think they may be good discussion questions for my team of DLCs to have during some of our Round Table discussions on Wednesdays.

One final quote to close up my Chapter 1 reflection: 

"Coaches encourage us to explore our core values, behaviors, beliefs, and ways of being and compel us to venture into new behaviors, beliefs, and ways of being.  It is this essential combination of safety, support, encouragement, and forward movement that makes coaching feel so satisfying, that allows us to make changes in what we do, and even to transform who we are." (page 15)

...Until Chapter 2...

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