I have had the pleasure during the past two years to work with academic coaches and their principals in Valdosta City Schools, Georgia under the leadership of Scarlet Correll Brown, Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning. The group is continually re-examining the impact of their coaching design, approach, and skills on teaching and learning.
In an earlier blog, I highlighted one of their reflection sessions on the work of coaches and their partnership with principals. The coaches’ plans have been designed in connection with the schools’ improvement plans. Last week I spent the day with them as each coach presented a year-end report to the entire team of coaches and administrators.
Here were Scarlet’s directions:
Design a 1-page summary to assess your coaching plan (no template is being provided, be creative and innovative in your approach!). Please bring 35 copies of your 1-page summary to share with others.
Provide evidence of changes in leader, teacher and/or student behaviors as a result of the coaching plan implemented in your school.
Present student achievement data to support the results of the coaching plan implemented in your school.
Share reflections on your growth as a coach through the coaching plan process.
Please prepare an 8-10 minute presentation of your coaching plan; 5 minutes will be available for feedback from Barkley, Coaches and Administrators (Coaches that share a coaching plan have been grouped together).
Here are some of the “learnings” that the coaches reported:
-Basing my coaching plan on our school improvement plan and tying it all to Georgia’s Common Core standards made the professional development work and coaching more meaningful.
-Increasing and protecting time for the administrators and coach to collaborate and focus on improving instruction paid big dividends.
-Focusing coaching on a smaller group of teachers produced greater changes in their classrooms and then team meeting and PLC’s extended those changes to other teachers.
-Questioning is a critical coaching skill. The facilitation of individual teacher’s reflections and group explorations of practice and student work create a greater impact on teacher practice than anything a coach, ” tells them”.
-When teachers tell the coach what they want observed, their role becomes more of a partnership with the teacher.
-Vertical teacher conversations can have great impact….grade to grade and school to school. These conversations can focus on practice, expectations, and individual students. When grade four teachers joined a group of grade five teachers scoring student writing they returned to their classrooms and made adjustments in their own classrooms. A high school math coach working in elementary classrooms with the coach and teachers built understanding for teachers of the importance of changes they were implementing.
-Teachers observing video clips from their classrooms shared more openly in important coaching conversations. Video focused on the student behavior and actions often uncovered things that teachers “missed”.
-When coaches focused teachers on considering how to get more students to achieve at the “exceeds” level rather than focusing on “proficient,” increased learning occurred across the entire student population.
I am excited to be returning next year to continue my work with these dedicated school leaders, while extending my work to leadership teams in their buildings. My learning from my time with the Valdosta team is that leaders “modeling the model” is powerful. These coaches are “taking their work public” in the same way that we want classroom teacher to…they are being vulnerable and open to collegial coaching, just the way they want their teachers to…
As the adults in school learn and grow, their students reap the rewards.