Coaching the Beginning Teacher

Here is an email request from a school administrator and an extension of my response to her.

Administrator:   “When working with a brand new out of college teacher, what are the three or four questions you would possibly ask to guide them through the beginning crazy period? I want to support her while guiding her through reflecting on class management, planning for students, etc!  Would you please write a quick start guide for new teachers with chapters on class management?  Is it working?  Coaching with a new teacher is a real challenge. How long do you leave them alone before you start the COACHING??”

I chose to answer the last question first. “You want to provide coaching to the beginning teacher from the get go. That’s the best way for them to learn that a collaborative, problem-solving culture is what sets the stage for a successful teaching career.”

This statement from Linda Darling- Hammond reinforces my response.

“… It’s important for teachers to learn from the beginning of their careers- and throughout their careers- how to be good collaborators and community members, how to reach out to others (both to offer to share ideas and thoughts and to ask and learn from others) ….”

I encourage school leaders to communicate to beginning teachers that you didn’t hire them because you believe they know what to do regarding teaching and learning, but rather you believe they are well prepared to learn what their students need them to learn.

As new teachers discover what they “don’t know” they should receive approval for their insight and growth. Sharing what they discovered they “don’t know” is a sign to the administrator that you made the right choice.

Here is a starter list of questions I offered to the administrator for working with a new teacher.

Describe the kind of teacher you want to be.

How would you describe the classroom management you’d like to have?

How do you connect teaching and learning?

In the upcoming unit/lesson what are the critical student behaviors for the maximum student success?

What will you do to initiate/encourage/support those behaviors?

After class…..what student behaviors did you observe? How did what you observed compare with what was planned? What changes/decisions did you make during the lesson? What did you learn? What do you want to do next?

The first questions are chosen so that the coach can best understand the mindset behind the decisions the teacher is making both consciously and unconsciously. A common mistake of coaches is offering strategies and solutions to teachers without an understanding of the vision the teacher has of herself. New teachers should understand how your suggestion of strategy is congruent with their personal image as a teacher.

The next questions are designed to focus the teacher on planning with the needed student behaviors in mind. This helps the new teacher visualize “what students are doing” during the lesson. Often new teachers visualize what “they are doing” as they plan, so while delivering the lesson, it goes as planned. Only by planning with a view of desired student behaviors in mind can the teacher assess during the lesson if her actions are gaining the desired results.

The last group of questions is used to communicate with the beginning teacher the realization that teaching is a continuous experiment…. measuring the impact of teaching decisions and adjusting during and after the lesson.

As beginning teachers take part in coaching, they are learning the questions they can use to guide their own planning/deciding practices.

feb 15 book

I did recommend a book for working with new teachers, Classroom Teachers’ Survival Guide by Ron Partin.  Look up topics of interest and get some ideas to explore for experimentation and problem solving.




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3 Responses to “ Coaching the Beginning Teacher ”

  1. Michael Chirichello Says:

    An important consideration often overlooked in hiring teachers is dispositions, those values and beliefs that we exhibit by our behaviors. Teachers can enhance their teaching skills and knowledge but dispositions- what we value and believe- are here to stay. This week I presented a session at the AASA in Nashville on the topic and its implications for the hiring of our staffs- not only teachers but everyone in our district. At the conclusion of the session, a participant reflected- we hire teachers for their skills but most get terminated for their dispositions. If you would like to learn more about dispositions, you are invited to view this site- Think about the teachers that you admire most and words like caring, inspiration, relationship come to mind. Boone County Kentucky, the district that my co-presenters work in, have advanced dispositions in their district beginning at the point of appointment. The April issue of the AMLE professional magazine will have an article on the topic authored by Mark Wasicsko and myself. Take a look.

  2. Steve Says:

    Thanks Michael…… you are right on with understanding dispositions. Same is true for administrators… seldom dismissed over skills.

  3. dianne shaver Says:

    What an inspirational video…and “right on the money” for becoming a great teacher. I am an instructional coach with 33 year teaching experience. I have always wanted to be a teacher and have never NOT wanted to go to “work” in education. Investing in the soul of a young person…what a gift.

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