What it means to be a coach…

I have been an instructional coach for many years. Some of the most rewarding work I have done is be present with teachers as they are making tough choices about their practice to responsibly accelerate the achievement of their students. It has been a gift since stepping out of the classroom after 10 years. Earning a teacher’s trust and confidence, even from their peers, can be challenging. Often when we coach, we enter cultures that are not “safe” where teachers shut their doors for fear of being “observed” – code name for being judged.  The process is a delicate one – enrolling the teacher, asking permission to coach and knowing just when to push and when to pull back. A finely tuned dance of sorts, that when is coordinated and smooth, is a beautiful thing. Sometimes your coach is the reason you stay another year in teaching. Sometimes your coach just makes the copies, and makes your day doing simple things to support the daily grind. The heart of coaching is important. Essential really. There is also a debate about what kind of coaching is most effective. Is the best coaching all about the affective – being in relationship with students and understanding how culture plays out in the classroom? Well, yes. Knowing your audience is always a good idea and tuning in to the real issues of equity and the realities of societal life need to be invited into the classroom purposefully. This is good teaching. But does coaching void of disciplinary content and student data at the center affect student achievement? I don’t know. But I do know that when students, their data, and content expertise come together in coaching conversations, you can almost hear the “aha” moments audibly. When tending to the affective is in service of rigorous delivery of content, then in my eyes, we are doing our jobs.

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