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Melissa Noland Coaching Highlight

Behind the Scenes: Coaching at KCTR

KCTR Staff / September 26, 2022

What is coaching and why do we emphasize it? 

At its core coaching is about individualized development. It’s really about helping them learn and grow in a way that meets their bar rather than generalized professional development. Professional development can be really helpful for learning new strategies and new information, but it’s really difficult to go into the classroom and implement those without anybody else to help you figure out what that might look like. Coaching is really focused on what’s happening in their classroom, in their practice, and with their students. KCTR has always had a really strong focus on coaching because consistent coaching makes a really huge impact on teacher practice, which in turn, influences students. 

 

What do you personally enjoy about coaching teachers? 

I’ve had the privilege to work with close to 200 teachers in the Kansas City area. Seeing how they grow over the time that they work with me, and then their growth in the years beyond that, is really meaningful. When our teachers here have had four years of coaching, they start to learn how to look at their classroom and how to look at their own practice and start pushing themselves in new ways.

You don’t always understand the full impact of what you’ve experienced until a couple of years down the road. Just like your students don’t necessarily appreciate you until they’ve left your classroom, you might not see all the growth you’ve made with your coach until afterward. But seeing them make those connections and knowing that I was a very small piece of where they are now is so exciting.

 

What would you say to a teacher who is nervous about receiving coaching? 

If somebody’s nervous about coaching, the first thing is to ask themselves why. What is it about coaching that’s making you nervous? Do you struggle to receive adjusting feedback? Is it something where you’re worried about somebody seeing you not do as well as you would like to?

I think it’s most common that individuals have an image in their minds of the teacher they want to be and it’s hard for them when they aren’t there yet. Our folks want their coaches to be proud of them and to see that they’re doing really good work; they want to be amazing teachers. Yet, when you walk into the classroom on day one you’re not “there” yet because it takes years to get “there”. The best teachers are never really “there” because they are always growing. So really think about why you’re nervous and what that means. If it is about not doing as well as you’d like, learn to embrace that. Coaching teachers has taught me that we’re humans doing human work. So that means that even on our best days, something’s going to be not quite right, and that’s okay.

 

What mindsets are essential for maximizing coaching?

  • Be Honest

      • The most important thing you need to do is, to be honest with yourself and your coach. When your coach says, “Hey, how are you?” saying “fine” or “everything’s great” when it’s not going well doesn’t help anybody. You don’t need to spill your soul, but if you’re working really hard and you’re up until midnight every night lesson planning, and so you’re not sleeping really well, that’s actually something that your coach needs to know because that’s not sustainable. That type of schedule isn’t going to make you a great teacher long term. When we know about these things we can then help you find solutions. We can talk about how to make lesson planning more efficient, and trim down other things so that you can get sleep and be a happy, healthy human. When you are taking care of yourself, you’ll be a better teacher for your kids and you’ll be happier in your work.

 

  • Openness to consider different Perspectives 

      • Being honest with yourself and your coach about your current reality is both hard, but it’s necessary. If you come in with honesty we can help with solutions, and we can also share a different perspective. Your coach can often help you see where things are going better than you might think. Getting that balanced perspective is really helpful long term.

 

  • Growth mindset

      • A belief that things can get better, that you can get better, and that your students can learn and get better, is essential.

 

 

What are the key elements to expect in a coaching session?

A coaching conversation will feel very different depending on who your coach is because we are different people with different experiences and strategies. But, some of the key things that you should expect are

  1. Reflection

      • In one form or another, there should be an element of reflection. It might be a reflection on the lession we just covered a lesson plan you submitted, or overall how you’re doing.
  2. Share Observations

      • The other thing you can expect is for a coach to share their observations. Sharing what I saw is essential and is going to happen in every coaching session with a teacher. That could sound like, “You had this many interactions with students. This many times you gave directions, and then you gave this many redirects. What does that mean? What trends do you see as a teacher? I’ll share the observation data, but won’t necessarily tie any conclusions to that data, and we’ll talk through that together.
  3. Feedback

      • It might be really specific and direct feedback based on that observation. It might sound like “I saw you do X, this is the impact it had on students. Next time, try this.
  4. Action Steps

      • After we’ve reflected, and talked about what we saw we will move into what does that mean for what comes next in our practice? It might be identifying: Who am I following up with? Who am I reaching out to? What do I need to do to be ready for the next time? 

 

What is a misconception people have about coaching teachers?

The one that I’ve heard the most is that coaches are experts in all things K-12 education; that’s not possible. We have a phenomenal team with various expertise yet even across our team of 10 people, we don’t cover it all. A coach might be an expert in some things, which is great, but the point of the coach is not to be an expert in all content. Rather, they are there to help you find the resources, the people, and the information to get better in that area. 

I was a high school teacher, so I’m not an expert in phonics, but if that’s something you need help with we will look up videos of strong phonics instruction and watch them together. We will look at strong phonics lesson plans and dig into them together. Even if your coach is missing an area of expertise, they can still be a benefit and they can still offer valid and helpful insight. They can be an extra set of eyes in your classroom, which is always a good thing.

 

What advice would you give to a teacher who wants coaching when it’s not readily available?

People at KCTR get coaching as part of their commitment to KCTR, but if that’s not your reality there are things you can do to grow and develop! 

  1. Connect with your administrators:

    The first thing to do is always ask your admin. If they’ve got any sort of coaching program at your school, they will know about it. Different schools have different resources so even if they don’t have an official coaching program, your administrators might have some time to come in and see you. 

  2. Connect with your team:

    The next option would be to connect with other folks on your team or in your school that you trust. They don’t have to be in the same grade and they don’t even have to teach the same content. Just getting another teacher in there to watch you and give feedback is helpful. 

  3. Observe Other Teachers:

    If it’s not possible to have someone watch you, you can go observe other teachers. It doesn’t tell you a lot about your practice, but it can give you some ideas of how different classrooms work, which is always really beneficial. 

  4. Record Yourself:

    People hate to hear it, but record yourself and watch it. The first time I watched my own recording was in my second year of teaching. I learned more from that 20-minute clip than I think I had learned in the entire year and a half up to that point. It’s so informative because you think you’re doing something and then you watch the video and then you can see “oh, that’s what my face looks like when I say that!” It provides you quite literally a different perspective. It’s really valuable and it is awkward. It is kind of painful to watch, but I don’t know a teacher out there that hasn’t found it helpful. It’s also something anyone has the capacity to do. Use your cell phone or a laptop, and record it. You’ll learn a lot.

 

If you have access to any form of coaching, take advantage of it. If you go in with the goal of learning something, even if the coach isn’t great it’ll help. If you’re open to it, even with a subpar coach, you can get a lot out of that time and space to help you.

 

Interested in becoming an teacher and receiving coaching and support along the way? Check out the Kansas City Teacher Residency and apply today!