Coaching is a pivotal piece of our process at the Kansas City Teacher Residency. We’ve adapted an interview with Continuum Coach Genee’ Johnson for this blog below. In it, she details what coaching is and what it looks like. Any edits made were for readability and / or blog formatting. Watch a short snippet of the interview video below, or read the blog for more information!
What is coaching?
Coaching is basically having somebody that’s in your corner that supports you. They help you get better. It’s a way for you to get feedback and make adjustments to your instructional teaching practices, but it’s also a way to encourage you in the things that you’re doing right. There are things you are naturally gifted and good at, and coaches encourage you in those things. Coaching involves taking what you do naturally, sharing the academic name for that action and then unpacking it so that you understand how that action impacts kids and the classroom. Having somebody just point that out for you is a big part of coaching too.
How does coaching help grow a teacher’s competence and confidence in the classroom?
Coaching helps people get to a point where they feel comfortable and confident in the classroom by allowing them to have that space to try new things. Within coaching they have this space where they can fail, where they can have somebody to collaborate with, and they can have somebody to ask “Do you think it’ll work? How can you help me tweak this so it can work?”
Coaching at KCTR is a gradual release process. In the residency, not only do you have myself or one of the coaches as a coach, you also have a mentor teacher who is there with you all the time. So you’re not left alone with kids going at it on your own. You have this built-in support system. Your coach and mentor teacher will gradually release you into responsibilities. We help you build your skill sets
So first, you learn classroom management. Then you learn how to write a lesson. Next you know how to implement a lesson, and we just go and build skill upon skill until you’re at a point where we can say, “Okay, now you try it”. You get to then try it with the support of your mentor teacher and with the support of your coach before you have to teach totally on your own.
What does coaching day one look like? How does coaching change throughout the year?
Residents begin the school year on day one with their Mentor. So the first day of coaching covers the basics. It looks like checking in on: Do you understand the building? Have you met other people on your floor? Are you building relationships with teachers? How are you learning students’ names? It’s a very informal general overview. It’s really helping you get acclimated to the educational system as a whole, what a school building looks like, and how it runs.
From there we start building; now, let’s start building relationships with students. Let’s observe your mentor teacher and unpack the things that they do. We’ll talk about your mindsets and how your values show up in all of this. Then, after all that we can start looking at how we instruct students, because you now have an awareness of yourself. You understand your “why”. Now we can start talking about what it looks like to teach kids with all of that background knowledge in your mind.
Fast forward to the last day of coaching, and I’m more silent. I come in, I observe you. I will still share what I see, and how you’ve grown, but coaching is more of a joint conversation at this point. I ask you for your ideas and input, versus at the beginning of coaching there is more of me telling you what you should be doing. As the year progresses we move into more of a collaboration. The conversation switches to me asking you “what do you think you should be doing?”
By the end of the year, you have the things that feel natural for you. You’re now teaching, you’re now implementing things with students, and I’m coming in to let you know that you are doing an amazing job. Or if it doesn’t feel natural or you’re not getting the response you want from students, we’ll go back to the table, collaborate again and then try something else.
Why is coaching important? Why should new teachers look for coaching opportunities?
Coaching is embedded in the field of education regardless of the teacher preparation program you get into. When you get into a building, there typically is an instructional coach or you have your vice principal coming to observe. However, from my own experience, I wasn’t consistently coached in my school. There was one year out of the eight that I had an instructional coach and that was my most effective year as an educator. That helped me because I had someone, I did not feel alone. I felt supported and I was being challenged. Even if she didn’t understand everything a hundred percent, she pushed me, and pushed me to connect to my “why”.
So for me, coaching is so important because when you get into environments where you only get coaching sporadically, you’re not getting consistent feedback. You don’t know if what you’re doing is right, and you’re second guessing yourself. Either you’re not building confidence because you don’t know if what you’re doing is right. Or, maybe you’re overconfident and you think everything you’re doing is right and you think you know what’s best for kids. So feedback is imperative to calibrate.
In teaching we can have tunnel of vision. We can’t see everything that we think that we can see. We don’t notice everything with students. So having someone to coach you and to walk with you is imperative. You have someone that’s got your back, that means well, and who’s pushing you to grow. Coaches help you evolve as an educator and to push your practice, which is key because the nature of education is always changing. Education is a very fluid industry, and kids’ needs are always changing, so having a coach is super important.