In a previous post, February 12, I described two young teachers who are experiencing emotional challenges in their home life. The principal is considering putting them on what is called the unsatisfactory track which is a prelude to being released. I have been charged with working with them.
A coach’s role is to move teachers from where they are to where they need or want to be. As the keeper of the vision, the coach works with teachers to set goals that will lead to improved student achievement. Though they do not pay me, I consider the teachers to be my clients.
Coaching can sometimes be a lonely journey of faith- there is no single path or recipe. We travel an uncertain terrain, and we juggle an intimidating number of demands.
Coaches empower, collaborate, challenge, confirm, cajole, communicate, flatter, guide, goad, intimidate, listen, model, push, prompt, problem solve, and problem seek. We serve as counselor, friend, compassionate shoulder, and confidante.
Getting to Know You!
Before coaches can determine how fast and how far teachers can be coached, my practice is to get to know them first.
I don’t care how much you know, until I know how much you care. Mother Teresa
Information Gathering Guide:
Age Range of the Teacher – A Guess: Under 30? over 30? over 40? etc
Experience in other schools/district
Content areas and grade levels taught
Certification: Lack of certification, alternative certification , career path change, Teach for America
Average years of service
Life Issues/Challenges: What is going on inside of the teacher’s head and heart: marriage, divorce, family, children, health, second job, death in the family, working on advanced degree, other?
The Foundational Goals I use to begin to coach the teachers in listed on my insights page of this blog.
1. I will work to build a shared system of responsibility.
Collaborate/Challenge: I pair Amina and Carrie with one another and a veteran teacher in the same dept who will spend a few minutes chatting with them each day. In return the teacher will represent the school at a university professional development seminar for teachers during the summer. The veteran teacher will answer questions about classroom managetment and lesson planning. The department chairman will spend five minutes daily in each teacher’s classroom for the next couple of months just to let the students know that some one in a position of authority has the teacher’s back. And to make sure Amina and Carrie are on task, I will do the same. Philosophy: I care; I’m concerned; I’m curious.
2. I work to identify areas of strength (assets, gifts, talents) for teachers to share with one another
Empower/Flatter: Since both teachers are new, they are up-to-date on the pedagogy of teaching the writing process. I recommend that the department chair encourage them to collaborate on a brief presentation for a departmental meeting. I want Amina and Carrie to feel that they belong and that they matter.
3. I will identify areas for growth to enhance teachers’ career longevity
Challenge/Goal I inform them that they need to begin by improving their attendance and not allowing students to know what’s going on in their personal lives because doing so detracts from their credibility. No more crying in front of students or showing up late. No more sitting repeatedly at their desks day after day which communicates a nonverbal: “Do not disturb” to students. An effective teacher teaches on her feet and not from her seat. I threaten them with the specter of unemployment
4. I will work to assist teachers to move past their current level of performance.
Problem Solve/Problem Seek: Both are weak in classroom management-sending students to the office EACH day. We start by examining their syllabus which, in part, is supposed to outline their philosophy for classroom management. I remind them that an effective teacher is firm, fair, consistent and persistent-sometimes needing an iron will. Both agree. I suggest they review the syllabus regularly with students until it is internalized. We discuss the difference between deviant behavior and normal developmental behavior as well as the consequences for each.
5. I will assist teachers as they reflect on and articulate reasons for their actions.
Guide/Goal After a couple of SCHEDULED observations, I meet with the teachers individually. My process: “Close your eyes and describe the lesson you taught; What were your goals? Did the lesson go as you planned? Why or why not? How do you plan to correct or reinforce your actions?” Amina and Carrie both become aware of their shortcomings without my having to tell them. Both are weak at introducing the lesson which leads to confusion on the part of students and frustration on the part of the teachers. They realize that they are not getting through to them. I start each with brainstorming ways to bridge/link new knowledge to past experiences/knowledge of their students (population). I inform each that I will ask the department chair to monitor only the introductory portion of their lesson plans for the next month. I will drop in to see how they are doing.
6. I will work to increase teacher efficacy (belief that one’s actions can make a difference)
Listen/Strategize Amina and Carrie both appear to have faith in their ability to teach inner-city students; however, their personal lives are interfering with their emotional and physical stamina to do the job. I point that out to them that teaching in urban schools requires a resiliency that may not be necessary in a private or suburban school environment. We identify bonding/relationship building strategies that are teacher-to-student, student-to-teacher and student-to-student that will better secure students’ cooperation. And to secure Carrie and Amina’s ability to make a difference.
7. I will identify challenges that might interfere with a positive teaching experience.
Listen/Empathize: Again, because their personal lives are spilling over into the classroom, we discuss support systems: family, friends, church, organizations, social outlets. Is there anyplace in their lives where they are having fun?
8. I will identify potential conflicts and ethical dilemmas.
Intimidate: I start by asking them how much they need the income from teaching. Both would be economically devastated w/o the income. I remind them that the taxpayers are spending over $7,000 annually to educate each student. That is how their salary is derived. When they don’t show up or merely sit at their desks day after day and only provide busy work to students, they are in essence taking money under false pretenses. I warn both that this behavior is ethically indefensible. I also warn both that they are in danger of being rated unsatisfactory. I assure them that at this point I am NOT sharing what I am learning about them with the administration; however, that could change if they don’t. Amina and Carrie seem contrite.
I know that this process seems arduous and time consuming; however, Amina and Carrie are both intelligent women who invested enormous amounts of time, effort, and money to become teachers. And thousands of dollars of tax payer money is lost each time a teacher abandons the field or is pushed out the door. That doesn’t include the emotional toil on students who must adjust to a new teacher. Is it easier to merely force Amina and Carrie out or to invest in them?
In my next blog post, I will share the outcomes for both teachers.