Saturday, September 6, 2014

Coaching and mentoring -v- "expert" PD

Readers of my blog will notice that over the past few months I've written many (over 60!) blog posts about coaching.  It's been a real focus of mine this year as we have moved towards a model of tech integration coaches.  I've been reading a lot and thinking a lot about the advantages of being coached by someone who is not seen as an "expert".  Our coaches are:
  • working with teachers to set their goals and prompting them to be ambitious
  • encouraging them to document, share and celebrate their achievements using technology
  • offering side-by-side support, in particular in the area of motivation
  • discussing learning strategies that are targeted to a particular grade or subject
I've also been considering the personal qualities that these coaches need, for example a positive attitude, patience and calmness, the ability to support without doing everything for teachers and a willingness to be self-reflective and to critique their own performance as a coach.  While I've been thinking about this, I've also been thinking about some of the qualities I've noticed previously in the IT "experts" I've worked with in other schools.  Often these people were not very patient or understanding with those who lacked confidence when using technology and often they drew on their own previous "techie" knowledge without thinking that this did not come easily to others.  Most of all they were themselves comfortable with technology and often had trouble understanding the anxieties or frustrations of others.  Reflecting on this I realized that one reason why I was a good math teacher when I taught maths in upper elementary and middle school, was because I was not a good math student myself when I was at school, and I had actually experienced and so understood most of the problems that my students were having.

In the book Technology Together:  Whole-School Professional Development for Capability and Confidence Renata Phelps and Anne Graham make the following points:
  • Coaching is not always best done by the most ICT-experienced people in the school
  • Coaches should not be perceived as primarily for teaching technology skills but to support, motivate and encourage ideas
  • Coaching may occur in informal ways as well as at structured times
  • Coaching might happen through team teaching in the classroom
When I take the above 4 points into account, I think we have made a good start to our tech integration coaching programme in the first month of the new school year.

Photo Credit: peregrine blue via Compfight cc

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