Sunday, June 3, 2018

Coaching your colleagues

As most readers know, I'm moving back to the UK.  I've decided that during the month of July I will write a book called "Coaching your Colleagues".  I've learned so much about coaching these past 4 years and I really want to share this with other teachers and schools.  When I met George Couros in Athens recently he inspired me by telling me he had written one chapter of his book each day.  I'm setting that as my aim too!

Even though I will not be at ASB next year, I was delighted to get a copy of the summer read Peer Coaching by Pam Robbins.  So far I've read the introduction and this post is a reflection on my reading so far.

Pam writes that teachers often operate in isolation.  They feel uncertain and overwhelmed by all they have to do:  the curriculum, assessment, grading, new initiatives and so on.  Interestingly enough she writes that technology has increased this sense of isolation as we don't take our questions to our colleagues - we just Google them - and we often send a text or email instead of talking face-to-face.  As a result we tend to converse less about our practice and our students.

I'm not familiar with the "peer coaching" model so was interested to read that it covers both collaborative work and formal coaching.  When a school's culture is one of isolation, then teachers are often not comfortable sharing publicly about what they are doing.  Collaboration offers a way of working together without the anxiety of classroom observation.  If schools support coaching (and that includes making the time for it to happen), then colleagues can engage in pre-conference, a classroom observation of a lesson, and a post-conference focused on the teaching practices that enhance student learning.  This sounds very similar to the cycle of planning and reflecting conversations in the Cognitive Coaching model.

Research shows that where teachers collaborate, academic achievement is four times more likely to improve than in schools where teachers work in isolation.  In addition peer coaching promotes learning-focused cultures, teacher leadership, more understanding of the curriculum and the promotion of good practices across schools.  In this model technology can enhance coaching, as you can video yourself teaching as well as observe videos of other teachers, leading to more questioning and gaining more insight into how to explain complex ideas to students.

As more and more teachers are using technology to flip their classroom, peer coaching is also a great tool to use to compare and contrast this practice with others.  Tech tools such as blogs, Twitter, Facebook groups, Instagram, Skype and so on can also enable teachers to engage in dialogue about instructional practices and their impact on student learning.

The important thing about coaching is that it is non-evaluative.  It's a really super way of differentiating professional learning, and it's job-embedded.  In my own experience of coaching, I've experienced enriched interactions between my colleagues, and meaningful personalised professional growth for those who have engaged in it.

I'm excited to have a new goal for the month of July, in particular because I feel that writing a book will keep me current with new forms of professional learning for teachers, and it will be a great way of keeping connected with some of my excellent friends and colleagues in my PLN.  I think it will be challenging for me to work from home - certainly it will be more isolated than working in a school.  I'm moving away from my vibrant PLC and know I need to put a lot more effort into the network of educators I've built up around the world.

It's time to start a new chapter.

Photo Credit: Theo Crazzolara Flickr via Compfight cc

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