Coaching Letter #80

So much happens that I can’t write about it all. Sometimes I can’t even cover everything that happens in one day. Take the coaching workshop that Kerry and I hosted on Monday. We talked about coaching for equity, feedback, creating a shared understanding of high quality instruction, perceived self-efficacy… and those are only the headlines.

Now that there are readers of the Coaching Letter all over the globe (US, UK, Germany, Oman, Kuwait, India, Korea…) and given that not all readers are in education, it feels a bit weird to be telling people that they ought to sign up for a workshop in Connecticut. But building on what we learned at the coaching workshop from the really terrific participants and the support they say they need, I’m going to make a pitch anyway.

First, if you are not confident that your district has a shared understanding of high quality instruction/instructional focus and/or you don’t have a clearly articulated strategy for implementing said high quality instruction/instructional focus and/or that strategy does not include your coaches/department chairs/teacher leaders, then you need to sign up for the strategy workshop that we are hosting at Connecticut College in late June. Further, before you decide that you do have a shared understanding of high quality instruction/instructional focus and/or you do have a clearly articulated strategy for implementing said high quality instruction/instructional focus and/or that strategy does include your coaches/department chairs/teacher leaders, can you please ask them? Their answers may surprise you. The number of coaches I have met who tell me that their role is clear is very, very small.

I know that readers of the Coaching Letter are interested in the role of coaches/teacher leaders, because the links I’ve given to articles on those topics are among the most popular that I’ve given. In particular, this article by my good friend Jennie Weiner has clearly been shared widely. I typed up a couple of excerpts to use in workshops, attached. One side of the page is focused on the role of teacher leaders, and the other side of the page is focused on the role of principals, because a major point of the article is that when principals can’t articulate a vision and goals, and articulate the connection between the teacher leaders and the vision and goals, the potential for success of the teacher leaders is undermined.  I would argue, in addition, that we should be thinking not just about what the principal does to triangulate vision, strategy and teacher leadership at a school level, but what central office is doing to make the relationship clear at the district level. Anyway, the excerpts provide great fuel for a conversation about how to make teacher leaders even more successful.

Second, we run a really awesome three-day coaching workshop (the workshop on Monday was the first time, as a result of popular demand, that we have hosted a follow-up). Obviously, we think that all coaches everywhere should come, but we also think that anyone who is expected to give feedback to, or otherwise grow, another adult should come. And, we think that anyone who is expected to receive feedback should come—why is it that we train people to give feedback, but not to receive it?

Third, we run an equally awesome two-day equity institute. Monday was the first time that we have incorporated a component on equity in our coaching offerings, and it was really clear that many of the concepts we included were really helpful to the participants: creating some accountability around what we mean by “all” students; having an equity lens; and focusing on impact rather than intent.  We showed, as we frequently do, this video about the artist Alexandra Bell; speaking as a white person who really works hard at being self-aware on equity issues, and who has attended and facilitated a lot of workshops over the last twenty years, it is disconcerting to me to watch this video. The consternation comes not from what she calls out in the New York Times’ reporting where race is concerned, but from my doubt that I would have noticed the bias that she highlights in the stories. It’s really compelling. You can read and watch about another of Bell’s projects about the Central Park Five. For more on the Central Park Five case, including the mini-series that’s about to come out, here is the coverage in the New York Times. And one of the actors in the mini-series is connected to the college admissions scandal, which gives me the excuse to link to this cartoon in this week’s New Yorker.

I want to end with a shout out to coaches and teacher leaders everywhere. They are, in my experience, in these roles not only because they are great teachers, but because they are great people—hard-working, reliable, committed, trustworthy, decent, etc etc etc. I have learned a lot about how districts and schools can maximize the power of their teacher leaders, so more on that soon… In the meantime, thank you to all the great coaches and teacher leaders I’ve worked with lately—it’s really inspiring to meet so many people working so hard to improve the experience of learning for students.

Any and all feedback you have for me is more than welcome. I love getting responses to these missives. Best, Isobel

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2019-05-01T10:13:59+00:00