One thing you mentioned in our last conversation was how important honesty and integrity are to you. How are these values at play for you in the situation you just described?
Tell me more about how you would describe a successful student-led discussion.
How do you determine for yourself if it’s better to request a conversation to discuss the issue with your colleague directly or to let it go? How do you guard against the issue negatively impacting your future interactions with this colleague?
— A few examples of my questions during coaching conversations
I have found my dream job. I have the honor of meeting one-on-one with High School teachers and student-facing staff to learn more about their teaching and learning philosophies and practices and how those play out in spaces across and beyond campus. I get to facilitate my colleagues’ reflective practice and ongoing professional growth. When invited, I visit a class or a collaborative space to provide targeted feedback that will address a specific question or concern which my colleague has identified and shared with me in advance. When a common theme emerges across coaching conversations, I share the message (not the messengers) with the leadership team in support of our shared goal of organizational learning. I am the new High School instructional coach, and I appreciate having this opportunity to share about my role at GDS.
While I have worked in schools (in both teaching and leadership roles) for the past 29 years, this is my first year working at a school with an instructional coaching program. I have no doubt that I would have benefitted from instructional coaching over the past three decades. As a new teacher, I could have brainstormed with my coach on classroom management strategies that aligned with my values. I would have appreciated a thought-partner to help me design language learning experiences that were less teacher-driven and more student-centered. My coach could have visited my classroom to help me identify inhibitors to student engagement when I was implementing a new lesson or strategy. I would have liked a sounding board when I was attempting to assert boundaries and find a good (for me) work-life balance while juggling parenting, professional, and self-care responsibilities. My coach might have encouraged me to explore topics that piqued my interest and were potential areas for practitioner research.
The big take-away here (I hope) is that instructional coaching is necessary, diverse, and dynamic. Transformative coaching requires relational trust; it is a partnership. I have the privilege to work with three other instructional coaches at GDS—Katherine Dunbar, Azureé Harrison, and Jana Rupp. Each of us is eager to listen to our colleagues’ stories and to ask questions (similar to the ones at the beginning of this post) that may help them to identify needs, strengths, and struggles that can inform meaningful goal setting and improved practice. These one-on-one coaching conversations are confidential. Our role as instructional coaches is intentionally not evaluative or supervisory. Individuals may identify a goal and then change their minds when something that feels more pressing comes up in their practice. As coaches, we strive to be fully present and to listen actively. We are eager to learn when there are ways that we can be showing up differently so that our colleagues feel more comfortable and supported.
My understanding of the instructional coaching role is heavily influenced by the work of Elena Aguilar, Jim Knight, Kathy Perret, and Kenny McKee. In preparation for this work, my peers and I read books and attended training sessions with the following titles: The Art of Coaching, Coaching for Equity, and Compassionate Coaching. We crafted personal vision statements that honor our belief that meaningful learning is grounded in reflective practice, is inquiry-based, and is process-oriented. The most current version of my evolving coaching commitment follows:
I coach because I believe in our collective capacity for growth and learning through continued, effortful practice. I will work to create a safe and brave space for reflection, introspection, inquiry, and managed risk taking. This involves a commitment to my own regular reflection, interrogation of my assumptions, and confrontation of my biases. When I make mistakes, I will try not to be overly self-critical, choosing instead to learn from the experience and make choices and/or take actions that reflect that learning.
Thank you, Georgetown Day School, for making the choice to invest generously and thoughtfully in faculty and staff voice and agency.