Coach. Better. Episode 6 Show Notes
This week we’re chatting with Philip Williams, Head Librarian at NIST International School in Bangkok, Thailand. As a librarian at NIST, Philip is part of the coaching team, so this episode in particular highlights the overlaps of how a modern librarian fits into a culture of coaching at a school. Philip shares lots of great examples of how, even in schools without a coaching team, a librarian can be a stepping stone into building that coaching culture – with librarians as an information literacy coach.
Philip Williams: https://twitter.com/flipoz
Kim Cofino: https://twitter.com/mscofino
Clint Hamada: https://twitter.com/chamada
1. What do you think coaches do?
Each coach has a different background and skill set, which drives us to work with them differently. Staff and students also come to work with different backgrounds. The first thing that coaches do is listen. Tune in to where they are, and then respond in kind. A collaborative and collegial role, working alongside staff and students, and respond to the need they bring along. Responding in kind based on what they hear. Augments and supports what teachers and students are doing in their classroom. Coach is not there to build in a dependency, but it’s task-specific so you’re teaching something practical so you can close off and move on to the next step. Important to have an aim and objective focused around learning with a point where you can wrap it up.
2. How do you work with the coaches at your school?
Formal and informal ways: in project-based learning experiences with year levels, the coaches all support the grade level in collaboration.
Formal: planning meetings with teams, planning meetings with coaches
Informal: mobile as possible, able to have “water cooler” type conversations that keep the wheels turning
Move beyond the library’s walls – means that it’s important for the librarian to be mobile, including devices and books.
Librarian is like the original coach: just in time learning for research and reading. Curation, reflection, and communication are now the key transferable skills that librarians are working with.
3. What are some good opportunities for coaches to work with you?
At NIST, we have an avg 400 people in the library in a day, this offers a huge opportunity to have an impact on the community. Library’s goal is to have an impact on student learning for every student in the school. This means the physical space of the library is a great space for coaches to be connected with what’s happening at the school. Increase opportunities for face to face interactions stops misunderstandings from snowballing.
For example, when coaches run parent sessions the library can make sure to have the appropriate and relevant resources available for community members, as a follow up or continued learning opportunity for parents.
Consistency among coaches and library allow the librarians to demonstrate those messages in the library as well, for example, student agency as demonstrated in the library is consistent with what coaches and teachers are doing in classrooms. The library is “designed for discovery” the way coaching is invitational.
“Being interruptible” is an indicator that I’m getting it right – people feel comfortable and see that I’m accessible. It’s the personal interactions that are the most important part.
4. What do you do when you don’t have the opportunity to work with a coach?
Connect within your community as broadly and as vertically as possible. Important to build relationships with the administration at multiple levels. Finance and business need to have an understanding of what we’re doing, as well as senior management, all the way throughout down to our youngest students, building relationships is critical. People need to have faith that the library will make a difference. Building connections and collegial and professional relationships.
5. What are the essential elements for coaching success in a school? What’s needed to build a coaching culture?
As coaches, we need to be responsive to the needs of where students and teachers are. Have a deep knowledge of our own skill set. What are we bringing to the environment that is unique, to be able to inject ideas and resources? Fostering and learning and continuing your own PD. A cohesive pedagogical integrity, a shared philosophy of learning. Having this shared philosophy makes conversations rewarding and deep. Being student-focused, and making sure that’s reflected in how we manage our time, the furnishings, the way we open our doors, the way we set up our schedules, the language we use with students. Making sure that the student focus in a key driver to our decisions. All other decisions come under that. Have to continue to unpack what that means and how we demonstrate that at every level. It’s in the fine details, the minutia, it’s the choices we make in each daily instance – paying attention to the small moments, particularly because we’re visible to the whole community, we can have such a huge impact.
The thing that’s unique to the coaches role, is that they have flexibility in their schedule to support the organization.
6. Where do coaches / does coaching fail? And what can we do about it?
You can’t get it right all the time. You’re going to make people unhappy at sometimes. It’s hard not to be caught up in sensitivities to that. Just have to work hard and be visible, take an active role in your community – it’s not going to fall into your lap.
Sometimes coaching fails when people perceive that you’re not working hard when you’re just working in your office – even though you could be. If the work that you’re doing isn’t visible in the community, it’s hard to change that perception. Dealing with and addressing community perception is very difficult, but very important.
Ask yourself: how is the work I’m doing visible to my community? What is the impact it has?
Sometimes coaches are so flexible and adaptable that they don’t have an answer to the question: “what do you do?” – in being so flexible there’s no definition. Be as decisive as possible, when appropriate, so people have frameworks to pin their understandings on.
7. What makes a coach invaluable to you?
Connection: Because they’re so mobile throughout the community, they hear and see things that I can’t see. They can then make connections between their work as coaches and my work as a librarian, allowing Philip to close that loop and take the opportunity to support student (or parent, or teacher) learning.
8. What was your “aha” moment that shifted your perspective from not caring about coaching to being on board?
Wrestling with the idea of what a coach is, at NIST, has been an “aha” moment. Such a natural fit in with the DNA of what a librarian is there for, it’s not a stretch.