Coach. Better. Episode 9 Show Notes
This week I talk to Reid Wilson, Year 5 Homeroom teacher at NIST International School in Bangkok, Thailand. Reid shares his experience as a classroom teacher working with a wide variety of coaches, both at NIST and in his previous schools. Reid shares his perspective on how coaches are experts at giving their teachers “permission for potential”, as well as specific feedback on what can make the coaching experience even more invaluable for teachers. For coaches wondering how best to work with the innovative and risk taking teachers on their staff, this conversation has a wealth of feedback and practical strategies!
Reid Wilson: https://twitter.com/wayfaringpath
Kim Cofino: https://twitter.com/mscofino
What do you think coaches do?
To help people reach their maximum potential or capacity. To help you become your best self, not only as an educator, but as a colleague, thinker or reflector.
To support and help you realize who you can always be.
2. How do you work with the coaches at your school?
4 coaches in ES
2 innovation coaches, literacy coach and math coach
Teacher-initiated: online booking, passing in the hall, or sending an email
Support teachers in reaching goals we set for ourselves as teachers
Help me fill in my gaps, reach my goals
They have skilled ways of asking questions that challenge my assumptions and illicit some areas where I don’t know what I don’t know.
Work with us in planning meetings, listen and then step in with a question that makes us pause. Great at listening and synthesizing. On a personal level, they’re always people who give permission for potential. “What do you need from me?”
Flexible model to work with coaches, during project-based weeks, when they’re off timetable, the coaches help work through a planning module adapted from High Tech High. Other times they’re invited in when teams know they need support. No rigid structure.
3. What are some good opportunities for coaches to work with you?
When we’re starting to ideate, that’s when coaching can be at its most powerful. Very fast paced, just trying to have enough prepared and thought through to make it to the next week. When our thoughts are so full, it’s hard for us to access our creative potential, this is when coaches can step in and reawaken that aspect of our consciousness that has been dormant while we’ve been doing the day to day things. Before planning a unit coming with some ideas, and asking “are there any of these that might work for you”. Ried is most innovative at the end of a semester or the end of a year when he has time to reflect, that’s when new ideas start to spark. Once we get running, it can be difficult to find the pause – it would be great to have those ideas come to you, and be that “spark”
The 5 love languages – how different people need different things. Everyone needs different things, so it’s about the coach finding out what people need and responding to them.
Knowing how far or how often to nudge. Approaching a coach is an act of humility, this is exposing a vulnerability. So being able to recognize how much a person can be nudged, or how strongly they’re holding on to certain ideas is important to consider. Make sure you know what the recipient needs – can be tricky when working with teams
4. What do you do when you don’t have the opportunity to work with a coach?
Struggle through something on my own. Can be stubborn about trying to create an idea. Definitely not more efficient. The benefit of having a coach is efficiency, and points of reflection that are considered in the process of going through something new.
In the past, without a coach, wasn’t developing as quickly as I have at NIST. Look back and recognize how far he’s come, lots of that has been attributed to coaches.
Get through it, do your best and struggle or sometimes avoid because you’re confronting something outside your comfort zone. It’s like an adventure race, and they’re right beside you, supporting you and believing in you.
5. What are the essential elements for coaching success in a school? What’s needed to build a coaching culture?
Admin, related to staffing: admin have to recognize and reflect that there are areas for improvement or growth, so they bring in the coaches. Such a powerful statement to bring in people to help us grow as a school.
Teachers: open-mindedness, being open to having someone there. The culture of vulnerability and trust. People need to feel like coaches are not evaluating and judging them. They are more like signposts along the way, specialized in certain areas who can guide teachers to move in a certain way. They are the people who spend more time with research that teachers might not always have time to do. Alleviate some of that stress about knowledge.
Permission to change, to try, to fail (all under vulnerability. Drive: motivation from the individual that makes them want to change and become their best. Growth mindset.
Can be done anywhere, but schools have to reflect on their context and variables. Look for people who fit a disposition and mindset first, which will allow a culture to grow. The larger the school the more challenging it can become. Size of the school is important but always will have change agents and first followers. Sun needs to shine with leadership but the grass needs to grow from teachers.
6. Where do coaches / does coaching fail? And what can we do about it?
When coaching is so invitational, it’s can be hard for many people to be so vulnerable. To choose a challenge consciously and intentionally, to break down mental constructs.
Sometimes people don’t’ put themselves out there because of how hard it is to say “I need help in this area”
You don’t know what you don’t know, so teachers might not even know enough to even ask questions. If the coaching model is only predicated on waiting / passive, it’s possible to slow down evolution in an educational sense.
How could coaches find more people who are open to being approached, but doing it in a way that’s non-threatening to the coachee? Co-teaching is a good avenue to solve this problem. Recognizing when teachers need new tools or new ways of teaching to fill in what they don’t know.
Because of how busy homeroom teachers are, could coaches come with some pre-wrapped ideas/visions that are half-envisions and the other half could be filled in by teachers who want to think about it, but don’t always have the time? Can be hard to find the balance.
When coaches come to me with ideas, I feel like it’s co-authoring education with them. They brought to my attention things that I wasn’t aware of and I was able to become my better self, and a great way for my students to see them in a co-teaching role.
7. What makes a coach invaluable to you?
Someone who balances the “I got your back, I’m here to support you” but also guides you, so it’s not a blind support. Not support for support’s sake. But it’s supported with wisdom.
They’re there to see what you might not be able to see. The sense of trust and ease around working together. Someone who is walking with you. This is when coaching brings out the best in school and students
There’s a need for efficiency, teachers are super pressed for time. Without getting actionable goals from a conversation, teachers might think it’s not worth my time.
8. What was your “aha” moment that shifted your perspective from not caring about coaching to being on board?
Would never want to work at a school without coaches. Collections of smaller “aha” moments, sometimes it’s hard to recognize them in the moment, only after looking back over time. It’s the gradual conversations, the subtle coaching that’s going on.