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Mar 20, 2015

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Developing Coaching Strategies to Solve Challenges

The Week 4 task of the EduroLearning Coaching course, Adam and I met to discuss a challenge that he has faced in his work with teachers. The intent of this task is to develop strategies to solve these challenges.

While watching the video introducing this topic about the challenges that coaches face, I found myself nodding in agreement with the various challenges discussed by Kim and Jeff. No doubt we have all witnessed some of these whether in teachers we have coached, led, or teamed with. When I met with Adam this week to focus on a coaching challenge of his choosing, I was curious to learn what challenge he would identify. He identified a challenge that he refers to as the back home challenge. This is an excellent challenge because it is one that anyone in administration, leadership, and/or coaching positions in an international school has most likely experienced.

Beginning an international teaching career often involves a lot of change that goes beyond the cultural and the personal. There is a significant learning curve for the majority of teachers new to our school and the many aspects of the IB programmes (PYP, MYP, DP). As a result, it is not uncommon for individuals to cling to the touchstones that make them feel most comfortable. We often hear comments such as, “This is how we did it back in ” or “In my previous district, we used . Why don’t we do that here?” These questions become great challenges when they are part of a fixed mindset. This is definitely something that I have seen with as new staff members arrive with their “suitcase curriculum” in tow.

Adam and I discussed a few examples of the back home challenge that each of us has experienced. I think something to keep in mind is that there are several issues that manifest themselves in the back home challenge. A new teaching environment can cause some individuals to resist making changes necessary and the back home references can become roadblocks that prevent progress. Also, a new teacher may need to take an opportunity (or twelve!) to demonstrate that he/she actually knows something about teaching.

Adam and I both agreed that we have been teaching internationally long enough that our back-home experiences carry very little weight in our respective pedagogical repertoires. We began to brainstorm strategies to deal with this challenge. Here is what we came up with in no particular order…

  1. Data. When confronted with the back-home challenge, we need to refer back to our guiding documents (e.g., mission statement, school assessment policy, IB programme guides). These clearly inform our instructional and assessment practices.
  2. Transparency. This challenge requires a focus on being proactive. The need to clearly communicate philosophies and practices from the very beginning of a teacher’s tenure is imperative. Successful measures to communicate “how we do things here” must be taken. The coaching team needs to clearly understand the message in order to carry it forward. Also, it is important for the coaching team to know that they can expect various supports from leaders and administrators as they work with teachers to convey “how we do things here.”
  3. Access. All teachers (new and returning) need to be able to access information, guiding documents, etc. in order to learn and review processes and procedures.
  4. Mentoring. A robust mentoring program to support teachers new to our (or any) organization. Coincidentally, I peeked ahead to the next unit and discovered the National Framework for Mentoring and Coaching. This document helps to clarify some of the different responsibilities and attributes of mentoring vs. coaching. Teachers new to an organization require mentoring in order to support them as they learn “how we do things here” whereas the coaching relationship is focused on refining practice.
  5. Coaching. Ensure that new teachers have the coaching support that they need in order to feel confident with new practices and philosophies.
  6. PLC. Perhaps a coach (or mentor) could lead a Professional Learning Community for new staff with monthly themes that would focus on important aspects of “how we do things here.”
  7. Checklist. Adam wondered if by identifying “what we do here” some sort of checklist could be devised. This checklist could be used during informal coaching or walk-throughs and/or to guide unit/lesson planning to remind everyone of key instructional practices and strategies. The challenge here would be to keep the checklist manageable while allowing for flexibility since teaching certainly can’t be turned into something as simple as a checklist of 10 items.

After brainstorming this list, I suggested that this challenge, like any other, would probably merit further thought. Adam and I also expanded on a few of the ideas we talked about and how they might take shape in our context. No doubt, some of these ideas will influence the end of course project. In fact, I’m really excited to take some time developing some of our ideas for the project!

Photo Credit: followthethings.com via Compfight cc

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