Anyone who’s ever worked in a school, knows that the school day for teachers does not end when the bell rings. The question many then ask is, what are teachers still doing at school 2 hours after the bell, or why was there car parked there all day Saturday? Looking at this week’s coaching standards for my Masters program (see below), led me to question how teacher’s find balance in their lives to avoid wearing too many hats or living the life of the spinster teacher of a hundred years ago who dedicated her entire life to the children and the community?
This school year has taken my career in a new direction, owed to pursuing my Masters in Digital Education Leadership. Teaching full-time and trying to find time to support others with tech integration has proven to be a challenge. Staying at school late is not an option for me or my family. Working on weekends in the classroom would only be possible if my 5 year old came with me.
So then, how can I effectively model tech integration for others with the responsibilities of a classroom teacher?
Through reflection, I kept getting drawn back to three main factors: common traits of teachers, resources, and understanding personal boundaries. Our mentor text this quarter, Peer Coaching, frequently refers to relationships and resources. In hindsight, I wish I had thought about all of this in August, but as I prepare for Winter Break, it gives me time to rejuvenate and set new goals for the second half of the school year. I also need to remind myself, this time I am the student, learning how to better support colleagues.
Common Traits of Teachers
Having established that relationships are vital to a coaching partnership, has led me to think about teachers in general. What common traits can be found amongst teachers? According to Teach.com, there are five common personality traits found amongst great teachers:
Focusing on understanding the common traits lends itself to generating enthusiasm for collaboration and recognising colleagues strengths. Part of coaching is helping others recognise their strengths and how to use them to intentionally support student growth goals. In addition to recognising teacher strengths, it’s important to survey teachers to know how they might be interested in supporting colleagues. For example, those teachers that are extremely creative, let them share some lessons that they’ve had great success with. For the teacher’s who struggle with getting specific students engaged, seek out those who’ve had a positive connection with that student. Coaching is not just about supporting all staff, but also about how to manage a supportive collaborative environment.
Understanding Limitations with Resources
Resources is a broad term, yet extremely impactful with tech integration. Resources can bring the best intentions to a halt. As a classroom teacher, I am not fully aware of resources available or the politics about how they are distributed in the district. What I do know however, is that without support from administration, access to technology, and time to collaborate, my mentoring/coaching efforts are doomed to fail.
Integrating any new curriculum or tool requires thoughtful planning in order to be sustainable. As a classroom teacher, and not a coach, I struggle with time to ask and find answers to questions before trying to jump in and support my colleagues. This means that planning in isolation, even with the best intentions, is likely to end in frustration. In regards to technology, coaches and mentors must first consult administrators, tech specialists from the district, and possibly content coaches before simply supporting a teacher’s vision with digital tools. This again, requires time, which may turn some teachers away from implementation.
Juggling Multiple Roles
As mentioned before, teachers work well beyond the bell. Emails abound offering or requesting teachers to be part of a PLC, lead after school tutoring, coach an after school activity for students, or participate in Professional Development. How can teacher mentors and coaches then find time to collaborate with others?
Teacher mentors and coaches can easily fall into a trap of taking on too much. Despite their enthusiasm and dedication, teachers can take on more than they can handle. Pedro Diaz, the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute, offers some great advice in his post How to Avoid Taking on Too Much Work. First, he identifies the common traps when asked to take on another task at work. Three common problems, which I know I’m guilty of: we want to please others, our lack of self-awareness, and we don’t think we have a choice.
Moreover, Diaz offers strategies on how to approach multiple responsibilities. He emphasizes learning how to wait. It’s okay to think about something without committing right away. While contemplating, ask yourself what specific role you’re being asked to support, will you need further training to complete the task, and does it fit into your schedule?
As I prepare for Winter Break, I want to be realistic, proactive, and fully engaged in what I’m doing. In order to to achieve these personal goals, I’m looking at the school calendar for next term. Along with teaching, I am responsible for state testing for 4 grade levels. I want to continue mentoring colleagues with tech integration and encourage others who are showing interest.
Knowing that I will be asked to participate in other areas as well, or fill in, I’ve realised I need to give myself time to reflect before committing. Wanting to adhere to Diaz’s advice, I’ve created The Juggling Act criteria (see above). Before taking on anything else this year, it’s important to ask: what is the specific task, time commitment, skills required, and if anyone else is similarly qualified to complete the task. Then before saying, yes, consider workload so that I don’t jeopardize my current commitments.
Diaz, P. (2017, June 8). How to Avoid Taking on Too Much Work. Retrieved December 08, 2017, from https://www.wmhi.com.au/mental-health/how-to-avoid-taking-on-too-much-work/
Foltos, L. (2013). Peer Coaching: Unlocking the power of collaboration. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
Hertz, M. B. (2011, November 14). Mentoring and Coaching for Effective Tech Integration. Retrieved December 08, 2017, from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/mentoring-coaching-tech-integration-mary-beth-hertz
Mormando, S. (2017, May 04). 5 Tips for Preparing Teachers for New Classroom Tech Tools. Retrieved December 08, 2017, from https://edtechmagazine.com/k12/article/2017/05/5-tips-preparing-teachers-new-classroom-tech-tools