In this module of my graduate course we have been focusing on the roles communication and collaboration skills play in successful coaching. Looking at this with a broad perspective, one might say “oh obviously those are important”, and then move on. I have found with a closer look, one would find that not only are these skills important, but they are essential. For my research, I wanted to continue building on the collaboration focus that I had been working on. I decided to focus on the importance of coaches modeling collaboration and risk-taking for those they are coaching.
I started my research with a Ted Talk. I have shared it on my blog to play at the section that applied the most to what I was looking for. This talk was not directed at coaches in education, rather it took the perspective of a student and her focus on collaborative learning. If we are to zoom out and look at the entire picture of coaching relationships, we will see that the ultimate goal is for students to be successful. As this is why we have teachers and coaches in the first place, I found much of this talk able to be applied through a coaching lens. The video is set to play where the 5 steps of increasing collaboration education come into focus. You can watch the video here, or below I have listed the 5 steps.
- Create a relaxed environment – this is SO important to me. If our teachers do not feel relaxed, comfortable, and safe with the coaches real growth cannot take place.
- Identify strengths of each group member – at times coaches will be working with individuals and other times they may be with a group. This struck me because if a coach is able to focus on the strengths of the teachers they are working with, they could group teachers together where they have.
- Embrace failure – this is another really important step. If coaches use failure as learning opportunities instead of a negative, teachers will feel more comfortable discussing their failures. It is also important for coaches to admit and share failure with those they work with.
- Be honest (and kind) with your team – when a coach is in a role where they are providing feedback or helping a teacher work through a weakness it is important for them to remain honest, while also being kind.
- Set achievable goals – coaches can help teachers set small and achievable goals that help them work towards the larger goals. They need to feel success, so setting smaller goals that they can actually accomplish allows them to feel success while also working towards the bigger goals.
In an article, I read from EdSurge, an educator shares her experience moving from a career in global health to the world of education. She mentions how in her first career she was given autonomy whereas in the education field she was experiencing micromanagement. The article continues to talk about the trend that can be seen of teachers quitting the field due stressful or overwhelming factors. One of the suggestions given to help keep teachers in the field was a focus on collaborative supports to help teachers, including allowing them to work in PLCs of their choosing. It also talks about what coaches can do.
According to Williamson, coaches should not be pseudo-administrators. Instead, they should “serve primarily as thought-partners to teachers.” I think this is an important distinction for coaches, especially those of us who are new into the profession. There is more talk of coaches working alongside teachers, such as taking over the class for a minute, or running to make last minute copies. Coaches should be partners with teachers, which will allow them to create an environment of collaboration. If we are partnering with teachers, we can also take risks in teaching which will allow teachers to see us to fail at times.
How to Build a Collaborative Culture
After exploring the role of coaches supporting teachers, I looked for how to build a collaborative culture in a school and coaching relationships. I came across a blog series that gives pointers on the ways to build collaboration. I will share my favorites:
- Labsites: a coach goes to a classroom and models a lesson or teaching practice. Then the teacher gets a chance to practice what they saw from the coach. Working with the coach, the teacher comes up with a goal and work on it together.
- Walk-Throughs: Teachers work together to discuss a common goal that they have. Then they walk through classrooms to observe and collect data. Coaches can facilitate this and schedule the walk-throughs so that teachers see multiple classrooms.
- Make & Take: Teams of teachers work together to share and create resources. Coaches can facilitate these sessions and support all the teachers.
Teachers want to feel supported and heard. They want to grow in their profession without be talked down to. As a coach, I can help create a culture of collaboration and risk-taking by modeling it. It is important to remember that it will be my job to partner with teachers, and that I am not an expert over them. We work together and learn together to make education better for everyone.
- ASCD Guest Blogger. (2018, June 12). Creating a Culture of Collaboration and Coaching to Improve the Effectiveness of Every Teacher. ASCD In Service. Retrieved from https://inservice.ascd.org/creating-a-culture-of-collaboration-and-coaching-to-improve-the-effectiveness-of-every-teacher/
- Foltos, Les. Peer Coaching : Unlocking the Power of Collaboration. Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin, 2013. Web.
- Minor, Cailin. (2019, June 6). Building a Culture of Collaboration Through Coaching, Part 2: Beliefs and Actions. TeachBoost. Retrieved from https://blog.teachboost.com/building-a-culture-of-coaching-through-collaboration-part-2-beliefs-and-actions
- Williamson, April. (2020, August 6). Let’s Help Teachers Grow by Coaching — Not Micromanaging — Them. EdSurge. Retrieved from https://www.edsurge.com/news/2020-08-06-let-s-help-teachers-grow-by-coaching-not-micromanaging-them
- Wisniewski, Craig J. (2019, July 11). Transitioning from a Top-Down Model to a Partnership Approach. Instructional Coaching Group. Retrieved from https://instructionalcoaching.com/transitioning-from-a-top-down-model-to-a-partnership-approach/