Empowered to Explore and Keep Trying

For the last module of summer quarter I decided to focus on ISTE Coaching Standard 3a which reads; Establish trusting and respectful coaching relationships that encourage educators to explore new instructional strategies. I wanted to focus on this standard because to me it sets the stage for all work as a coach. It is hard to be an effective coach if we have not built a trusting and caring relationship with those that we work with. Those that we coach need to feel supported and listened to in order to feel comfortable with exploring new instructional strategies. This was made even more clear this spring as everyone rushed to remote learning and many teachers had to adjust to teaching virtually and using new technology. So this lead me to my question for this module which is;

How can coaches support educators in building remote classroom environments that empower students to explore, experiment, and keep trying instead of giving up at the first sign of difficulty?

As I grappled with this question I began thinking about all of the things that I appreciated when I first began teaching. I began thinking about how my former coaches supported me and what helped empower me to try new things. As I dug into some articles and my own experiences four things began to stand out as being important for empowering both teachers and students.

Community, There needs to be a sense of community both between the coach and coachee and between teacher and student. We all need to feel like we are in this together and learning with and from each other. As Work (2014) says, “create a school-wide culture of tech integration and an openness to take risks.” If we can create this culture within our virtual and face-to-face classrooms it will instill a willingness to try new things, since it then just becomes the norm. From a coaches lens it is important for coaches to also create this culture with their coachee. It needs to feel like a team effort and that we are learning and growing together.

Failing forward, this is a big one. Just like we want our students to not give up when something goes wrong we also want the same for those we coach. It is important to encourage those that we work with to try things even if it doesn’t go right the first time and to celebrate those failings. We need to send the message that failing is OK and that it is the learning process that matters, not that we got it right the first time. As a coach it is my job to encourage and support especially when things go wrong. I’m not there to step in and fix it right away but I am there to ask questions, brainstorm solutions, and help get them back on track. “Reframe mistakes as learning opportunities that are a crucial element for later success, and demonstrate the same infallible belief in teachers’ ability to teach as they have in their students’ ability to learn. Innovation is a journey!” (Watson, 2015)

Reflection, this needs to be built into the process. As learners we should constantly be self-reflecting on our lessons. However it is also important to ask for and accept feedback from others. This could be feedback from peers, a coach, and from students. The key is to fully listen, take it in, and then use it to look for ways to improve. When we build reflection in as a daily practice then it becomes second nature when trying something new to stop and reflect if things go wrong, it’s now just part of the process. This can lead to higher levels of self-directed learning and can be modeled for students as well.

Exploration, time needs to be devoted to exploration of new resources and instructional strategies. We all need time to explore and play with something new without the fear of messing up in front of others. I’ve had many experiences when I was given time just to explore a new technology to see what it does. This freedom allowed me the space to try things for myself, troubleshoot, and reach out for support if needed. Building in the time to explore also helps educators feel more comfortable with using the technology in their classrooms. “Learning about technology through technology helps teachers step out of their comfort zones and feel a sense of achievement through each successful step and, even better, through their success in troubleshooting obstacles and showcasing their work.” (Passeport, 2016)

It’s important as we begin to plan for school this fall that we take time to build in these opportunities for teachers. We need to give them time to get comfortable with teaching remotely. This doesn’t mean pausing the school year but it does mean encouraging them, supporting them, laughing with them, and checking in on them. As a coach I am planning on spending my time this fall listening to the teachers that I work with. Asking them questions and supporting them in trying new things, reflecting on their learning, and taking risks. It is my hope that through this modeling and support it empowers teachers to do these same things for their students in the classroom. After all we all need a little grace and encouragement every now and then.


3 Ways to Empower Teachers and Transform Classrooms. (2016, June 13). Common Sense Education. https://www.commonsense.org/education/articles/3-ways-to-empower-teachers-and-transform-classrooms

5 Tips to Help Teachers Who Struggle with Technology. (n.d.). Edutopia. Retrieved July 31, 2020, from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/help-teachers-struggling-with-technology-josh-work

5 ways to empower teachers to build a positive, innovative school culture. (2015, February 12). The Cornerstone For Teachers. https://thecornerstoneforteachers.com/5-ways-to-empower-teachers-to-build-a-positive-innovative-school-culture/

Administrators, Empower Your Teachers. (n.d.). Edutopia. Retrieved July 31, 2020, from https://www.edutopia.org/discussion/administrators-empower-your-teachers

ISTE Standards for Coaches | ISTE. (n.d.). Retrieved July 22, 2020, from https://www.iste.org/standards/for-coaches

Miller, A. (2015, May 11). Avoiding Learned Helplessness. Edutopia. https://www.edutopia.org/blog/avoiding-learned-helplessness-andrew-miller

rokham. (2018, March 28). 3 methods to overcome learned helplessness and boost optimism. Psychology Compass. https://psychologycompass.com/blog/overcoming-learned-helplessness/

Role reversal.pdf. (n.d.). Google Docs. Retrieved July 30, 2020, from https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B5W5P9bQJ6q0a2s3TFpaUU9scXc/view?usp=drive_open&usp=embed_facebook

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