Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Connected Coaches at Benton Community

Benton Community School District is in our first year utilizing full time teacher leaders as Instructional Coaches through Iowa's new Teacher Leadership & Compensation grant. 

  • The vision for teacher leadership at Benton Community includes:
    • A culture of collaboration, shared accountability, and continuous improvement among adults
    • Greater capacity and commitment to differentiate instruction to meet students’ needs
    • New ways of organizing and delivering instruction that increase the number of students highly effective teachers reach.

Instructional Coaches are utilized in a variety of ways, and it is important that teachers know that there is no one-size-fits-all relationship with teachers and coaches.  Teachers need to decide how coaching can best support them and the students in their classrooms.  

We want to take some time to outline the different ways teachers may interact with coaches on a daily basis at Benton Community.  Coaching does not happen overnight.  It sometimes takes a progression through a series of steps to form a coaching relationship in order to get to the goal-setting portion of a coaching relationship.  Outlined below are some of these steps. Take some time to reflect on where you are in your teacher/coach relationship.  Do you want to take that relationship deeper?  

Building Relationships - Any relationship takes time to build a strong foundation of trust, confidentiality, and openness.  Our coaches spent a lot of time fostering these collaborative relationships at the beginning of the year, and we continue to try to build these relationships as the year progresses and more teachers are open to utilizing our system.

Coaches Seeking Teachers - Our coaches have attended workshops and conferences and we have experimented with and researched what works in classrooms. We are also willing to try new things in order to share experience with our teachers. It is at this level of interactions that we listen for opportunities to share out our learning with teachers in our district.

Teachers seek Coaches - As we move along the spectrum of the coaching relationship, teachers start to seek out coaches.  When teachers start to see the benefit of a coaching relationship, teachers may seek out opportunities for the coach to support them.  We created a menu (link) of coaching to help teachers find ways to best utilize us and our resources.  

Reflective Conversations - 
Many discussions between teachers and coaches can easily turn into a reflective conversation about practice.  These conversations can happen spur-of-the-moment or in a planned meeting between teacher and coach.  A coach's goal is to help solicit reflection from a teacher/coach conversation about instructional practice or district goals.  This could look differently for many teachers, and this is one of the most powerful interactions a teacher and a coach could have.  

Coaching Cycle with Goal Setting - 
The difference between a reflective conversation and a full-out coaching cycle is when the teacher decides he or she wants to set a goal and collaborate to reach that goal.  This is when a teacher and a coach have agreed on times to meet to set a goal, learn together, collect data, and reflect on the progress toward the goal.  This type of relationship is another very powerful way to move forward together as a district.  This would mean teachers and coaches are working toward a goal to deepen a classroom practice to improve student achievement in a measurable way.  A coaching cycle is a job-embedded professional development opportunity that is tailored to the specific needs of a teacher. It is teacher-driven relationship, and the goal comes out of a teacher's choices to improve upon or change a specific practice.   

Below is a short 1:30 video outlining coaching cycles at Benton Community Schools. We look forward to hearing from you, especially if you're ready to take a leap into a coaching cycle.  Thank you for taking a risk with us to collectively move our district forward.

This blog was originally posted by Andrea on our Teacher Leadership Blog: 

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