On the Cat Walk
We may not waver in the understanding that we are in this position because we have proven ourselves as exceptional education facilitators. I don’t say that as if there is nothing left to learn or as if we know it all. On the contrary, I am ALWAYS learning from others. I am open to it. I search for it. I hunger for it. But, let’s be real and take ownership over the positions we fill. We earned them. I am confident in saying I am really great at my job. I am purposeful about it. I enjoy the challenges and the victories no matter how many bumps and bruises I get along the way.
We are masters of the game we are coaching. We are educators. Our game is teaching. We are to seek out each strength in each teacher and groom it, praise it, and empower it. We are to seek out each weakness and set goals, offer adult learning, and model. We analyze data, observe instruction, and get on the floor with children to determine if they are learning.
I have a responsibility to always model best practices. Best practices in my professionalism. Best practices in the professional development I facilitate for adult learning. Best practices in pedagogy and communication. "I’m a model, you know what I mean, and I do my little turn on the catwalk (Right Said Fred, 1991)." Feeling it? Hearing the song? If you don’t know it, look it up! As instructional coaches we must be purposeful about modeling best practices at all times. If we don’t, why would a classroom teacher respect us as an expert?
We are models. We are being watched. We are on the catwalk being critiqued. And, quite frankly, we should be.
Modeling Professionalism: Those Flip-Flops Gotta Go!
This isn’t rocket science.
A Few Simple Rules:
Do not go to school with your hair wet.
Do not show up late.
Do not ever be unprepared for a meeting.
Do not dress in your lazy at-home weekend wear.
Do not make excuses. Ever. If you’re wrong. Own it.
Do not wear flip-flops.
Do not tell your personal problems to the staff members you coach. Period. You are the listener of their problems.
Do not ever gossip with teachers about other teachers, your administrator, or any other staff member. Inexcusable. You can be friendly, but the moment you show favoritism towards any teacher by sharing confidential things, you isolate every other teacher from you. Trust is broken. Find other friends. Being an instructional coach can be lonely at times. Oftentimes, we are an island unto ourselves on campuses because there is only one of us. That is the nature of the job. Accept it. Never compromise your integrity and your professionalism. Once you do, the road to recovery is a long one and oftentimes cannot be achieved.
Modeling Communication: I Can’t Unsee That!
Emails sent in the professional environment that are written like informal texts are cringe worthy. There are no greetings, no salutations, many don’t even contain punctuation or complete thoughts! Absolutely inexcusable. I am an educator. As a coach, something as simple as an email is an opportunity to model professionalism.
let’s meet Friday to go over test results
(this email was sent Wednesday after school)
There is no friendly greeting. No respect for the teacher’s time. There is no punctuation or capitalization and no salutation. No, no, no!
Good morning Betty (friendly but professional-a greeting is a must),
I hope you had a wonderful and relaxing weekend!
I am interested in visiting with you during your conference time on Friday (this email is being sent first thing Monday morning giving the teacher ample time to prepare and clear her schedule) to discuss the data results from your recent reading comprehension assessment administration. Attached to this email you will find a copy of the results we will discuss (provide what will be utilized to respect teacher’s time. This is a simple thing for the coach, but a time consuming task for the teacher. I would rather have the teacher have this data right now, so she can begin analyzing it; rather than to put this off until the last moment and print it out just before our meeting). Please have a copy of your data results and your standards available for our visit. We will discuss the two lowest performing standards and collaborate to create an instructional plan for next steps (this lets the teacher know exactly what the expectation will be). Please let me know if there is any conflict with your schedule (I have never had a teacher have a conflict, but if they did then I would acknowledge the conflict and schedule a no compromise visit for Monday). If you have any questions, please reach out (offer yourself as a resource always). Looking forward to working together (positive ending that is friendly and reminds the teacher we are a team)!
Have a great Monday,
Remember a teacher can not unsee what you send. Make it respectful, professional, and friendly. You are modeling your educational expertise.
Modeling Professional Development: This Ain’t No Sit and Get!
I have been to dozens of professional development workshops, many specifically for instructional coaching, where the topic centers around best practices in instruction but the facilitator of the workshop DOES NOT MODEL BEST PRACTICES IN INSTRUCTION. They facilitate via PowerPoint, yawn, and talk at the audience not with the audience. Send me your PowerPoint in an email and I will watch it in my pjs on my couch. If an “expert” is going to facilitate professional development centered around best practices in instruction then my expectation is they facilitate adult learning modeling best practices in instruction at all times. There are no exceptions to this expectation for me. I expect it of others; therefore, I adhere to it myself. I am the educational expert as the coach. Therefore, I must be conscientious about modeling what I am the expert of. I ALWAYS model best practices in instruction. Teachers engage in hands-on learning centered around collaboration, conversation, and planning forward. I do not stand in the front of the room. I walk the room-always. Professional development facilitation is my chance to show teachers what is expected to be seen in their classrooms. It’s a win! Engage them and they buy-in. Bore them and they will never seek you out. We must always put into practice the things we expect to see from others. What teacher would ever listen to me as their coach if I only expose them to the worst practices in instruction during their adult learning?
Modeling Pedagogy: The Runway Model!
We are teachers first. Our pedagogy and understanding of what makes educational outcomes exceptional comes from being an expert. Define your brand. Determine your vision. Model pedagogy without exception.
Never ask a teacher to do something you wouldn't do yourself
Never facilitate a lesson that does not encourage, engage, and empower
Always be purposeful with your communication and relationship development
Attack everything as if you are being watched by everyone (truth: everyone is watching)
While being on the catwalk for some may be a journey they will never take. As an instructional coach, although anxious at times, it is powerful to transform instructional practices and watch teachers and students thrive. When they are empowered, the system pulsates with excitement.
Enjoy your modeling gig! Mya