As I have talked to other teachers and administrators, I find a ‘coaching out’ mentality has seeped into our conversations. Some feel many of our teachers are not making the grade after we have provided the support we have deemed as enough to be effective. With a 2,000 plus teacher shortage in Arizona, we must ask ourselves, how can we ‘coach up’ our teachers and not ‘coach out’?
An administrator’s responsibility to our profession should not end and begin with the amount, of students who passed AZ Merit, but instead a look at the whole teacher and what they accomplished, or what types of problems they encountered that are causing a decrease in student understanding of key concepts. As administrators and team members, we need to focus on how we provide support to our teachers. It is imperative that we begin not by judging but instead taking a step back and asking ourselves, what support our teachers need this upcoming school year
We should ask ourselves what kind of professional development will support our teachers learning? This can be a difficult question to answer because everyone is different, and their needs may be opposite of the teacher that is teaching across the hall from them. However, here are some suggestions of things you can look at to help guide this level of support.
Give Them Time:
While meetings are important and teachers must have information about the day-to-day running of the school, take an honest look at the meetings that teachers are attending. Is every meeting critical and does the meeting need to take that length of time? It takes time to plan, it takes time to get things organized and ready for students. So, honor their time and when you do need to have a meeting, professional development or conversation, begin and end on time.
Build Up Your Teachers:
In June 22, 2017, The Arizona Republic reported, “22% of the state’s 46,000 teachers were not certified,” (Cano, AZ Republic). That means that 22% of teachers may be in need of even more support than a teacher who went through a teaching program. This group of teachers may not understand how to implement classroom management strategies, or what activities make sense for kids, and how to move students from a base level of knowledge to a higher level. Nor is everyone, of these teaching professionals going to learn the concept over night. Give positive accolades for the hard work they are doing and give authentic praise to the long nights they spend trying to come up lesson plans that make sense.
Have Honest and Reflective Conversations:
How do we accomplish this goal with so many other requirements in our day? Reflective conversations include asking questions about their practice. Build in personal time – even a half-hour a week – which can change the relationship that is held between an administrator and a teacher. Not just for first and second year teachers, but your third and fourth-year teachers.
Build a Trusting Relationship:
Take the time to sit down and build an honest and trusting relationship with the teachers in your building. Ask questions about their practice and build in time where you are not just walking through their classroom evaluating their teaching, but where you are spending time in the class getting to know their students, their style and what their passions are. Teachers need a safe space where they can bounce ideas off of those with more experience, take evidence-based risks, and come back to reflect on how well this strategy worked in the classroom. They also need to know that their administrator has their back. If they are struggling with handling a parent relationship, this could be impacting them in the classroom. Being able to talk this out with you and work through it, can change the work on a day-to-day basis.
Assume The Positive:
We may have walked into their classroom hundreds of times and see a similar pattern of behavior – it takes time to change, and teachers are humans too – but they can only take in so much information at one time. Coaching around the same topic for a while and empowering our teachers to make tiny changes can make the world of difference for a struggling teacher. In the end remember we all have a hundred and one things on our plate and we are all busy, rushing to improve the lives of children. Take a step back and ask, “How can I coach my staff up and not out.”
This may not be an easy task, and sometimes-old patterns of coaching may seep into our world, but it is critical that we, as administrators, hold space to create a veteran teaching force again, because Arizona students deserve highly effective and accomplished teachers.