Too often coaches are an additional administrator rather than part of the teaching team.  They bring to the job an air of authority and reduced time-on-task with students while the teacher continues to have responsibility for minute-to-minute supervision of large numbers of children. The coach can seem to have greater independence and time for planning, feedback and execution.

At times though the coach brings to the teaching team a wealth of knowledge and a keen investment in student growth and a positive school culture. These coaches clearly care about individual children and demonstrate care through their tireless effort and the desire for every child to succeed.  These coaches serve to enliven teaching teams with a sense of purpose, collaboration and support.

The best coaches make the time to sit down and work with teachers building a professional relationship where both teacher and coach are comfortable sharing their strengths and challenges related to education.  These coach-teacher teams work together to devise teaching plans and units, then work together to execute the plans and assess their work with respect to student learning.

Rather than "walk throughs" where the teacher is essentially on stage and responsible for a large group of children while others walk through and watch, coaches that are team players who work with teachers in participatory ways--they learn together.  The coach also supports the teacher by ensuring that the teacher's schedule and responsibility are realistic leaving enough time for planning, feedback and responsive instruction.  The teachers are not the coach's "students," but instead they work with the coach as part of the learning/teaching team with transparent communication, explicit goals and clear process.

I can imagine an optimal coaching session to be similar to the dialogue I've written below:

Setting: PLC Meeting: Classroom Teachers, Specialist Teachers, Coach, Assistant Teachers

Coach: I'm here to work with your team to help all children learn well.  We're going to focus on what we can do here, at school, to make a difference for students.  Let's start with the types of students we typically serve well, and those we feel we could serve better.

Teachers' Possible Answers:  We generally serve enthusiastic, well behaved and well cared for students well.  We typically struggle with "difficult to teach" students.

Coach: How do you define "difficult to teach students?"

Teachers' Possible Answers: Students who have trouble with focus, sitting still and staying on task.  Students who are lonely, depressed or unhealthy.  Students who need multiple repetitions to understand a concept.  Students who come to us way behind in the grade level.

Coach: In the next week, we're going to assess the students in a number of ways.  Then we're going to look closely at the tests and our observations.  We're going to create groups based on needs and interest, target short term goals and assign teachers.  Then we'll collaboratively discuss our teaching goals, process and assessments.  After that we'll get started, checking in each week to trouble shoot, share strategies and look at formative assessments.

Rather than "walk throughs," I plan to work with each of you to help you teach a number of sessions.  Together we will talk and decide on how we'll co-teach to help these students learn.  Together we'll assess our impact on the students using a number of processes--we'll bring our findings back to the PLC, and keep our focus on student learning.

Six Weeks Later

Coach: Let's see how our six-week interventions worked.  Our overall goal was to build students reading interest, fluency and comprehension.  Overall the data demonstrates that almost everyone made great progress, and our interventions worked.  We've got one small group of "difficult to teach" students who did not make progress--we're going to have to think together about what we can do to help those students grow as learners.  Also, it looks like some of our groups are ready for changes for many reasons, so we'll shift groups for optimal learning and interest.


The coach as an active, transparent and invested team member is the coach that truly optimizes the teaching and learning in a school.  Coaches that serve as an additional administrator, evaluator or infrequent classroom visitor do not establish the relationship or teamwork required to help a teaching team and their students develop skill and success in meaningful, student-centered ways.

That's my current take on coaching from a classroom point of view.  I welcome feedback.  Thanks for listening.
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