Professional Development and Coaching

24 Nov

I’m a little bit of a professional development junkie.  I sit in on seminars and lectures and institutes, and in my head, grand visions form of my future classroom.

Then I return to reality.  The reality that there’s not enough time in the day for my grand lessons.  The reality that not all of my students want to work on strategies as they read (I just want to finish the book Mrs. Stavis!).  The reality that no matter how many ways I think I’ve differentiated a lesson, it’s still not clicking for some.

Usually, at this point the institute is over.  Here’s where PD can get really frustrating: you have a tantalizing glimpse of what’s possible, but it feels oh-so-far-away.

This is where observation and coaching becomes key.  A coach provides feedback that is specific and in real-time.  She knows you, she knows your students, she’s watched your lessons.  A good coach will take the information from professional development and help you to apply it to your kids and your school, in digestible nuggets.

Sometimes people have a negative reaction to coaching.  It can be seen as punitive or evaluative, i.e. “I’m being coached because they think I’m bad at my job.”  But coaching is anything but.  Who else uses one-on-one coaching?  Top athletes, business executives, politicians—anyone trying to get better at what they’re doing.  Teaching is complex, and the more eyes and minds focused on the job, the better.

To be really effective, coaching needs to be specific and ongoing.  In other words, it should be targeted at something you are trying to improve (rather than many different areas), and it should be repeated and sustained over a period of time.   A single coaching session is nice, but it’s hard to create sustained change or progress with a one-off deal.  Multiple sessions over many months, or years, is the key to growth.

In a later post I’ll go into details about how we’re using coaching at my school, but I will say that it’s been the driving force that has pushed our professional development from discussion in our staff room to implementation in the classroom.

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