This week, we are taking a look at ISTE Coaching Standard 1: Visionary Leadership. Specifically, I am concentrating on indicator b: Contribute to the planning, development, communication, implementation, and evaluation of technology-infused strategic plans at the district and school levels.
Before I became a coach I was a 6th grade teacher that tried to integrate technology as much as I could. Because of my love of all things tech (and makerspaces) the district asked me to apply for the Digital Learning Coach position. I didn’t know exactly what my position would be, and to be honest, I am still learning as I go. I did have the experience of one year of my masters in Digital Ed under my belt… However, knowing about the ISTE standards and actually applying them to a real life position are two entirely different things. My district sent me to a Coaching Workshop put on by the state, where I learned a lot about active listening, paraphrasing, then and only then could I ask a question. And it had to be a clarifying or probing question.
On the first day of the new job, I got to meet the two other coaches that I would be working with. One used to have this position a few years ago and the other was a librarian for the district and all around tech goddess. So, there I was wondering what I would bring to bring to the table. Luckily, my district believes in life-long learners and they have encouraged me to attend as much as I need. Not only that, but they encourage us to spend 1-2 hours a week on a genius project. So I have had a lot of time and opportunities to learn about coaching.
I was assigned 15 librarians to work with (yes, I am told that is a lot). The first thing I should tell you is, spend the time to build relationships. A large majority of the librarians that I work with didn’t really want to give up 2 plannings a month to meet with me at first. Also, they might have wished they had the other gal who used to be a librarian. I might also add here that the district also changed their library cataloging system and part of my new job was to help them navigate it. Did I mention the other girl, who was a librarian… I had to win some librarians over that was for sure. I found a friend in my office in charge of the new system and she was gracious enough to answer my questions quickly. But what I noticed is that instead of giving me the answer, she was guiding me to the place to find it. Oh my goodness, I was being coached!
You can’t be the Expert
And that is the second lesson I learned about coaching. You can’t be the expert. You have to build capacity in the person you are working with. Effective coaches need to remember that taking on the role of expert can create learned helplessness. (Foltos, 2014) Because my colleague introduced me to the “teams channels” that librarians were discussing issues, I was able to build my understanding in order to have a conversation with them. I still ask questions, but now I am building my capacity.
What did you say? (No, you can’t say it like that!)
Now that we are a little over a month into school, the librarians have worked out most of the kinks with the new system, they are wanting me to help them bring tech to the library. This is my HAPPY PLACE! Microcontrollers, MakerSpaces, Coding, OH MY! But wait. Coaching is not about me. The job of a coach is to support a colleague’s thinking, problem solving, and goal clarification (Lipton, 2018). This is where my coaching workshop (from the summer) skills come in! I have to actively listen to what the teacher is wanting to do. Did I understand her? Paraphrase. If she doesn’t correct me, then I am on the right track.When I feel that I am understanding the situation, I can ask her a probing question to find out her goals for student learning. Probing questions try to get the teacher to think more deeply and begin to solve the problem. (Grove and Frazer)
Putting it into action
I have a librarian that is being encouraged to teach tech in her library space. Through our conversations, I have found that she is teaching a math intervention group this quarter. Together we have talked about the students levels and what outcomes she would like for the group. She wants to connect library research skills with the math content so that students can improve their skill level. Students are going to use different media (book, video, internet) to research a topic and become a master. They are going to go a step further and find out real life applications for the concept as well. After they are ready, they are going to use a form of technology to showcase the topic in order to help teach a classmate. I am going to visit during this time and help where I can and model the technology when needed.
So that is where I am at in the Coaching Cycle. I have met with my librarians and slowly I am learning what their needs are and finding out ways that I can support them with student learning. I think that most of my librarians are not wishing that they had the tech goddess former librarian anymore because they are smiling and reaching out. I am learning it’s not about telling them what to do, its about listening, understanding, and supporting them to improve student learning. And it isn’t all bad! As a Coach, another part of my job is creating and providing Professional Development. This is a place where I get to be the Expert- where I get to bring on the Microcontrollers, Makerspaces, and Coding! Oh MY, I am enjoying this job!
- Lipton, Laura, and Bruce M. Wellman. Mentoring Matters: a Practical Guide to Learning-Focused Relationships. MiraVia, LCC, 2018.
- Foltos, Les. “The Secret to Great Coaching: Inquiry Method Helps Teachers Take Ownership of Their Learning.” Journal of Staff Development, vol. 35, June 2014, pp. 28–31. ERIC, https://learningforward.org/docs/default-source/JSD-June-2014/the-secret-to-great-coaching.pdf.
- Foltos, Les. Peer Coaching: Unlocking the Power of Collaboration. Corwin, 2013.
- Gann, Kara. “ISTE Standards for Coaches 1: Visionary Leadership.” ISTE, 9 June 2014, https://www.iste.org/explore/ISTE-Standards-in-Action/ISTE-Standards-for-Coaches-1:-Visionary-leadership.
- Pocket Guide to Probing Questions http://schoolreforminitiative.org/doc/probing_questions_guide.pdf