The Journey of a First Year Coach – Part One
Categories: Teaching Tips
I just finished reading a really good memoir called, “Born to Rise.” It’s the story of educator Deborah Kenny, and her journey as the founder of Harlem Village Academies. I finished the book feeling inspired and renewed.
Reading this book made me think about the importance of sharing stories.
And then a podcast interview I heard this week with Tom Rademacher, author of “It Won’t Be Easy: An Exceedingly Honest Book About Teaching,” pretty much said the same thing — You’re an educator. You have cool and interesting things to talk about. No matter where you are in your journey.
He’s right. So, I’m sharing a story.
Not my story, since I share a lot.
But the story of another coach, who’s just starting out. Today you’ll hear Part 1, and we’ll check in with Part 2 and 3 as the year goes on.
Can you share a bit about your background? What got you interested in coaching?
I worked as a classroom teacher for 7 years, in first and second grade. I first started to get interested in coaching/teacher leadership when a teammate and I had the opportunity to lead a PD session together…I had a blast! At that point I started to realize that I really liked, and was interested in teaching adults.
When I was teaching, I was entrusted a lot as a lead teacher and was given opportunities to share classroom strategies with other teachers. I really enjoyed these discussions!
I also really enjoyed the coaching cycles I participated in when teaching. I really learned a lot through this work, and liked the structure of it. It felt like a partnership…coaching felt “friendly.” I felt very free to share and learn, and it was a great opportunity for me to really grow.
When I decided I needed to leave my position to be a mom, my principal invited me into a part time coaching role so I could continue to work. I was able to work alongside a new teacher and support her with classroom management. I loved it! Though I was only able to continue that year, I knew I would want to do more when the time was right.
After a two year break, I am now working as the school’s part time math coach.
What are you really loving so far about coaching?
I love that I get to work and learn with teachers in the whole building, and not just my grade level. This is fun! But this can also feel like a challenge at times…as a teacher you work so closely with your team which feels comforting and great, and as a coach it’s different. I’m able to work with Kristin and our principal, but it still feels different and scheduling your day and time is different than when I was a teacher.
I also really like the facilitation work I’ve been able to do so far this year. Planning for PD is in many ways similar to planning lessons for the classroom. I like being a part of the school’s planning process for PD, and having a voice is great. Working with adults is different from working with kids and can be hard, but I like it!
I’m also able to participate in a weekly coaches meeting, which feels like important work. I work to keep students best interests first and foremost in mind, and provide a voice for teacher support in the building.
What has been your biggest success or celebration this year?
I’m working in my first ever coaching cycle right now, and that has felt like a success so far! Kristin went with me to our Kick-Off meeting, and I felt great afterwards. I’ve worked really hard at making sure that the feedback I offer is specific and manageable. I notice a lot of things when I’m in her room, so I really have to zoom it in and not overwhelm her! And so far the feedback I’ve shared has been well accepted.
Another success was my interview for this Teacher Leader position in the district! I was really nervous going in, but I really prepared and I showed myself well. At the end, one of the interviewers said she wished I was her coach! :)
What areas are you working on improving at this point in your coaching journey?
Facilitation for PD. Parts of the facilitation work I’ve done so far have felt successful and have felt like “me” and what I envision successful PD to look like. I’ve had good models before as a teacher and want to replicate what I’ve experienced, but I also want to be true to who I am and my style of facilitation so that it feels just right. I’m still working on figuring out what that exactly is (!), but I’m making steps forward with each time I do it. In planning for my first ever whole staff PD I felt overwhelmed, but I told myself, “You can do this!” I asked for feedback and reflected with Kristin, did a lot of planning and preparation, and my efforts payed off! I feel like I’m getting better and better. I also appreciated the opportunity to get started with practicing my facilitation skills right away! Our principal gave me a chance to get in front of the staff in a smaller role at first, and I built up from there. I’ve learned along the way that I really need a good amount of time to plan for a good PD! I’m not sure I gave myself enough time at first.
Another challenge has been rolling out a brand new curriculum. There is a lot to learn! I’m learning as much as I can as fast as I can, but it still feels overwhelming at times.
What has been most supportive to your learning so far this year?
Our leadership has been so supportive. I’m grateful. I don’t feel like I’m drowning, and things feel manageable! Kristin has been a great partner for me too. She’s someone who has gone through it and has collected a lot of wisdom along the way. She helps me with bite-sized goals, what to work on and think about. I took her Coaching Workshop, printed the resources, and used it a lot at the start of the year!
What are your goals moving forward in this next quarter?
I’d like to keep working on reaching out to other teachers, who for different reasons, I may feel are a little outside of my “comfort zone”…some teachers may have a different personality than me, may be a bit quieter, or I just don’t know them yet. I’m working really hard to get into everyone’s room, and also make connections with teachers…by just sitting and talking with them at lunch, or at PD!
I also need to work on nailing down a more predictable schedule for myself :)
If you were able to share any advice with another new/aspiring coach, what would you say?
Tackle things that you know you’ll have some success with. Classroom management is a strength of mine, so I felt good about providing coaching support in this area early on. Too much “new” would have felt overwhelming for me. I think it’s important to try to find a balance with “new” and with what feels comfortable, so you experience some success!!
And look out for those successes!…you know that excitement you feel when you see your class is starting to get something??…seeing a teacher/classroom you’re working with starting to put into place what you’ve been working on in coaching, feels just like that!…it’s great!
Leadership and having a mentor is really important. Do what you can to find someone to support you or work with.
That’s it! Thanks Kristin!
Thank YOU!! I’m excited to continue to tag along with you throughout this year, and share your “to be continued” story with the MsHouser community.
- Approach every day, every experience, every conversation with a “Beginner’s Mind” — there’s always something new to learn and be appreciative of, if you’re open to it.
- You can do hard things — but maybe not too many hard things at once :)
- Collaboration with school leadership is important.
- You probably have a story too. Maybe you could share it?
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Thanks for reading. Talk to you soon!
Thanks for sharing your story! I am also in my first year as a coach after being in the classroom for 20 years!! What is your biggest challenge so far? Was it difficult to be a coach in the same building that you taught in?