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Are You Waiting…And Waiting…And Waiting for Teachers to Approach You?

December 1, 2009

Think about the last time you taught your own class for the entire day. Did you walk into the room each morning, sit at your desk, and wait until a student approached and said, “Teacher, would you teach me something?” Of course not! It is silly to even imagine such a scene.

However, coaches often wait for teachers to ask them to help. I think this stance comes from the experience of those coaches who used to be reading specialists. The job of a reading specialist is usually defined to include practically everything. A reading specialist has multiple clients – the principal, the students, teachers, parents, the curriculum – and therefore their role in relation to any particular client is rather ill-defined. Therefore, when it comes to working with teachers, reading specialists are often friendly and resourceful, hoping that their smiles and suggestions will act like bait in getting teachers to “bite.”

This approach isn’t adequate for coaching. A coach has one client: the teacher. A coach’s role is more clearly defined. And a coach must take action, just as teachers must engage with students from the first moment they enter their classrooms.

But how?

I encourage you to initiate a coaching conversation with each teacher or team of teachers in the pool of teachers with whom you will focus your work. At the start of the year, or, if you have not done this and now it is mid-year, then at an appropriate juncture, ask for ten minutes at a faculty meeting where you explain your approach (or your new approach). Tell staff members that you know your job is to partner with them to consider what is getting in the way of their greater success and their students’ greater success, and in order to do so, you need to listen and learn. Conversation is required. Indicate that you will be setting up appointments for coaching conversations and ask that they kindly help you do so when you connect with them before or after school or at some other convenient time. Then circulate over the next few days with your calendar in hand and do just that.

(What do I mean by the teachers in your “pool”? Stay tuned for more on that in my next blog. And what about the idea of “going with the goers?” Stay tuned …)

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