December 27, 2008

Teacher Coach?

I am now a “consulting teacher” in my school district. So far my understanding is that a consulting teacher works with another tenured teacher who is in danger of losing their teaching position. Sounds to me like a teacher coach. Could you imagine marching into a colleagues classroom dressed in gray sweats and blowing a whistle? But I digress. All teachers need help to become better teachers. That includes me, you, and everyone else who stands in front of a classroom of any size full of students of all ages. Where do teachers go and how do we find help?

First, we go to our colleagues. Isn’t the first step towards recovery admitting you have a problem? Most teachers I know don’t like to admit that they have a problem in the classroom, and even less actually seek help. Sometimes it takes an outside observer to point out your areas for growth. How much time do you spend watching other teachers teach? Do you ever invite your colleagues into your classroom while you are working with your students? We teachers are full of pride in what we do so it is often painfully difficult to reach out for a lifeline.

Next, we go back to school (on the web). Teacher training is important, and in-service courses on campus can be helpful, but the real innovation in teaching is happening on the web. Within the teacher focused web sites, teacher and education blogs, and on twitter teachers can find out what other teachers are doing in their classrooms and what pedagogy actually works with pupils. For every 1 teacher who shares their experiences through the Internet there are probably 100's more who could benefit from what the authors write and share. College is good for orientation, the web is about application.

Last, we go to ourselves and write reflectively. I can’t tell you how revealing and useful it is to regularly sit down and write about my teaching experience. But you can experience the benefits for yourself. I started writing this blog to keep myself in teaching, to convince myself that what I was doing mattered. Teaching is a brutally tough and lonely profession. The best way to improve as a teacher is to persistently analyze the what, and the why of the job. I am not saying you need to become a teacher-blogger, but reflecting on your teaching is key.

These are the coaching steps I plan on taking once I am paired with a teacher in need. I have no idea how it will go, but I plan on reflecting and sharing my experiences right here. I like the idea of being a teacher coach. I suppose it is has driven me to continue to record my reflections in this blog and to seek personal improvement as a teacher. I am curious to know if anyone who regularly reads these writings has been positively effected by my coaching efforts so far. If so, please share in the comments below.


  1. Cal welcome to the world of coaching. That is what I do as LCT (lead content teacher). My focus is directed toward the new teachers. My job is to hopefully offer enough support so that they become good teachers and that we do not have such high turn over in our building anymore. I offer support to veteran teachers as well but they are not my focus.

    Reading your blog has caused me to think about what I do from a differnt point of view. It as also influenced some of what I write in my own blog.

    I must admit I have not tried Twitter yet but it is on my to do list.

    Good luck with the coaching it has its ups and downs but in the end it is all worth it. For me the hardest part is not just "telling" the teacher what to do. The best part is when a teacher has an "Ah ha" moment and a positive change happens in the classroom.

  2. One of the things teachers don't realize (including myself) is that vulnerability will bring you closer to people rather than draw them away. My greatest moments occured in the staff lounge when I would say, "I have no idea what to do with a student at the first grade level" or "I lost my temper today and feel like shit."

  3. Cal---your blog HAS made a difference for me. It is enlightening reading perspectives from another teacher.

    As you stated, teachers are often "lonely" and isolated. It can be difficult to find insightful peer feedback...

    Though I don't always comment, I look forward to your blog posts and the topics they cause me to reflect on. THANKS! :)

  4. I find your advice, insight, and links very helpful, and I ain't even teachin' yet! Like parenting, teaching is best done as a team/community effort. I plan on asking as many people as possible for help, at least until I know everything...

  5. I have found myself in a similar position, which is odd since I will be doing my student teaching this spring. The difference is that I was a sub all last year with two long term assignments so I do have experience to bring to the table. His advantage is that this is his natural subject (math) so we both come out winners. I win because there is another teacher in the room. He wins because he is getting badly needed experience teaching his chosen subjects and the students win because of 1 and 2.

    I like win win win situations.

  6. I have always like the idea of coaching other teachers. Obviously, as a 2nd year teacher, I have a ways to go before that becomes a reality, but if you are talented, motivated, and passionate about what you do (and you clearly are) it is an important responsibility to have. Good luck with this new step and thank you so much for your comment. It made my day. :)