I was one of the members of the CSC team who worked with Innova Schools on their Teacher Coaching project this year. After this experience, I can say without hesitation that the candidates chosen by Innova Schools to participate in the training were highly-committed, lifelong learners who embraced the opportunity to learn about coaching skills. These individuals recognized that they faced an exciting – but difficult – challenge. In an attempt to shift the learning culture for classroom teachers in Innova Schools, these candidates had been given an important new role. These teachers were to become the first Teacher Coaches in the Innova Schools System.
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To be successful as a Teacher Coach is a challenging proposition at the best of times. In the case of these candidates, it was even more so by virtue of the fact that they had previously played the role of Teacher Monitors. The job of a Teacher Monitor was to observe classroom teacher performance and evaluate the quality.
On this project, the challenge at front of mind for these educators and, of course, for the CSC team, was how to transition from an evaluative relationship to a collaborative relationship. We set to work exploring the basic elements of an effective coaching relationship – building trust, active listening, effective questioning, accountable talk, goal setting, and feedback. Using an interactive cooperative learning model, the candidates not only had the opportunity to build knowledge but they also had the opportunity to apply their learning in study groups, role plays, observation activities, reflection activities, and planning sessions. We covered a lot of important ground.
The journey is not complete. As educators, we know it never is. But there is movement towards the destination. The best evidence of this growth was a comment we heard repeated from several sources at Innova after the training. The comment went something like this: “They don’t call themselves monitors anymore. They call themselves coaches and they are acting differently.” All change must begin somewhere.
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By Anita Sherwin-Hamer, M.Ed
Anita has more than 40 years of experience in education serving the Catholic Principals’ Council of Ontario, the Ministry of Education, and the Durham Catholic District School Board. She leads CSC’s resource evaluations with integrity and commitment.