Every good athlete needs a coach to help them improve their practice, from student athletes to superstars like LeBron James and Serena Williams. This same principle can—and should—be applied to our teachers.
Teacher effectiveness is an essential factor to ensure that each student is achieving their highest potential in school. In my suburban Chicago district, Maine Township High School District 207, each and every one of our teachers receives coaching on a regular basis. In fact, this year’s seniors are the first class to go through a district where every teacher was coached every year.
Teachers Coaching Teachers
All of our coaches are teachers. We don’t hire outside support unless it will help build our own internal capacity.
Our coaches teach half-time, and coach the other half. This gives them credibility with the teachers they coach. If you’ve been out of the classroom for five years coaching, teachers may become skeptical about whether you really understand their experience, and may not take your feedback as seriously. We have considered a future where our coaches may coach full time for a certain period of time, and then cycle back into the classrooms, but for now we think it is most valuable to have them with a foot in both worlds simultaneously.
The experience of coaching is just as valuable for the coaches as it is for the teachers being coached. As William Glasser once said, “We learn 10 percent of what we read, 20 percent of what we hear… (and) 95 percent of what we teach to someone else.” When our coaches are giving feedback to their peers, they are also learning how to improve their own teaching practice, which they can apply immediately in their own classroom.
Our coaches work with every teacher, from the willing to those who may be reluctant or hesitant about the coaching process. This is a great learning opportunity for our teacher coaches, and we think that experience will become our “Leadership 2.0” path, because of the unique experience that our coaches receive in coaching the willing and the reluctant.
We have seen several of our coaches begin to move into administrative positions in the past few years.
Using teachers as coaches establishes our teachers as experts in their field. They are the individuals who are in the classroom every day, interacting with students and observing what works and what doesn’t. Giving them an opportunity to engage in the coaching of their peers creates a sustainable coaching model, where teachers own their own learning. The point of coaching is to give our teachers the space and opportunities to improve their practice through self-reflection, as well as peer feedback. As is the case with our students, if educators own their learning, they will be that much more invested in growing their practice.
If we want our teachers to be great, we have to give them space to be great.