Advocating for Coaching

In our district, we believe in the power of coaching so much that we embarked on an entrepreneurial venture to found the Chicago Coaching Center. The purpose of the center is to instill instructional coaches with the specific skill sets they’ll need to provide effective, consistent feedback to classroom teachers.

My district is a high school district, but we’ve partnered with a neighboring district to add elementary school coaches to the center. We envision this coaching center to be a model that not only pays for itself but provides extra money for us to pour back into our district. We also see this one center growing into a national model that advances instructional coaching from a practitioner’s point of view.

Video and Self-Coaching

One tool that will help us in our goal of regular coaching for every teacher will be the use of video through the Insight ADVANCE platform, which we will launch this fall. Based on our experience, video is a great tool for teachers to study themselves in real situations, which is why it is so prevalently used in to improve performance in athletics.

Our teachers will own the videos they take of themselves, and will be able to submit them for evaluation observations or as artifacts if they wish, but it will not be required. There will be no “gotcha” here. The teachers will have total control. We believe the best practitioners are those who are self-reflective, and video amplifies that in a way no other tool does. If the worst thing that happens is that teachers keep the videos for just themselves to look at and reflect, I will be completely satisfied.

Our district has a long history of innovation (for instance, we were the first K–12 district to partner with Google) that I am proud to be a part of. I haven’t seen anyone else doing wall-to-wall coaching—every teacher every year—like we have in our district. I feel so privileged to work in a district that gives me space to lead in an innovative way like this. I also feel a tremendous responsibility to showcase how innovative world-class public schools can be, so no one will ever think twice about sending their children to public school.

Learning is a coin. On one side is student learning, and the other side is adult learning. It’s a symbiotic relationship. If you’re not attending to adult learning, you’re not going to get the results you want with student learning.

Teachers are not only the single most important factor when it comes to student learning, they are also a district’s single greatest asset when it comes to teacher learning.

About the Author:

Dr. Ken Wallace is the superintendent of Maine Township High School District 207 and founder of the Chicago Coaching Center. He was recently named the The Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) Champion of the Year. Find him on twitter at @KenWallace207.