I sent a tweet out about one of our induction mentors reaching out to me, and Megan replied:
I don't think I'm doing a great job.
Our model will not work for everyone, and that might include you.
Our model is not perfect.
So here's what we did, from the beginning of the year to now. I would love your feedback, what you (or your coach) are doing in the role to make it better, and how I could improve.
Create a set of goals. They don't have to be comprehensive, and they aren't all going to be attainable, but you need something to build from. What do you want your role to be? How do you want to be defined by your peers, by your superiors, by the students? A brain dump here is sufficient, and almost necessary. You aren't going to tackle everything, but getting that list together will help you set up a list of what's important and what isn't. No, it isn't all important.
Create some sort of plan, even if it isn't ready to roll out. For us, it helped to get some sort of direction, and the sooner the better. We waited too long to work through a plan, and still haven't to my liking. This is what we started with. For the most part, we have stuck to the plan below with a few deviations.
Get into classrooms. This is the most important one for us, and I don't regret a single day of it. To be clear here, it is exhausting. Paula and I worked to visit every single math classroom in our entire district. We have over 120 teachers at 8 high schools, so this meant each of us visiting approximately 2 teachers per period for 8 days. We didn't get to everyone because of variability in schedules, but we did get to see parts of approximately 140 lessons. There was some overlap, and that's fine. At the end of each day, we debriefed about what we saw and how we could support that team or an individual... or both.
This step cannot be said loudly or clearly enough. Going in and making myself a student in each of those classes helped me develop (or enhance) a relationship with each of the teachers. I am not there to judge you or evaluate you, but to learn how you navigate your classroom. After all, if I don't know how you are as an instructor, what right do I have to suggest ways for you to improve?
If there is one thing I can recommend as a coach, it would be to go in and humanize yourself to all teachers you serve. And soon.
Once we had visited classrooms, we scheduled pull-out days for each of the team leads. In our district, because it is all high schools and so big, we have a person on each campus as the lead for Integrated 1, another for Integrated 2, and another for Integrated 3. To start the conversation and build some bridges, we planned an entire day with all leads from all campuses. We were incredibly nervous because it's asking a lot for 24 teachers to be out of their class to discuss mathematics for a full day, but it was worth every minute.
People connected from site to site, within their own sites, and we had meaningful conversations about how each team is working toward supporting their students and the curriculum. For the agenda, feel free to take a look here and let me know if you have any questions or would like any further information.
We had to overhaul the department chair meetings. Look, folks, they're boring. It's a brain dump, information overload, and it's not something I would want to drag myself to the District Office for.
So we did something about it.
We start the meetings with a demo lesson, and the one below is the one we're using on Monday. After that, we give some feedback about what we're seeing around the district because it's important for others to know the great things happening within their teams and throughout the district. Celebrate it!
Where do we go from here?
I'm not really sure. This whole journey has been one giant learning experience, but it has allowed us to create some meaningful connections. Both of us are being asked to do more demo lessons, work with specific teams, and be more present. For me, it comes all the way back to the humanization of our position. It's so easy for people to slap the "you people" label on us because we aren't in the classroom, yet we are in dozens of classrooms every week, seeing great instruction and great learning opportunities that are worth sharing.
We are also working to build a better network with the districts that feed us, and it's an ongoing process as well. There are more meetings and more conversations than ever before, so I am optimistic that we are on the right path to a better relationship.
As a coach, it is my job to get you, the teacher, comfortable enough with yourself to where you no longer need me, but want me to launch your ideas even further. We aren't there yet, but we're making progress.
Whatever you do, let teachers know that you're there for them.
Happy "Difference-Making" Fishing