After holding the role of instructional coach for almost two years and continually wondering about my perceived and actual impact within the role, I was keen to hear the words “Feedback Loop” for middle leaders come from my Principal’s mouth at the beginning of Term 4.
The Feedback Loop would consist of a survey being sent to teachers and colleagues regarding several areas such as but not limited to:
- The leader’s work with the coachee in the co-planning cycle (co-planning, co-teaching, co-debriefing);
- The effectiveness of the leader’s feedback to whom they work with;
- The value of the leader’s presence;
- The leader’s ability to identify and model various pedagogical approaches and high yield strategies during coaching cycles;
- The leader’s use of student work samples and other data sets to inform practice;
- The leader’s capacity to acknowledge, appreciate and build on the strengths of the coachee; and
- How the leader establishes, maintains and fosters relational trust with those they work with.
Once the survey was completed and a self-assessment provided using the same tool, my Principal and Assistant Principal would get to read through the ratings and comments. After these were shared with me I had the chance to discuss the insights with both Principal and Assistant Principal. A written response would follow this, using the keep doing, stop doing, start doing framework.
In many ways, I embraced the opportunity to hear from those whom I had shared the year with both in class and at the leadership table. However long in my memory were the times I had failed to meet my high expectations let alone those of my colleagues – I had made mistakes, missed deadlines, or didn’t listen as astutely as I had wanted to. Would these be the moments that people would only recall? In my eagerness to do the very best I can for both the teachers and students I had been vigorously consuming coaching readings, literature, and podcasts throughout the year. I even had curated my Twitter feed to capture the insights, engage with, and lean in on the experience of coaches and leaders across the globe. I wanted to be better every day.
The feedback returned via my email, and after pushing the anxiety down I opened the attachments up. Acknowledging the responses and combining this with my aspirations for 2021, here is my keep doing, stop doing, start doing.
What am I going to keep doing?
Fostering relational trust with colleagues.
In their seminal work, Anthony Bryk and Barbara Schneider (2003) define relational trust as the “connective tissue that binds individuals together to advance the education and welfare of students”. I have previously written a blog on relational trust here on some of the ways that my daily work contributes to highly trusting environments.
In 2021 there are new teams, dynamics, relationships, and inevitably new challenges with opportunities for growth. I will continue to actively pursue fostering relational trust with colleagues. It is also an area that I am extremely curious about further study in.
Listening (Part 1)
I am currently completing a course with Growth Coaching International (GCI), facilitated by Andrea Stringer and Jason Pascoe. As we have been working through the course requirements which is inclusive of pre-readings, webinars, and rehearsals of coaching conversations, an emerging factor for me has been the critical importance of listening deeply to those I am working with.
I have attempted to intentionally provide attention and what I thought was deep listening to my colleagues, but inevitably I haven’t given it fully. Those who I work with have noticed that listening is something that I have done well. However, the temptation to interrupt, check emails, and let the mind wander is ever-present and all too easy.
In 2021 I will keep aiming to listen to those I work with, however the GCI course has redefined my understanding of listening, and I will expand on this further below in the start doing section of this piece.
What am I going to stop doing?
This was a very challenging part of the conversation between the Principal Assistant Principal and myself. I stated that in my eagerness to coach as many of my colleagues as possible in a variety of areas, I filled my plate up well beyond what I could manage given the number of other roles and responsibilities I hold. I have found it difficult to turn away people’s requests for coaching, meaning that some critical components of my job, as well as my planning and release time, have been forgotten or missed – this is a source of great disappointment for me.
As a result, in 2021 I am going to stop encumbering my coaching load beyond what is manageable. While I truly love the coaching aspect of my role, I have also been entrusted with other equally important responsibilities. I anticipate there will be a need to protect my key times of intervention, release, and planning while acknowledging the priorities of coaching and professional learning.
What am I going to start doing?
Listening (Part 2)
I know I have filled space with my words, interjected, and most likely talked the autonomy and agency out of the coachee. In contrast Nancy Kline, the author of Time to Think, captures a more other-centred perspective of listening. In an interview in 2010 Kline said, “I want to be listening in a way that is more interested in where you will go next than I am in what I am going to say next.”
Therefore in 2021, I’d like to explore what may come from deeply listening to humbly inquire and hold a curious space more often. Those who subscribe to self determination theory would say that there is support for a greater acknowledgement of teacher autonomy as this can result in increased connectedness, enthusiasm and creativity (Deci and Ryan, 2009)
Work Sample & Data-Analysis
One of the areas that was identified by those that I work with for me to develop was a the use of student work samples and assessment data to enhance the coachee’s teaching. It is expected that teachers assess, provide feedback and report on student learning. As teachers we must also:
- monitor student achievement in relation to outcomes;
- guide future teaching and learning opportunities; and
- provide ongoing feedback to students to improve learning.
This year I experimented with creating a visual portfolio of my work with teachers using Google Slides. I used part of this to tell the story of student worksamples in relation to the coaching cycle we were working on. My application of this throughout the year wasn’t consistent but I can see how this, combined with co-debriefing and co-planning during coaching conversations, may lead to improving the coachees repertoire of analysiing student assessment data to improve their teaching.
So therefore in 2021, I would like to prioritise the explicit monitoring and analysis of student assessment data and use it to improve teaching and learning.
Teacher Support and Growth
A self-identified component of the survey that I’d like to start developing is the idea of how I go about supporting and challenging those I work with. I became curious in this area after coming across the work of Professor Eleanor Drago-Severson. I recently wrote about her insightful work in a post entitled, ‘Being Held’. Drago- Severson highlights the aspects of an environment of support and challenge for adults – a holding environment (2010). What challenges and fascinates me is the knowledge that there are as many ways to support and challenge adults as there are adults themselves, which adds an extra level of complexity to the work of a coach with the coachee.
In 2021, I would like to co-construct a holding environment that supports and challenges those teachers I directly work with so they experience transformational professional learning at their growing edge.
For now, my goal is to finish the year well. Then rest. Next year can wait.
Bryk, A.S.,& Schneider, B.L. (2003). Trust in schools: A core resource for improvement. http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/mar03/vol60/num06/Trust-in-Schools@-A-Core-Resource-for-School-Reform.aspx . Accessed on 26/11/2020.
Coaching Connect Big Bike Ride (2010). YouTube video, added by Liz Scott [Online]. Available at https://youtu.be/NjUic9WqLrg [Accessed 20/11/2020].
Niemiec, C. P. and Ryan, R. M. (2009) ‘Autonomy, competence, and relatedness in the classroom: Applying self-determination theory to educational practice’, Theory and Research in Education, 7(2), pp. 133–144. doi: 10.1177/1477878509104318.
Drago-Severson, E., Leading Adult Learning: Supporting Adult Development in our Schools. Thousand Oaks: Corwin/Sage Publications, (2010).