The value of job embedded professional development has never been more evident than in the last couple of years at RHS. Our Central Office Administration along with the Board of Education supported the idea of having instructional coaches for teachers. This was a leap of faith in some respects as this was not something that was happening in other districts. We essentially took a position called “lead teacher” and revamped it to be able to provide support to teachers.
For me the draw was trying to find something that went beyond the obligatory observation and actually provided some sustainable type of assistance to enhance instruction in the classroom. We interviewed quite a few teachers for these positions and wound up choosing 4 master teachers in their own right with no real guarantee that they would like each other let alone be able to work together.
Their schedules started out as teaching classes in the morning and “coaching” in the afternoon. There was no job description and no district with instructional coaches to model after. There were examples of deficit coaching around the state – meaning that sub standard teachers were targeted by coaches and given specific plans to follow. We did not need a deficit model of coaching – we needed a way to provide already good teachers the opportunity to continue to hone their craft on a daily basis that was not tied to a specific evaluation or observation. Teaching is one of the few professions that you enter into with little or no actual experience – and once you are hired – you are pretty much on your own. We wanted to find a way to provide teachers the resources they needed to enhance instruction. These 4 ladies were great about scheduling time with each other and with me to hammer out what exactly we wanted this to look like. Thankfully our visions aligned and the rest, as they say, is history. I will tell anyone who listens that the incredible success of this model is due solely to the coaches themselves. They have made this work!
Our four instructional coaches – Julie, Lena, Ruth and Adrianna, have made what could arguably be the largest impact on what occurs in the classroom that I’ve witnessed during my time at RHS. Their resource center is packed with staff from morning until well after the school day ends. They provide assistance to staff on any topic and will model strategies, co-teach, observe, set up peer observations, run power PD sessions during the day, assist with utilizing new technology etc.
Our coaches recently presented at the ASCD (Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development) national conference in Houston, Texas. Their presentation was outstanding and the room was packed with interested teachers and administrators from around the country. It is very likely they will be asked to return to ASCD and will have some follow up from various individuals because of the incredible presentation they provided and the awesome things they have been able to accomplish.
Our instructional coaching program at the high school is growing every day. These ladies instantly hit it off and despite their completely different personalities, they have created a successful growth model of coaching that the staff views as a non evaluative resource to assist with creating diverse and exciting lessons in the classroom.