The Ever-Present Coach

By Irene Fountas

Think about yourself as a coach for your colleagues every day, all day and in all the forms your coaching can take. Think about how you use time to foster reflective colleagues. As a supporter of your colleagues’ continuous learning, how do you show your stance as coach? Do you maximize the opportunities for professional learning?

From answering a question as you walk down the corridor, to the ten minutes you have at the faculty meeting, you can plant seeds, water them, and observe their growth by the way you use language and position yourself as coach. Notice the stance in the following responses to a colleague:

  • What an important question.
  • What were your first thoughts about that?
  • So I hear you asking ……. I havenʹt thought about that, but let’s put our heads together and think it through.
  • or, I will bring my copy of ……, and letʹs see if we can find something to help us think about that.
  • ….. has asked the same question. Letʹs sit together at lunch and think together about that.

When you value collegial thinking, you show your colleagues that you are working as a team and have collective expertise. You have the opportunity to model problem solving and the importance of rationales instead of single right answers.

Think about your use of time as a coach. Time always seems to be the greatest challenge. Of course your coaching conferences and observations, as well as professional development sessions serve as a strong foundation for the culture you foster in the school. You can multiply your effects in the little time you have if you think of as many contexts as possible for professional learning.

Here are a few examples:

  • Can you ask for 15 minutes of the monthly staff meeting and share a new article inviting discussion in triads?
  • Or show some school data and have pairs or threes talk about what they notice?
  • How about a thirty‑minute breakfast seminar for those interested once a month? Plan it with a different colleague each time and bring some coffee and treats.
  • How about an optional study group once a month? Make it only an hour. Plan and conduct the session with a different colleague each time and address the hot topics your colleagues have in mind.
  • Or make it a book study and everyone who comes gets the new book.
  • Invite one or two colleagues to go with you to visit another colleague and talk together about the lesson.
  • Create an inquiry group of colleagues who will look at data or artifacts, plan some teaching together based on the data, observe the teaching, and then talk together again.
  • When you go to a conference, be sure to take a different colleague each time. Then the time driving in the car and stopping to have a meal serve for wonderful opportunities for collegial talk.
  • Be sure to schedule a time to share your learning at the faculty meeting.
  • Arrange to make a visit to another school and take two or three colleagues. Have lunch together to debrief your visit.
  • Place copies of new articles with a note in teacher mailboxes.

You will have many more ideas of how to make your coaching presence powerful throughout the day, the week and across the year.

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