What’s Missing?

Awhile back I spent time with a dynamic group of literacy coaches in medium-sized district that I have worked with for almost two years. This is a group that is committed to implementing Student-Centered Coaching and that has the necessary interpersonal skills and vision to put these practices in place.

Yet there are a handful of coaches on the team who are struggling to get a foothold in their schools. So what’s missing? The answer to this question won’t surprise you. It seems that what’s missing is a clear sense by the school leadership about how to support the coaching effort, and coaches are being affected by the following:

  • A lack of clarity regarding the coach’s role
  • No school wide focus or vision around goals for student learning
  • An unwillingness by the school leader to stand up to members of the school community who are fighting to maintain the status quo
  • A school leader who doesn’t embrace the complexity of creating a learning organization and instead may seek silver bullets—which creates a hopscotching approach from innovation to innovation
  • A toxic school community that leaves little room for teacher reflection and improvement
  • A lack of belief that kids can succeed
  • A lack of time that is embedded into the school day for teachers to collaborate and learn together

What’s most frustrating is many of these factors are outside of the literacy coach’s sphere of influence—and instead, rest squarely on the shoulders of the school leader. So what can a school leader do to support a student-centered coaching effort? Here are a few ideas:

  • Clearly define the coach’s role to the staff
  • Use student data to determine a goal for student learning that serves as an umbrella for professional development
  • Work with the coach to design professional development around the goal for student learning
  • Set the tone that ‘we are all learners’ and model this as the school leader
  • Set the expectation that all teachers engage in the professional development as learners
  • Cut off toxic behavior before it is allowed to gain traction
  • Manage the systems for teacher learning alongside the coach

When a principal and coach come together to carefully design and implement a student-centered coaching model, both the students and teachers benefit. Let’s not leave that to chance.

© Diane Sweeney Consulting, all rights reserved.

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