I am a teacher. For eight years I have taught in Philadelphia. I consider myself a competent teacher, so when I initially heard about being coached at the school where I’m currently teaching, Hardy Williams, I thought it would be a waste of time. I was bothered by the thought of having someone in my classroom 2-3 times each week watching my every move and being critical of my teaching style. I quickly learned, however, that having a coach provides valuable assistance that has ultimately made me a better teacher.
Why? I was able to get immediate feedback from a teacher with specific training in instructional coaching whose only role was to support me and improve my talents as a teacher. Anne, my coach, also quickly reassured me that she was there to help me, not to judge me.
It didn’t start off smoothly.
Anne suggested it would be best if she observed me teach my most difficult class. In my mind, this made the situation go from bad to worse—not only would she judge my teaching ability, but also my classroom management abilities. At times when Anne was in the room, I felt frazzled and even clumsy. If I forgot to prepare even the smallest item for a lesson, I felt inept because I had an extra pair of eyes on me. I thought Anne must have been sitting across the room writing notes and wondering, “How in the world is she a teacher?”
That could not have been further from the truth. Anne always praised my classroom management skills and appreciated the thought I put into planning my lessons. She made me feel valued and respected, and because she did, I saw her as a partner and not an adversary sent in by the administration to “make my life miserable.”
Regardless of the number of years someone has been on the job, anyone can benefit from a coaching experience.
Anne provided quick and easy tips and advice to further advance my classroom management, instruction, and lesson planning. I could use what she recommended the very next class period and saw results immediately. Calls to the dean and time-outs significantly decreased. My administrators and other staff gave me compliments on the positive change in my classroom culture. Call-outs from students were eliminated and participation increased. Students were motivated; they understood and complied with my expectations.
Anne and I became friends very quickly as I became more open to the idea of having her in the classroom observing and providing feedback. She was always encouraging and positive. Regardless of the number of years someone has been on the job, anyone can benefit from a coaching experience.
The coaching program is an important component of teacher development at Mastery Charter Schools; it’s a non-profit school national network. I have worked at three other schools, and none provided the opportunity to be coached by a professional instructional coach. Mastery’s approach to coaching—a partnership between teacher and coach—ensures that teachers feel valued and supported, rather than disparaged.
Mastery coaches seventy percent of its teaching staff, from the most struggling to Master teachers. The culture of coaching at Mastery is seen as an important component of their model and is valued by employees. My peers agree that it is beneficial to endure any initial discomfort with the idea of being coached in order to learn new methods to improve student achievement and to develop professionally. I am a better teacher because of having been coached, and my students are better off as well.
Mastery believes that everyone, even the greatest individuals in his or her respective positions, can benefit from coaching. Just look at Michael Jordan.