When You Are Coaching Together

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An opportunity bloomed this autumn allowing my son Jamin and I to travel to the east coast and do our first college campus tour. From the time he was a toddler, Jamin forecasted weather for both real and imaginary climates so it didn’t surprise us when atmospheric sciences became his future learning focus. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is one of the top colleges for students interested in pursuing atmospheric sciences. We were at MIT this past Friday when the undergraduate admissions dean said, “Here at MIT we have a saying that if you are doing homework alone, you are doing it wrong.”

I loved the spirit of creativity and collaboration I saw through MIT’s philosophy, their physical buildings and their hacks (practical jokes) and it got me to thinking about my own work.

“If you are coaching alone, you are doing it wrong.”

Yep. That’s true. My first year as a coach in my district I was the first (and only) elementary instructional coach. I was arriving early to work and staying late. There was no one to problem-solve with or edit my whole-district emails. I didn’t have a colleague to take apart standards and dig in for meaning. No one was there when I said, “So what I’m really curious about is…”

The late Don Graves said, “If you have even one colleague with whom you can share ideas, readings and questions, you can draw from that enough energy to maintain your motivation and ability to grow professionally.” I found that “even one colleague” in Megan, the secondary instructional coach at the time. We started out by saying things like, “Can I get your perspective on something?” or “Will you look over what I’ve written and tell me the main point that comes across?” Even though she worked with big kids and I worked with little ones, we agreed that “good instruction is good instruction” no matter the grade. She gave me the motivation and ability to grow that first year as a coach.

A lot has changed in seven years. I now have officemates who listen when I say, “So what I’m really curious about is…” Our K-12 coaching team is nineteen strong and we meet every week for 90 minutes. I have colleagues outside of my district too who give me ideas and shape my perspectives. Turning it around I can confidently say, “When you are coaching together, you are doing it right.”

Who is your “even one colleague”? How do you collaborate in the work of coaching?

4 thoughts on “When You Are Coaching Together

  1. My “one colleague” is a team of 4 other coaches in my district and also our Asst. Superintendent who is the leader of our coaching team. We meet in person once a month and email all the time. I would be lost without them.
    I tend to prefer to work alone, but I recently realized I can’t do this alone. I need them and their ideas and support. Definitely.

  2. I have ALWAYS worked with coaches in a network. Our network meetings start with problem solving. In a room of 10-12 coaches, I have become convinced that “all of us is smarter than any one of us.” MIT is right.

  3. My “one colleague” are many colleagues. There’s Marianella; we pored over her TPEP binder and discussed student growth goals at the McDonald’s play land under the laughter and shrieks of our daughters playing above us. There’s Judy; we watched a video of her teaching on Saturday and talked about how all students in her room access content and how they all know they need to work toward high expectations. There’s Rachael- what would I do without her emailing files to me that I lost in my school move? Without her, my students wouldn’t be basking in the multiples songs right now. There are so many of those “one colleagues” who are also dear friends. Collaboration and mutual coaching can look so many ways. I love my teacher friends.

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