“Leap, and the net will appear.” (Zen saying)
This fall I began my fifth year of teaching, a milestone in many ways. While I am still at the beginning of my career, I am no longer a “new” teacher. I have greater confidence in my instructional strategies, classroom management skills, and collaborative relationships. I no longer have slight dread while wondering how am I going to make it through the year but now find myself asking how can I shape myself into a phenomenal educator? As I have been wondering this, an answer has presented itself in my module one explorations for my digital education leadership program. This quarter, my cohort is looking at the role of peer coaching in the professional learning environment. While my learning has been very general so far as I am just delving into this dynamic topic, it is clear that great educators are shaped by great educators. So, if I am to become great and help others do so as well, I must work to create an environment that successfully integrates peer coaching into professional development.
I start this exploration with a strong advantage as I get to learn about peer coaching from Les Foltos, an expert on the topic and one of my professors for the quarter. In his book Peer Coaching: Unlocking the Power of Collaboration, I was struck by how frankly Les explains that creating a successful environment for peer coaching requires educators to be extremely vulnerable. In his introductory chapter he explains that, when confronted with a peer coaching opportunity, the learning partner hears, “my coach is asking me to open the doors of my classroom and to demonstrate want I know and what I don’t know. My coach is asking me to take risks and make mistakes in public” (Foltos 2013). While I am eager to get into the intricacies of models for peer coaching, this point stopped me in my tracks. It made me realize that, before I can understand what meaningful peer coaching looks like, I must first look at what elements are essential to establishing an environment where peer coaching can happen. Without a safe learning environment, educators will not feel comfortable being vulnerable and therefore cannot open their doors to peer coaching opportunities.
What is essential to creating a successful environment for peer coaching?
As is often the case, when I began exploring essential elements of a successful peer coaching environment, I was met with an overabundance of information. After skimming through multiple blog posts, educator resources, and scholarly articles, I started to see many overlapping ideas and decided that, rather than reinvent the wheel, I would synthesize my findings into a comprehensive list. Below are what I found to be the leading tips on creating a successful environment for peer coaching.
What topics relating to peer coaching will I explore in the future?
All that I have learned this week has been both fulfilling and overwhelming. Now that I have gotten to dive into the topic of peer coaching, I am aware of how much great information there is out there to explore! Since this week’s blog post only scratches the surface, I wanted to take a moment to mention a few ideas that have started to spark in my head which I would like to look at deeper in the coming weeks.
- Now that we have created an environment where peer coaching can be successful, how do we get teachers to “open their doors”?
- What is the role of an instructional coach?
- What behaviors and strategies should an instructional coach master in order to be effective?
- My school district currently has nine full time secondary level instructional coaches. How are their roles defined? What are the next steps my district is taking to create an environment for peer coaching?
- How can we make time for feedback and reflection more valuable in professional learning opportunities?
Aguilar, E. (2011). Four Conditions Essential for Instructional Coaching to Work. Retrieved October 06, 2016, from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/four-conditions-instructional-coaching-elena-aguilar
Dupree, O. (n.d.). What is an Instructional Coach? Retrieved October 06, 2016, from http://piic.pacoaching.org/index.php/piic-coaching/what-is-an-instructional-coach
Foltos, L. (2013). Peer coaching: Unlocking the power of collaboration. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
Gonzalez, J. (2016, September 25). How Pineapple Charts Revolutionize Professional Development. Retrieved October 06, 2016, from http://www.cultofpedagogy.com/pineapple-charts/
Gonzalez, J. (2016, March 20). How to Plan Outstanding Tech Training for Your Teachers. Retrieved October 06, 2016, from http://www.cultofpedagogy.com/tech-training-for-teachers/
Guest Post: Who Sits In the Big Chair? Reflections on Building Collaborative Partnerships with Teachers. Retrieved October 06, 2016, from https://yourinstructionalcoach.com/2016/09/07/guest-post-who-sits-in-the-big-chair-reflections-on-building-collaborative-partnerships-with-teachers/