Coaching Small for a Big Impact

Coaching Small for a Big Impact

by Taylor Meredith and Jennifer Vincent

On April 2nd, Taylor and Jennifer will be presenting during session four of our spring gathering. You can watch them at 2:00 pm EST. Their presentation is titled: “Conscious Coaching.”

Moving out of the classroom is challenging in both expected and unexpected ways. Our coaching lives are filled with small moments or baby steps that accumulate into bigger changes and the impact we make. While we could more directly see the impact we had on students when we were teachers – it looks different in the coaching role. But just because it’s different doesn’t mean it’s not happening.

Here are three ways the small stuff leads to a bigger impact for each of us:

Taking small steps to make a big impact

Taylor: As a new coach I met with teachers who had brave and bold thoughts and I wanted to show my competence by making things happen right away. It was the same mistake I made as a first year teacher – I had big ideas and I wanted to see them in action.  I reminded myself that small steps are the ones that make a big impact. Now I do more backwards planning with teachers – keeping those brave and bold thoughts as our goal and working backwards to make sure we take the purposeful steps for student success. It allows us to implement with intention and meaning and gives more ownership to students.

Jen: I’m constantly reminding myself that a huge part of my job as a coach is to celebrate with teachers. Taking a risk, trying something new, or approaching something differently can be monumental in a teacher’s life. Even something as simple as learning how to add a hyperlink into a website or how to upload a resource to a Google Classroom is worthy of celebration. I’m a big fan of high fives and have noticed that celebrating the benchmarks along the way help us eventually reach bigger changes down the road.

Small moments can inspire big change

Taylor: When I had my own classroom one of the best parts of my day was greeting each child at the door of our classroom in the morning.  It took a few seconds for each student but it really helped set the tone of the day and help us connect. I did the same thing at the end of everyday, As I transitioned into a coaching role I decided to stand in the hallway when the arrival and dismissal bells ring and greet each student.  These small moments have served two purposes. I believe they have helped students – whether it is connecting with another adult about a book or hobby or simply greeted with smile in the morning to help start your day on a positive note. These small moments have also helped me. There are days that I really miss the classroom and seeing students grow and change – sometimes these moments are to help me refuel and reset my purpose as a coach.

Jen: I led a series of book discussions with a small group of teachers on Ruth Ayre’s book Celebrating Writers. I wish every teacher across the district had signed up to participate but I celebrated the focused group who were excited and committed to learning together. We spent a lot of time reflecting on our own writing and thinking about how our writing experiences as students and now as teachers can help us better support student writers. My goal from the beginning was to invite teachers to reassess their writing instruction and include more celebration in their writing workshops but through these book discussions, I found that I had an opportunity to develop stronger relationships with teachers who participated, to engage in deep conversations with a small group of teachers, and to identify a core group of teachers who are truly dedicated and committed to making a difference in writing instruction in my district. It seemed like such a simple thing to run this book study, a few hours of my time after school with a small group of teachers, but the impact was immense and has given me a chance to make longer more impactful changes.

Celebrate the small steps to persevere to the big deals

Taylor: One of the most powerful roles I have as a coach is being an extra set of eyes and ears in the classroom. So often as teachers we focus on the negative or the failures when we imagine the big picture. As another set of eyes and ears in the classroom I try to celebrate the small steps with teachers. Maybe most of the class struggled with topic choice the first day of a new Writing Workshop unit – but I saw the reluctant reader and shy learner write word after word on her page. Celebrating the small steps gives teachers the courage and the fuel to continue to move forward.

Jen: As a coach, we have the ability to give teachers an outside perspective. When I come in and talk to a teacher about where they are in their teaching, it allows me to stop and point out how far they have come in terms of moving their practice. Sometimes teachers can’t easily see the big picture because they’re too busy living the details every single day. Sometimes teachers forget how far they’ve come because they’re too busy keeping up with all they have to do. Sometimes teachers appreciate someone who can help them see the big picture and applaud them for the work they’re doing day in and day out.

Of course, we want to see the impact we make as coaches! We want to see big change and we want to see it happen fast. We hope that working with teachers will allow us to indirectly impact more students. But it’s not always easy to see the impact we have because it looks different from when we were teachers. We are constantly reminding ourselves that all these baby steps add up to big change and that maintaining this perspective helps us persevere.

We hope you join us at 2:00 pm EST on April 2nd to continue this conversation about conscious coaching.

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