January 2020 Coaching Tip of the Month

January 6, 2020 - 5 minutes read

Happy New Year! This is one of my favorite times to reflect… and it’s bittersweet… we look forward to new learnings and at the same time, look back at what we’ve accomplished. We’ve either achieved some or most of our goals or we haven’t!

Each January, I look back at my list of expectations and accomplishments from September through December. I either hang my head or give myself a “high five” (more the former than latter). I tend to make long “to do” lists that sound very doable at the time of creation. I then reflect and say to myself, “What was I thinking??” When I review my lists, I notice that my original list has multiplied into about 10 additional lists, each subsequent list becoming more and more detailed about what I want to accomplish. This reflection is perfect for January as we think about the inevitable… what will the New Year bring and how will I sustain the momentum as I move forward personally and professionally? Does this sound familiar?

January is nostalgic for me. Looking back, I want to remind myself what I’ve learned about teaching, learning, leadership, coaching and mentoring… teacher quality is the most significant factor affecting student achievement; teachers who are supported by instructional coaches are more likely to implement newly learned instructional strategies; follow up support to effectively implement new learning and scaffolding encourages reflective practice and instruction; teachers want to talk to their colleagues about effective instructional strategies; collaboration and open communication make a difference in teaching and learning; teachers and coaches who collectively problem solve around problems of practice are more likely to identify effective strategies that work to address those issues; and most importantly, teachers really like to talk to other practitioners who are non-evaluative listeners with a shared vision about how to help their students grow while improving their own instructional practices.

I am also reminded about the daily questions coaches, mentors, and administrators must ask themselves: what am I doing as a coach, mentor, or administrator to help teachers change and improve their practice, and what am I doing to help teachers improve student engagement and outcomes? I ask myself the same questions about helping others improve their coaching practices. How can I help coaches and mentors work one-on-one and in small groups to support teachers, coaches, and other school leaders? Providing ongoing opportunities to engage in professional learning and share new learning with others is fundamental to my own learning and those with whom I work. Sustaining this, however, is the issue schools and districts are facing more and more.

Janus, the two-faced (in a good way) ancient Roman god of beginnings and transitions, looks to the future and to the past. He looks after passages, causes actions to start and presides over all beginnings. I think the role of the coach mirrors Janus’ role. Remember your journey and the goals you have set out to accomplish. Celebrate the small accomplishments and remember that Rome was not built in a day…look behind you to see how far you have come and look ahead to see what innovations are before you. This is a journey of change and it takes courage, tenacity, diligence, frustration, and acceptance to stay the course.

Plan and be proactive. Think and act as a team. Learning is social and so is teamwork.

Follow Andrew Carnegie’s advice: “Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.”

10 Tips for the New Year:

  • Be a good listener
  • Create a safe environment
  • Be a critical friend, not a fixer
  • Model intentional, reflective practices
  • Plan well
  • Be responsive
  • Build teacher capacity
  • Honor voice and choice
  • Be a learner, not an expert
  • Lose the ego

Wishing you all the best in 2020!