Feature

Imagining Leadership: Being the Best You can ... With the Help of a Coach

Kelly Snow

Last year Bobbie Chatha became a coach at her school, supporting colleagues as they looked for ways to improve literacy instruction.

Chatha’s school, W. T. Townsend, in Kitchener, was one of 15 schools in the Waterloo Region District School Board that began to use coaching to support student learning. The board’s consultants became interested in  the  coaching  model  after hearing from teachers who felt they never had time to implement the new strategies they learned about at professional development sessions.

The teachers’ experience reflected what research  has  shown.  Bruce  Joyce  and  Beverly Showers, among others, have demonstrated that about 5 percent of teachers apply what they learn in  professional development  activities to  their classroom  practice.  However,  when  coaching accompanies professional development, the level of application increases to 90 percent.1

Coaching  offered  the  Waterloo  teachers  a chance to have professional conversations about student learning. Many teachers felt  that  they needed strategies  to help them navigate change and polish existing skills while they were trying to use the ideas expressed in the ministry guidelines and curriculum.

THE COACHING RELATIONSHIP

The coaches were volunteers, teachers who were interested in supporting learning at their school in one of three areas: Primary literacy, Junior literacy, and Primary mathematics. Bobbie Chatha shares this background: “I worked very  closely with a number of teachers at my school even before I became a literacy coach. The staff recognized me as a supportive and knowledgeable colleague who was always willing to listen and help.”

Trish Betts-Malcolm, a senior kindergarten teacher, volunteered to work with Bobbie Chatha last year. She and Chatha met once a week for coaching sessions. “She worked with me to help me improve my literacy program and she shared many ideas and strategies. As a result I was able to put in place literacy work stations and guided reading in my classroom,” Betts- Malcolm says.

“With her help, my shared reading and writing lessons became much better organized, as did my running record data. Her ability to break huge tasks down into manageable pieces was one of the key reasons my program grew to be so successful. She demonstrated a variety of ways in which I could track my assessment, and how to plan using that valuable information.”

“Bobbie Chatha listened patiently to my questions and concerns and creatively sought ways to answer them. She provided the opportunity for me to watch her teach a small-group guided reading lesson and for her to watch me do the same. She planned our sessions so we were able to maximize my learning goals during our meetings while still maintaining flexibility in dealing with situations that arose for me during the week.”

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