The lens through which you look is key, because your mentee will feel where you are coming from – whether you state your perspective or not. Whenever I coach, I observe, get a base line, and from there we start to build skills. My frame of reference is that each person is expanding. A while back, Cheri Moring wrote in her blog about a metaphor we have used which says that every teacher has a tool belt and our goal is to put more tools in that tool belt. One teacher may start with 5 tools, another may start with 20, but we are continually building skills, never judging the tool belt for the number of tools it has.
This only builds resistance, if the teacher feels she is being judged. Rather, I ask her to continually add to who she is. Often when I coach, I draw a rectangle and say, “Inside this rectangle is who you know yourself to be up to this point.” The teacher may say she has great classroom organization, loves science, does not like art, loves working with difficult children, has judgments about some of her parents, thinks she is not really creative, but is good at analysis, and on and on. Once we talk about these things we write them in the rectangle. I draw an “X” a little outside the rectangle and draw a little larger rectangle that includes the original rectangle and I say, “You never have to change who you know yourself to be. We are just adding a bit more room now for you to express in, to move in, as a teacher. Then, drawing larger and larger additional rectangles, I say, “As we go through the coaching process, we will be creating more and more room for you to express yourself in, adding teaching skills and strategies that will allow you to be a “bigger,” more expansive teacher with more tools in your tool belt."
You are a space holder, a context holder, and in that space, you hold an idea—no matter what the problem or issue seems to be, the two of you will come up with whatever idea or resource is needed to solve the problem or handle the issue. The power of your shared focus, intention, and attention can create miracles.
As a coach, our first priority is to create a safe space that both teacher and coach can work in. No one makes changes, when feeling judged and unaccepted. Once a teacher feels safe, she can be truthful about strengths she may have and also about change that is needed. The mentee will be able to speak her truth and brainstorm ideas for expansion and change.
Connect your mentees with resources, ideas, new CLASS strategies, and much more. With a coach’s guidance, teachers plan, add ideas, build skills, etc.
I love the meaning of the root word in education—educare. This word means “to draw out.” We are never just trying to “put into” a teacher’s mind what we see is “missing.” Instead, we trust the process. We trust that together the coach and mentee have an amazing knowledge and experience base from which to draw inspiration. This includes the common language and the huge shared knowledge base that CLASS provides. In the coaching relationship, we build rapport and have conversations with many feedback loops and active listening. We brainstorm, plan, create, and produce together.
In summary, never look for deficits. Work from a strength-based perspective. Start with a baseline and add to that body of knowledge and skills. Create a space in which your mentees can expand who they are as teachers, so that the two of you together can “walk in Bigness.”
Rhonda LaFountaine, MS, has successfully implemented CLASS coaching in numerous urban and rural Head Start programs throughout Nevada for over six years. Ms. LaFountaine also teaches human development and family studies and early childhood education courses at Truckee Meadows Community College in Reno, NV. She previously owned and operated an early childhood center focused on interactive play-based learning and exploratory studies. Her research interests include working with gifted children, CLASS mentor coaching, working with children with disabilities, and testing curriculum. As a CLASS coach, she has provided team and individualized coaching and targeted training resulting in consistent increases in quality instructional practices and improved CLASS scores across programs. Rhonda has a BS in Child Development, a BS in Elementary Education and an MS in Child Development. You can reach Rhona at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"I’ve just begun my journey into the world of coaching. I am eager and excited about this opportunity to help pave the way for more effective teaching. I’ve recently been given my list of classrooms that I will be working with and I’m anxious to get started. I get ready to meet my first teacher, Ms. Linda, and I just know that she will be excited to meet me and we will form an instant bond and work together for the benefit of the children in that classroom.
It’s been a great year. You have just conducted some professional development trainings for the group of teachers you are coaching. You got the opportunity to visit their classrooms and see them in action, do formal and informal CLASS observations, and had countless coaching conversations. You see that it’s all beginning to click. You have the teachers’ buy-in, and the motivation is high.
I lived in rural Japan for three years. While there, I became very accustomed to ordering the same types of entrees at restaurants due to my limited ability to read menus and my unwillingness to eat foods outside my comfort zone. So imagine how overwhelmed I felt when I returned to the States and had to decide on one entree amid pages and pages and pages of delicious options. It took a few weeks to learn how to navigate my way through these endless options without wanting to close my eyes and blindly point while ordering my meals.