Teacher Choice & Voice

An interesting tweet showed up this morning which, honestly, made me shudder. And judging from the comments (in Twitterverse), quite a few educators and I are on the same page.

To be clear, I am not against coaching. I think it’s a valuable tool for teachers. However, that value is dependent on a number of factors including (but not limited to) interest and need.

NOTE: For the purposes of this post, I’m only going to focus on inservice teachers because preservice teachers need a different kind of support structure as they are new to the profession.

Interest: If teachers are not interested in being coached, no amount or type of coaching is going to work. It’s just not. Forcing teachers to be coached without their consent is futile. Just watch teachers forced to sit through mandated PD. #exerciseinfutility However, if teachers are open to being coached, then the conversation should begin with options for coaching: face-to-face versus video, realtime versus delayed, face-to-face versus ear-piece, peer versus outside coach, etc. Could this coaching support include bug-in-ear coaching? Sure, if the teacher is open to that.

Next teachers should be a key part of the structure of coaching and feedback. Teachers should determine whether the feedback is immediate or delayed. They should have a say in whether they would like the feedback in writing or delivered in a face-to-face conversation. The bottom line is that teachers should be an integral part of the coaching process, not something that a coach does to them.

Teachers should have a voice and choice.

Need: Some teachers know what they need, others may be wearing blinders or are just plain clueless. If teachers express a need for coaching, then they should be part of the coaching design process (see previous paragraphs). Now if the school leadership determines that a teacher needs coaching, the teacher still should be an integral part of the coaching design process. Telling a teacher what they need to improve upon is important, and all teachers should be receiving this type of feedback during the evaluation process (for sure) as well as during non-evaluation years. If the school leadership believes that coaching should be part of the solution or support, the teacher should still be part of the conversation regarding format, frequency, feedback, etc. No ifs, ands, or buts.

At no point should teachers (who are adults) have things done to them without their input. Teaching is part craft and part science (this is not the blog post within which to split hairs)–so yes, there will always be room for improvement. Students change, standards are revised, learning strategies are refined…no group of students are the same. Ever. Teachers who believe that they don’t need to improve are the ones wearing blinders.

If coaching is on the table (whether brought up by the teacher or school leadership) under no circumstance should the coaching process be dictated to the teacher. If teachers are interested in being coached, awesome. If they would like to have a co-teacher in the classroom with them, great. If they like the idea of recording a video of their lesson to watch later alone or with their coach, fine. And if they prefer wearing an ear-piece to get feedback while teaching, that’s totally up to them.

Teachers should have a voice and choice.

My point is that teachers should have a say in how they improve their practice. Although I would find it extremely invasive to have a voice telling me what to do (or not) via an earpiece, if other teachers are open to the whole bug-in-ear thing more power to them. Just count me out.

P.S. Yes, I’m aware of CT3. I didn’t care for it when I had to review the process in one of the doctoral classes. But once again, if teachers want to wear an earpiece so that they can receive real-time feedback from someone sitting in the same room as them, fabulous.

Just let teachers have a voice and choice in the matter, please.

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