But this post claiming to be about transforming schools said nothing about transforming schools, at all; it was about how the author who uses the Twitter handle, @bossygirl1980, 'went over to the dark side of school administration in the form of being an Instructional Coach.' Bossygirl1980 implies that her "simple tips to guide your practice of giving teachers quality feedback: will "transform schools."
Bossygirl1980's simple tips are:
1. Visit classrooms for varying amounts of time each visit.
2. Give praise based on what you saw in the classroom.
3. Identify areas of growth that tie directly back into the tool used for teacher evaluation.
4. Identify next steps for the teacher to address the areas of growth.
5. Look for "out of the box" solutions for issues that teachers are experiencing.
I don't see why #1 is of any real value. When I was in the classroom, I much preferred to know when my coach would be coming in to the classroom and what was going to be observed. I liked it when we had a preconference and I was able to say what I would like the coach to observe. I would like a tool like Moodle to be used to document the whole coaching process so that the preconference goals, observation comments, post observation conversation, and links to other sources could all be kept neatly in one place. I found the little post-it notes tossed in my mailbox down in the office to be annoying, even if they were there quickly.
#2 is obvious. Praising observed good work is always important. But @bossygirl1980 gets that backwards. She says, "One of the quickest ways to make teachers feel comfortable when going over feedback is to quick authentic praise from your time in the classroom." The object is not the feedback or the coach's time in the classroom; a post-observation conversation is about the teacher's performance. Quick is less important than useful, and why are we even considering non-authentic praise.
Connecting coaching to teacher evaluation is problematic for lots reasons and probably deserves a post all its own. The series of posts I did a few years ago (here and here) about evaluating teachers gets at some of the problems. @bossygirl1980 is a bit convoluted on connecting coaching and evaluation, too. When challenged about the connection in our Twitter exchange she first said, "of course coaching comments are not tied to teacher eval..They are for the betterment of teachers." Then, when I pointed out that she had said more than once in her post that "The areas of growth should be directly tied to the tool used for teacher evaluation," she clarified by saying,
" Comments don't go on evals but are tied to the domains in teacher domains.." I'm not clear that that's really clarified.
The problem with #4 is that it appears as if the coach is doing the identification of the areas for growth. I'd rather the teacher do the identification of the areas for growth. If the teacher is really stuck and really can't come up with an area for growth, I'd suggest that the coach go back to establishing a better relationship with the teacher to open up that space of introspection for the teacher.
#5 is about out of the box solutions for issues the teacher may be facing, like problems in their marriage. Since I'm not too sold on points 1-4, going down this path is a non-starter for me. Strengthening the personal relationships of teachers on a team is crucial, but I'm cautious about suggesting that teachers rely too much on those who are working on the "dark side" with their personal issues. I'd much rather see energy put into creating an environment like the one in Pam and Ira's video.