More than ever, every coach needs a coach - a thought partner to turn to for sound bites of advice when we need them the most, particularly throughout a teacher’s journey from teacher to teacher leader. Given this month’s lens on Women’s Appreciation Month, I reflect on the amazing women who have each served as a mentor - as a coach - both informally and formally, throughout various phases of my career. Each woman played a significant role - they empowered me with confidence, taught me how to listen, taught me to embrace fear, helped build capacity in myself and others, and further, taught me to pass the baton and extend a hand to the next generation of women to ultimately improve teaching and learning.
I remember one mentor who suggested I should pursue Instructional Coaching. It sounds so simple, however, at the time and at that moment in my career, I did not believe in my own abilities...yet. I was in my third year as a teacher and I was a career switcher. I was perfectly content teaching and only teaching. I did not want to embrace fear. Yet, I knew I was capable of more. Throughout that year, she continued to coach me. I watched [and took detailed notes of] her coaching teams of teachers. She believed in me and could foresee my potential when I could not see beyond my own lens. She simultaneously modeled how to coach teams and how to facilitate professional development (PD). She challenged my thinking to take on a teacher leadership position. She asked questions. She had me create and deliver PDs for my peers. She cheered me on. She listened.
I ultimately did become an Instructional Coach, or iCOACHes, as we called ourselves. I was introduced to a small army of like-minded women - a phenomenal group of over one hundred women who were all experts in their own niche. We continue to coach each other up and continue to have coaching conversations when we need them the most throughout our personal and professional lives. This little world of Instructional Coaching introduced me to the concept of how to effectively listen for the request in the complaint in others. This significant shift in thinking helped me navigate complicated conversations necessary to engage in the challenging work educators do every day. This skill also benefited my personal conversations in and out of education. I am grateful for this community of women.
While I transitioned into Coaching, I also started a doctoral program and my first course was with an amazing professor who taught a course that was considered untraditional in the world of research. She taught and was passionate about self-study research and while, indeed, it was untraditional, she modeled how to use research to support our work and advocate for what you are passionate about. Indeed, another strong woman. Who cares if it’s untraditional, right?! It forced me to question why I cared. What I learned from studying self-study research was how to understand how my experiences influenced my effectiveness as an iCOACH and forced me to better understand myself, my biases, my lens through which I viewed the world to improve my craft. While my passion and research is to ensure equitable opportunities and outcomes for all English Learners, I learned that for many teachers this work was hard. My professor embraced self-study research and self-study research taught me to validate the experiences or lack of experiences of teachers and assume positive intentions in others to focus on improving teaching and learning in a non-judgmental manner. I could then, more objectively, increase my effectiveness as an iCOACH. Change in practice is possible and can be positive. Change also does not happen overnight. Change happens one conversation at a time. My professor - she taught me that.
All of these women taught me so many lessons throughout my life. I am grateful for them and am also fortunate that I can now pass it along to the next generation of women. Thank you to all the strong women in my life for believing in me and coaching me up. I invite you to reflect on all of the strong women in your life that have served as a mentor - as a coach - and how they helped you navigate your career.
Teaching Matters has Educational Consultants that serve as coaches, as thought partners, that come with decades of experience to coach you through this most critical work and guide you in improving teaching and learning for all students.