I have been a high school biology and ecology teacher at an international school for the past nine years. Newer to Twitter, blogging, and the beyond the walls educational realm, I have been steadily learning as I go. Together, my students and I tried many new educational approaches this past year. A hit and miss blogger, you can read about some of it if you scroll back within this blog, but you won’t find it all. My students have always come first, and as I am a parent too, there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to publicly document all the cool things that have happened in our classroom. I could do it now, but I am not a fan of writing about my old news.
My new news is that I will be taking on the role of math, science, and technology instructional coach for the coming school year. Nervously excited and swamped with myriad end-of-year tasks, I changed my Twitter bio to reflect this new position, but did not delve deeper into it until my summer holidays began. My first order of summer professional development was to read up on the instructional coaching model. My first book was Instructional Coaching by coaching guru Jim Knight. I am greatly indebted to one of our former instructional coaches, Jennifer Sikes, for giving her copy to me (thanks, Jennifer!). I’ve read it from cover to cover, I’ve slept on it for a few nights, and I would like to use the remains of this blog post to share my reflective thoughts.
This book is very helpfully laid out. Each chapter has a concept map at the beginning, displaying in simple terms and clear relationships what the chapter contains. In addition, each chapter has a bulleted summary at the end, serving as a quick review of the main points of the chapter. I really appreciated this set up, especially when I had to set the book aside for a few days during the Canada Day long weekend. It made it very easy to get back into the book upon my return to reading.
At turns, this book had me feeling both certain and nervous. It seems fairly logical, but wait, how would I remember it all? What was I really planning that I could put into words if someone asked, “How will you use this book starting in August 2016?” It was at this point that I set the book aside for a few days and the feelings of nervousness made me a little reluctant to pick it back up again. Could I really read a book to train for this position? Jim Knight must have known how his reader might feel, because he used a metaphor that put into words all of my feelings about the unknowns I would most certainly face in the moment during my role as instructional coach (below, Knight 2007, p. 185).
This metaphor helped me immensely. If I felt nervous because I couldn’t plan for every need a teacher might have, it was okay, I could work with teachers, determine their needs, and build a plan with them; the absolute essence of the partnership principles. I did not need to have all of the answers right now in the middle of my summer holidays. What a relief this was to read and internalize.
This metaphor assuaged my nerves while simultaneously providing me with a tangible, personal connection. I attended Trent University (1994-98) and lived in Champlain College, retrieving my mail from beneath Thom Tower almost every day. I read Jim Knight’s words about Thom’s innovative approach from the comfort of the Lady Eaton College residence after having just photographed these pathways, the ones the students themselves forged. I always thought the pathways were intuitive, and now I finally knew why they went where I wanted to go.
Jim has given me a gift, the gift of validation, both in my role as new instructional coach, and for my educational roots, within which I take much pride. As I sit on campus at Trent University, awaiting the conclusion of my children’s summer camp, I am reassured that I am on a great path. Thanks, Jim!
Knight, J. (2007). Instructional coaching: A partnership approach to improving instruction ; a multimedia kit for professional development. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.