The Benefits of Working with a Dedicated Coach
Master Teacher Guest Blog Series
Part 5: Learning Is Social
Post 2 of 3
When you want to improve an area of your work, a skilled and knowledgeable coach can support you to break through a performance plateau and help you to achieve more than you could have alone. They get to know your strengths and weaknesses, and they deftly push you to surpass your limits. A skilled coach can meet teachers wherever they are, from a first-year teacher fresh out of graduate school to a seasoned veteran, 30-years into his or her career.
BetterLesson’s personalized professional development, TeachCycle does exactly that. Our skilled coaches work with educators from across the country to support them to improve outcomes for students. After first identifying an area of student growth, teachers choose a specific teaching challenge for themselves and then work with their coach to select strategies targeted to address the challenge. In this way, TeachCycle coaching is truly collaborative work between teacher and coach, enabling the teacher’s learning to be social rather than isolated.
Today, Master Teacher Veronique Paquette discusses the benefits she experienced when she worked with a BetterLesson coach as part of the Master Teacher Project. Enjoy!
Most writers work in quiet solitude; planning and plotting the twists and turns in their latest story, research or project. Writers will work for long periods of time, without ever asking for anyone’s opinions or advice towards their writing. Teacher writers are the opposite of this; they do not work in isolation. For educators, writing is a social event.
In my twenty-eight years as an educator, I have had many opportunities to write: grants, speeches, newspaper and magazine articles, a Master Thesis, and National Board portfolios. Each writing style had a different audience, but the purpose was always the same: to share my knowledge of a particular subject in teaching. In many of those situations, I worked with the support of a good friend, a mentor I respected or colleagues who willingly read my work and critiqued it for me. Some writing projects were easier to tackle than others, yet each type of writing left me with new learning. I was always proud of my writing, but more so because I knew how much blood, sweat and sometimes tears had gone into my work.
Lesson writing for Better Lesson was a whole new challenge. It was more than just creating and designing fabulous lessons. It was about writing those lessons in a way that met the needs of all teachers, from the experienced teacher to the new teacher just entering the profession.
Writing lessons for Better Lesson was never a solitary endeavor. When you become a Master Teacher in any of the projects, you are instantly given the support of a Coach. For me, I had no idea that my coach would become one of my closest and dearest connections to understanding my own teaching and writing styles. Moreover, that I would come to love and enjoy writing lessons as much as I did. I lay all the credit of this discovery on the shoulders of my coach.
In the beginning of the Project, I worked through my lessons and struggled to find the perfect format to share my ideas and work. I must have changed my formatting a hundred times. My coach patiently held my “cyber” hand and coaxed me through the process. She never gave up. We had a great system, developed by the folks in the Project, using the Google platform. We wrote our lessons and submitted them through Google Docs, and then coaches read the lessons and resubmitted them back to teachers with suggestions.
Struggling through the formatting made it difficult in the beginning, but my coach was always ready to discuss it with me. When I begged her for a format, she kindly explained to me that the philosophy of Better Lesson was not to tell the teachers how to write our lessons. They wanted each of us to shine in our own way. I so appreciated that they cared so much about preserving each of our special styles of teaching and writing to allow us that freedom.
My coach continued to keep our conversations going; Google Hangouts and email became our best methods. She was ready at a moment’s notice. As the year of lessons developed and came to life, my lesson writing improved each time I submitted through the process. I celebrated when lessons were returned with very little to revise. Better yet, I would do a little happy dance when a lesson was submitted the first time and was accepted without any needed revisions. Those lessons did not happen often, but they sure felt good when they did.
One thing I believe that helped my coach to be such an effective facilitator was her knowledge of the standards, including all the elements (Science and Engineering Process or Crosscutting Concept). Through our discussions, she would help me to see clearly when my writing was strong or missing something. She knew when lessons addressed standards and when they were stretching. Thank goodness for that!
Typically, Better Lesson coaches carry a large load of work. They read endless amounts of lessons, encourage their teams, and are teachers themselves. I cannot imagine being a part of the Master Science Teacher Project without my coach. She taught me many lessons during our year of work, but none so valuable as the love I discovered I had of sharing my writing with others. Becoming a Master Science Teacher meant I would share my skills with other teachers, but ultimately, I became a learner as well. I learned I love to write!
Veronique Paquette is a 2nd-grade teacher at Kenroy Elementary School in East Wenatchee, Washington. She has taught early elementary students for 28 years and loves finding ways to bring the outside world into the four walls of her classroom. To see all of Veronique’s science lessons, please click here.
If you’d like to learn more about working with a dedicated TeachCycle coach next year, please click here.