The Lead Learners

The Influence of a Coach on Professional Learning

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I have a friend who is an exercise science major turned teacher. Recently she became an instructional coach and we started walking together as a way to grab some time for reflective practice as instructional coaches. As we walked and talked and questioned and refined our work as coaches, something unexpected happened.

I became healthier.

It wasn’t from the walking; I’m a long-time walker. It was because Lora knows a lot of things when it comes to exercise, nutrition and healthy lifestyles. She knows so much that she doesn’t even know that it’s special.

She didn’t set out to teach me about being healthier, nor was a healthier lifestyle on my radar. We decided to walk because we are walkers and needed time for reflective practice.

Over the weeks I started running. Lora was a runner, and when she talked about running, I remembered that a long time ago I was a runner and liked the way I felt. Pretty soon I added push-ups and planks to my daily routine. I texted Lora my (pathetic) numbers and she encouraged me. Lora talked about the way yoga helped her ease the tension in her body and pretty soon I was sharing with Lora an online yoga resource that was changing my life.

Lora’s presence was enough to change my exercise habits.

In the same way, a coach’s presence is enough to change instructional habits. When coaches attend professional learning events alongside teachers, they act as a catalyst to new habits and understandings. It doesn’t have to be complicated, simply:

  • Be present — Show up to professional learning events.
  • Listen — When you give time to teachers, you validate the important topics to think about.
  • Talk — Share your thinking and wonderings.
  • Be Transparent — Tell the things that have been hard and admit your struggles.
  • Share — Offer helpful resources.
  • Be Available — Respond to texts and emails. Let others know you care about their journeys.

If you’re a teacher, you have to know that it is reciprocal. Lora’s healthy choices were influenced for the better too, just by having me around.  Go ahead and invite a coach to tag along at your next conference or workshop. Trust me, they will be so grateful to have someone to geek out with about professional learning. *smile*

In fact, why not sign up for the Indiana State Literacy conference on Saturday, September 15? It’s in Fort Wayne. The lineup includes:

  • Clare Landrigan & Tammy Mulligan
  • Pernille Ripp
  • Kim Strobel
  • Me, Ruth Ayres

Click here for the ISLA Conference website.

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