Because educational coaching is a relatively new concept, the role for coaches is not as clearly defined as it could be, according to Lorri Sapp, coach for middle school math in the Independence School District. That's why training programs like "Coaching for Excellence" are beneficial.
"This training has just been exceptional," she said. "It has provided me with specific tools and protocols to use to work with teachers to meet their needs."
For example, being "observed" while teaching can be stressful, but before Sapp conducts classroom observations, she meets with the teachers and allows them to choose the type of data that they would like to have collected (such as student interaction or engagement, etc.). When she provides the teacher with the results, she engages him/her in a conversation about the results and encourages the teacher to ask questions, both of her and of themselves.
"Most often teachers come up with solutions on their own based on the results," Sapp said. "But I am there to guide them through the process."
"This training has just been exceptional. It has provided me with specific tools and protocols to use to work with teachers to meet their needs."
– Lorri Sapp, teaching learning coach Independence School District
Another valuable technique that Sapp and her team of coaches learned through the series is the process of observing each other. The idea is to help the coaches themselves improve their work through observational feedback. However, the process also puts teachers at ease.
"I always tell the teachers, 'while I am here talking to you and watching you, this other person is watching me,'" she explained.
Evaluations from educators like Sapp who have been attending "Coaching for Excellence" have been overwhelmingly positive. Participants noted that the information they have received has been excellent, helpful, and applicable. Many were thankful for the new ideas provided, and the way the series met each coach on his or her own level (both new and seasoned coaches).
Content-focused coaching for teachers may be new, but it's long overdue according to Sapp. All professionals need coaching at some time or another to continue to improve their game. Even pro golfer Tiger Woods has a coach. This anecdote is one that Sapp has repeated to numerous teachers in the her district
"Teaching involves different methods and much of it is dependent upon the subject being taught and the classroom of students," Sapp said. "But all teachers want to be better and by working with a coach, it raises their levels of awareness and allows them to process a little bit more of what they are doing."