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Connect Families with Coaching

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Written by: Caroline Rossing, Robyn Morris, Cheri Sylla, and Sara Nerenhausen (WSPEI Coaches) 
Aligned to coaching components: 1.a, 5a, 6b, 6c

The Wisconsin Statewide Parent-Educator Initiative (WSPEI) is a service for families, educators, and others interested in parent-educator partnerships for children with disabilities.

WSPEI is all about partnerships. Its goal is to help parents and school districts find or create the resources that will help them build positive working relationships that lead to shared decision making and children's learning. It supports increased sharing of information among parents, schools, projects, organizations and agencies through networking meetings, conferences, person-to-person contact, and media.

Coaching is a natural fit with this mission as it builds the capacity of WSPEI Coordinators to partner more effectively with colleagues, school staff and families. Coaching provides the tools needed to be confident in helping facilitate problem solving, while guiding a team towards their goals and moving dialogue forward. Coaching creates opportunities to develop a trusting, safe environment to engage in deeper conversations, leading to a more effective problem solving process. The framework of coaching allows for building and strengthening positive, productive, and trusting relationships.

Building an Intentional Coaching Structure

The intent of the WSPEI coaching structure is to build the capacity of all coordinators that work within the project. WSPEI has a core team of four coaches that work directly with the Statewide Coaching Coordinator. These core team members take what they learn and when conducting one-on-one coaching sessions with other WSPEI Coordinators in order to build the capacity of all. The core team of four has also been able to have deeper discussions about how effectively this structure is working and problem solve using coaching techniques learned.

One of the biggest takeaways from the learning has been that coaching is much more than meets the eye. WSPEI coordinators have learned how much of an impact coaching has on individuals, both personally and professionally. Coaching has taught them to be more mindful in all of their interactions. Being more patient, thoughtful, and curious allows them and others to achieve greater results. It has led each of them to new insights of awareness that has positively impacted their role as coaches and influenced their personal lives as well. They have developed stronger, more effective communication skills that can be used throughout their daily lives.

Putting Coaching into Action

The WSPEI coaching group has seen numerous successes when engaging with other WSPEI colleagues. While partnering to support a district team, two of the coordinators were able to observe and support each other’s coaching skills and then strategically plan together to help the team effectively move forward. When the team encountered difficult challenges, the coordinators were able to collaborate and identify opportunities for coaching that helped the team continue to grow and make progress.

This co-coaching method provides WSPEI with the skills to partner with other colleagues in a coordinated effort to support districts in continuous improvement planning. It enables consultants to assist schools in creating constructive and effective plans that bring the family and community engagement lens to the forefront of our conversations.

The WSPEI coaches continue to benefit from DPI guidance. They build their coaching knowledge base by exploring and practicing a variety of coaching stems. They increase their understanding of why and when one might use specific coaching moves, thus helping them become more comfortable and confident at probing deeper in order to realize the issue at hand. This, along with the Coaching Competency Practice Profile, has provided the WSPEI staff as a whole the structure for moving forward as they each develop their own skills and art for coaching.

Learn more about WSPEI services by visiting their website.