Written by Joseph Kanke, Statewide Coaching Coordinator
Sometimes coaching can be a lonely business. Many coaches I talk to across the state are in singular positions within their buildings, and sometimes may be the only coach in the district. Even in districts with multiple coaches, schedules often don’t align for a team meetings. We know that learning is at its best when done collaboratively, hence the rise of teacher teams and PLCs. Since these spaces don’t readily exist for coaches to network, what opportunities are there to make meaningful connections with colleagues.
District Coach PLC
If you are fortunate enough to be in a district with multiple coaches and don’t yet have regular scheduled collaborative time, advocate for it. Reach out to the other coaches, communicate your desire to be a learning community and develop a plan to talk with administration. Use resources and research available to you to speak to the importance of developing a coaching system with set structures. Work together to carve out time for reflection and feedback with your coaching teammates. Set up a schedule to observe your peers (with client permission) and offer feedback. Remember that coaches need coaches too. You may have to get creative, but look for ways to build a network from within.
CESA Based Coaching Networks
In Wisconsin, many of the CESAs offer coaching networks spread throughout the year. While each network operates in their unique fashion, they all provide opportunities to dig into the latest research, strategies and resources in the coaching field. They also provide the space and time for coaches to practice, get peer feedback and dialogue around all things coaching.
A typical coaching network session would provide some time for learning connected to the skills outlined in the Coaching Competency Practice Profile (CCPP) with an opportunity to apply the learning. Agendas are often flexible and built with input from attendees. Attendance is often a mix of new and experienced coaches as well as leaders looking to sharpen their coaching skills.
I reached out to a few coaches who attend their CESA Networks for their perspective. Beth Burger, who coaches in Mondovi stated, “Our coaching network has provided a support network. Without it, I would be on an island as the only coach in our building. With it, I don't feel alone in this work.” In a similar vein Kimberly Aumann, a coach in the CESA 10 region, reflected, “This job can seem very daunting at times. There is a lot on our plates as coaches and many times other jobs get added that are not coaching related. Having a network of coaches who are going through the same thing has provided insight that has been very beneficial.” Several other coaches noted how they have grown in their own profession based on connecting with others. Amanda Hill-Hable from Chippewa Falls noted that she is “able to connect with coaches from different teaching backgrounds. Their varying inputs have helped me develop my coaching competencies and become more well-rounded with my approach to coaching.”
Under the new restrictions of the pandemic, each CESA has made their own decisions on how to handle networks this year with some offering hybrid virtual/face-to-face, others fully virtual and some have chosen to pause this year. Reach out to your local CESA and see what options are available for this year and beyond.
If there are barriers to your ability to attend a coaching network face-to-face within the state, that does not exclude you from connecting with others in your field. Educational coaches have taken to twitter as a preferred platform to learn and engage in discourse. This global network is replete with opportunities to engage with peers, ask questions and even participate in live chats.
If you are new to the twitterverse, a great place to start is by searching hashtags. My two favorites are #educoach and #instructional coach. By following these tags, your feed will populate with the most relevant, trending and up-to-date coaching information. A blog posted by Brad Favely explains #educoach, “The #educoach channel is for instructional coaches of all content areas and focuses on improving education. Every Wednesday at 6pm central time they hold a live chat on a specific topic. This is the largest coaching channel for coaches globally to share ideas, questions, articles, successes, and trainings with their peers. It's also a great one to start following on Wednesdays to learn how hashtag conversations work.” Read the blog post, Further Your Instructional Coaching Practice on Twitter to gain more insight on how to access coaching peers around the world.
While twitter has taken center-stage for the go to social media, there is a growing presence of coaches on other platforms as well. Elean Aguilar has an active Facebook account under the name of The Art of Coaching. Steve Barkley hosts a regular podcast called, Steve Ponders Out Loud. And, of course, many coaches have blogs, including Diane Sweeney. Think of some of your favorite coaches and search their online presence as a starting point to make other connections.
Finding your community is important. We grow in our reflective practice when we take time to dialogue and seek feedback. Fostering your network will open new doors to professional learning and support, look to see what is available to you and make some connections.