As I was reviewing our work from the 2014-15 school year, I was reminded of a quote from writer and producer Gary David Goldberg describing the benefits of partnership,
A good team, like a good show, comes into being when the separate individuals working together create, in essence, another separate higher entity - the team - which is better than any of those individuals can ever be on their own.
The strong team built by the work of the NC NTSP, beginning teachers, schools, and districts allowed us to produce results better than any of us could achieve on our own.
• Beginning teachers participating in the NC NTSP exhibited significant improvement in their instructional skills (Teachstone Classroom Assessment Scoring System, CLASS).
• NC NTSP teachers were significantly more likely to return to teaching in NC public schools, the same LEA, and the same high needs school.
• Teachers served by the NC NTSP were significantly more positive about the quality and efficacy of their instructional coaching and professional development, as compared to similar services provided by entities other than the NC NTSP.
As we plan for 2015-16, we welcome your ideas and suggestions to improve and sustain our work and remain committed to building on the success of our team.
All the best,
Tierney Fairchild is a NC New Teacher Support Program Instructional Coach with twenty-two years of teaching experience at the elementary, middle, and high school levels.
Most recently, Tierney was the Instructional Coach and Lead Mentor at Hickory Ridge Middle School where she led school and county professional development on differentiation, student engagement, incorporating literacy across all content areas, and the social and emotional needs of gifted students. She has twice been selected Teacher of the Year by her colleagues and received the Impact in Education Award for her work with beginning teachers.
Tierney earned her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Music Education from Western Carolina University and has a middle grades’ English Language Arts Certification.
She was a band director in Iredell-Statesville Schools, a seventh grade English Language Arts teacher in Cabarrus County, and the Multi-Tiered System of Support Coach at Carl A. Furr Elementary. She was team leader, professional learning community leader, and served as a liaison on the Superintendent’s Teacher Advisory Committee. She now proudly serves as an Instructional Coach for Western Carolina University in the western region.
The NC New Teacher Support Program welcomed many new experiences in the 2014-2015 school year. One such opportunity came in the form of a partnership with two charter schools: The Exploris School and The Expedition School.
The Exploris School is a K-8 charter school in Raleigh, NC. The Exploris School opened in 1997 and remained a 6-8 school until this year when they expanded their charter to serve K-5 students. As Exploris met the new challenges of managing two separate campuses and supporting beginning teachers at both locations, the NC New Teacher Support Program provided an external perspective about culture building and exploratory learning.
Jess Todd-Marrone, a first year teacher at the middle school, works in a co-teaching environment and enjoys that her coach helps her “navigate team dynamics” and serves as “an unbiased sounding board for instructional ideas and approaches.” The NC New Teacher Support Program and The Exploris School have continued their partnership into the 2015-2016 school year and look forward to learning more about induction support in the distinct environment of a charter school setting.
A little over 35 miles west, in Hillsborough, The Expedition School is another charter partnership. This charter school opened in 2015 and just completed its inaugural year of serving students. Kathy Fields, an NC NTSP Instructional Coach, describes that “watching students, parents, and teachers work together to create an environment that belongs to them” has been her biggest joy in her work with teachers and leaders this year. Likewise, as the school grows its own philosophy over the course of our continued collaboration, our partnership will help shape the educational experience of both students and the teachers that lead them.
While the work of the NC New Teacher Support Program is predicated on the understanding that all new teachers share certain experiences, we also recognize that the charter school environment provides some distinctions that make differentiating our services for new teachers in this setting a critical part of our service to them. A shared goal among our charter partners is the establishment of a support community for teachers in charter schools to address this need. Just as students in a classroom learn well from each other, new teachers learn from sharing their experiences in both formal and informal reflective conversations with their peers in similar settings.
As we wrap up this school year and plan for next year, coaches in Charlotte gave suggestions to coaches and teachers regarding the coach/teacher relationship!
1. What suggestions and ideas would you share with other coaches regarding building a successful coach/teacher relationship?
Just as teachers need to build relationships with their students by taking the time to get to know them, coaches need to follow similar steps to get to know their teachers and how we can best support them. It is a process. I have found that it is important to take the time to ask teachers what they need and what they feel comfortable with in their classroom. If they are unsure, observe their class and see what may help them. Send them resources. Bring them treats. Ask about important meeting or observations. Show them there is always someone there to support them! – Carrie Rocha
You have to really get to know the teachers. The relationships don't happen immediately. It might take a couple of conversations about their families or their path into teaching to get them to see that you really are interested in them as people and as teachers. Be authentic. Teachers, like students, can tell when you are being genuine, and they will open up and welcome your support once they see that you are sincere and consistent. –Sequoya Mungo
Relationships take time. Show them you care about them as people first, and then they'll consider what you have to say about teaching. Bring chocolate :) – Amy Fitchett
Respect privacy. As a coach, I make it clear to teachers and school leaders that my intent is to support teachers and to help them. It takes courage to allow someone into your classroom and see its inner workings, knowing that you will receive honest feedback about your professional performance.
Refrain from judgement. One of the biggest pitfalls in observing the work of others is to unfairly judge them because what they’re doing is not exactly what I would have done in the same situation. As coaches, we need to understand that teachers have the right to teach without fear of a coach saying that what they’re doing is wrong. – Levon Edwards
Trust is the foundation of a successful coach/teacher relationship and something that must be cultivated at the start of the school year. Both the coach and the teacher must feel comfortable discussing positives and negatives in an open and honest manner. Not only does the teacher have to be okay with exposing their vulnerabilities and areas of weakness to their coach without the threat of judgment or repercussions, but the coach must also count on the teacher to participate in the relationship and show a willingness to discuss constructive criticism for teacher and student growth. – Melissa Sykes
2. What advice would you give beginning teachers on making the most out of their partnership with their coach?
We are here to support teachers, whatever that looks like. I would advise teachers to use their coaches as much as possible. We can offer suggestions based on what we observe, but we are most useful when you tell us what it is you need from us. We really are a resource for you, so don't be afraid to come to us with any questions or concerns you might have. Our job is not to formally evaluate or constantly critique. Our job is to support and work with you so that you have a successful year. – Sequoya Mungo
Do not be afraid to ask the coach for help. The coach is there to help, so use that help. Coaching is a two-way street. –Levon Edwards
I would encourage teachers to be honest with their coach. We want to hear all of the wonderful things you are doing, but we also want to hear about the struggles in order to support you. Let us visit your challenging classes, talk through the crucial conversations, and bring some clarity to some of the questions you have. We are not there to judge you. We just want to help! –Carrie Rocha
When working with an instructional coach, teacher communication is key. In order for a teacher to truly benefit from a coaching partnership, active, on-going participation in the relationship must occur. Much like teachers, coaches wear many different hats and have multiple responsibilities. Many times a triage approach to teacher caseloads has the coach spending the most time with the teachers that verbalize that they need help or have questions. While a coach must always be accessible and willing to help, teachers must make an effort to include their coach as part of their professional development and reach out when obstacles arise. Without clear, two-way communication that recognizes the collaboration as a resource for support, a coach may inadvertently assume a teacher is doing well or does not want their help and may move on to those that are actively investing time to reflect on and discuss their professional practice. – Melissa Sykes
Coaches just want to help you be successful and happy as people and teachers. Let us know what's going on with you, and we'll support you any way we can. – Amy Fitchett
As a classroom teacher, many of my most powerful learning experiences stemmed from peer observations. As a result of these peer observations, I gathered new strategies for teaching and a myriad of innovative ways to handle classroom management. Those observations served as a wonderful learning tool that helped to shape me and grow as a teacher. As I gained experience, the observations continued; they were a part of my professional growth because they gave me an opportunity to reflect on my teaching experiences and collaborate with other professionals.
Now that I have become a coach, why should this style of learning stop? Dr. Ann Bullock, ECU Regional Director for NC NTSP, thinks that this learning experience can continue within the parameters of instructional coaching. Dr. Bullock encouraged our team to collaborate in pairs or whole groups to incorporate the cross-coaching experience to build individual knowledge and a collaborative regional team.
During the spring 2015 semester, my ECU team had several opportunities to incorporate the cross-coaching experience. These experiences were done in pairs of coaches and as a whole group. The purpose was two-fold: (1) to build our relationships among team members and (2) to develop new knowledge and reflect on ways we can help all of our beginning teachers. An example of a coaching pair using the cross-coaching experience happened in January, 2015. April Shackleford walked the halls of Warsaw Elementary School with Felita Gilliam. The event was dual-purposed: Felita was able to highlight some of the strategies that she had utilized with certain teachers, and April was able to share some insight into some issues that Felita was experiencing with a novice teacher. Both coaches reported that this experience was valuable and met their needs.
A second opportunity was in April, 2015 when the entire ECU coaching team found itself in the immaculate halls of Pactolus Elementary School. Anne Booth, NC NTSP coach, showcased Ms. Johnson, a third year teacher, who works with 1st graders. Ms. Johnson has been a part of NC NTSP since its inception in 2013. The team spent the better part of an hour in the classroom observing the class involved in its Daily Five routine. For one coach, observing the teacher smoothly facilitate the rounds of Daily Five activities helped her gather some insight into how she could help her teachers to better manage their Daily Five routine. This experience gave me some sound markers to look for when working with teachers regarding Daily Five. Team building continued over lunch.
As coaches, there is a sense of isolation in our jobs. The long, lonely drives and the days spent in different and varying classrooms can begin to take its toll on a coaching staff. To combat the feelings of isolation, the ECU region has launched cross-coaching experiences to bring back a sense of team for its coaches. By visiting each other’s coaching sites, we hope to continue to establish a sense of shared learning and common metrics we can use when working with beginning teachers in our schools.
Mary Jo Przybylowski is a third year teacher at Balfour Elementary School in Asheboro, NC. Mary Jo transitioned into elementary school after teaching ESL to adults for many years. She attributes her love for teaching to the joy she receives when watching her students’ brains working. “I love to see the light bulb go off, and their growth over the year.” She has a love for learning and instills its importance in her students. “I love to be with the kids and watch them develop into human beings.”
What keeps you going?
Them! They motivate me, they keep me going. I could not envision myself doing anything else.
What has been your most rewarding moment in the classroom?
I experience rewarding moments all the time. I would have to say the most rewarding moments are when a child who has struggled a lot with a concept shows real progress.
What would you say is your most valuable learning experience?
Too many to mention – working with children who bring new difficulty, yet finding ways and utilizing strategies to help them overcome obstacles. I have learned to embrace my failures and use them as learning experiences that help me become a better teacher.
Words on the New Teacher Support Program
I love the program! I have learned a lot of great strategies and exciting ways to present information. It is wonderful to have someone there to support and guide me, as well as give me pointers and criticism to make me better. The feedback is awesome! I love that it is instant, direct, always positive, and with suggestions. It makes me feel that I am not the worst teacher in the building. It is not like the normal school support; there is someone in your classroom with a different lens. With the coach not being a part of the school, she is not trying to gain anything. There is nothing political behind the visits; it is all genuine support. Had this program existed during my first year of teaching, I know that I would be farther along and more successful. This program makes me feel less alone; I know that I have someone to talk to who appreciates and understands my job.
What advice do you have for a new teacher?
Take a deep breath and recognize that you will make mistakes, but it’s okay. Listen to and take advice from other teachers who have been there. It is a hard job, but it’s also very rewarding! Remember that kids are the #1 reason you are here. You are not prepared for everything when you leave college, so take as much as you can from the environment. Every day is a new day and a new opportunity to learn. Ask as many question as you can; there are never too many, and you have to anticipate the questions. Infuse yourself into the school, participate and learn.
What is your favorite quote or motto?
“Mistakes are proof that you are trying”
“Every day is a new day, every day is a fresh start” (class motto)
The NC INSPIRE program is seeking up to 40 highly-qualified career professionals and college graduates to teach in the high-need subject areas of language arts, social studies, mathematics, science, and special education in high-need North Carolina schools.
NC INSPIRE Fellows receive tuition assistance of up to $4,200.00 per year to cover the cost of in-state tuition for their coursework. Fellows simultaneously meet teacher licensure requirements while earning a master’s degree through an online Master of Arts in Teaching program.
Throughout their fellowship, participants receive comprehensive support from the NC New Teacher Support Program (NC NTSP) designed to enhance their instructional practice, including (1) an intensive Institute “boot camp”; (2) direct, individualized classroom coaching; & (3) professional development sessions throughout the year.
For additional information or to apply for a fellowship, visit ncinspire.northcarolina.edu or contact Deborah Dickerson at the NC INSPIRE program at firstname.lastname@example.org or 919.843.7303.