4 Ways to Do More than Just Tech Support as a Coach
Posted by Delrose Adkinson on December 7, 2021 at 7:30 PM
Ever feel like your role with teachers involves only being asked to put out fires? Delrose Adkinson, instructional technology coach in Newport News, Virginia, shares four steps that will help you set boundaries and establish your coaching identity with your staff.
ew instructional technology coaches (ITCs) often lean on their expertise with instructional technology tools, troubleshooting, resolving technology issues, and offering suggestions. While all of these have a place in the ITC toolbox, overusing these strategies can mean teachers start to define the novice ITC as the "fix-it" tech support.
This then adds to the challenge of new coaches establishing themselves as people who promote purposeful instructional technology integration that facilitates meaningful learning. How can new technology coaches address a tech issue like, "I uploaded a video, but it doesn't play for my students!" and simultaneously turn this into an opportunity to build a coaching relationship?
I'm currently serving at my third school in four years, and I've developed an approach that has helped me establish my coaching identity quickly with building leaders and teachers. Follow the steps below to do the same!
1) Know who you are and the kind of coach you want to be
It's challenging to communicate your identity to others without clearly understanding who you are and who you want to be. Take the time to identify your core values that are the foundation of your vision and mission as a coach.
Create a poster to remind yourself
Create a textual or graphical representation of your core values, vision, and missions statements; post it in a prominent place in your workspace or use it as your screensaver.
These steps transformed my core values, vision, and mission statements from an "activity I did at a coaching PD" to essential touchstones that motivate purposeful, intentional thoughts, decisions, and actions that contribute to becoming the coach I strive to be.
Bonus: Here's the poster in my office that keeps me grounded!
Work on your elevator pitch
An elevator pitch gives you the ability to confidently and succinctly answer the question, "What do you do?" I use an elevator pitch to communicate the most important aspects of my job. Believe me, the elevator pitch is something you want to create, but don’t just take my word for it—even Jim Knight has one! Here's mine:
As an ITC, I create empowering relationships with stakeholders to cultivate their use of technology to foster student achievement. This partnership builds teachers' collaboration with students and facilitates meaningful, technology-enhanced learning experiences that advance student success.
2) Establish credibility
Be honest, humble, consistent, and reliable. Respect teachers' time. Keep your appointments and provide ample notice of a schedule change. Appropriately participate in department, and content/grade level meetings and PLCs. Be part of the community!
I go to games, ring dances, proms, participate in and help organize various events. Whenever leadership asks for teacher volunteers, I volunteer. Walk the building, chat with teachers during their planning periods. Teachers must see coaches as part of the school community, which builds credibility and camaraderie.
3) Be patient
Successful coaching relationships are built on empathy and trust, and building these relationships takes time. Avoid the pitfall of devaluing the time you spend on intangible relationship-building work. If you're looking for tips on how to do so, check out Elena Aguilar's article on building trusting relationships.
Be mindful too that it's impossible to facilitate a coaching cycle with every teacher in your building in a single school year. Start with the lowest hanging fruit and build your caseload through word-of-mouth promotion. You also need to make time to engage in learning activities that develop your own coaching skills when you’re starting out.
Depending on your context, it might be okay to start by troubleshooting instruction technology issues; just don't stay there! Respond to teachers' requests for troubleshooting assistance with an authentic desire to help, but view these interactions as an opportunity to market your primary services.
Whenever teachers reach out for "fix it" help, I leverage the goodwill I create to pitch my coaching services. I start with this question, "If you could change one thing about your 'teacher life,' what would it be?" Through questioning carefully and actively listening, I then preview how their time with me could have immediate results. I'll then conclude our interaction with, "I'm glad we were able to resolve the video upload issue! I’d love to collaborate with you to plan and facilitate a technology-enhanced blended learning experience for your students. Could we schedule some time now?"
After securing the teacher's partnership, create a personal plan for every interaction, and identify your goal for the experience. Remember, the teacher agreed to a lesson planning session, not a coaching cycle!
This first session is your opportunity to create a positive, motivating experience for the teacher that you can leverage later on to engage them in a coaching cycle. During the planning session, engage your questioning and active listening skills to affirm the teacher as an equal partner and resist the urge to present as the "expert." I like to review Jim Knight's partnership principles before every new interaction as a reminder.
When transitioning into coaching, it's important to be clear about your role not only to yourself but also to those you work with. Building relationships that transition into meaningful coaching interactions takes time, and is always worth the effort.
About our Guest Blogger
Delrose Adkinson is a National Board Certified teacher and an instructional technology coach, at Newport News Public Schools in Newport News, Virginia.
Delrose's coaching philosophy centers educators as the drivers of their professional growth. She believes that while technology can help teachers facilitate empowering learning experiences for students, accomplished instructional practices powered by positive, productive relationships are at the heart of student success.
She earned a Bachelor's degree in Business Management and Marketing from Binghamton University, a Masters in Instructional Technology from Virginia Polytechnic University, and an educational leadership endorsement from Longwood University. She serves on the Board of Directors for the Southeastern Virginia National Board Certified Teachers (SEVA NBCT).
Connect with Delrose on Twitter @adkinson_nbct!