I feel like I've been talking a big game about content coaching lately, so I want to back up all that talk with real evidence; real stories from real teachers. First, I want to remind you that I am a teacher. I am not an instructional coach, or even a content coach – at least not in the way that a school district has named me as such. I do have a master’s degree that would qualify me for those titles, but my experience in the classroom has been what’s drawn teachers to me for support and guidance, not a title.
As I’ve been teaching and flipping AP Psychology for almost ten years, many fellow AP Psych teachers have reached out and sought advice or sent their appreciation for the videos and various resources I’ve built specific to the course.
This past school year, I was able to branch out a bit from my normal in-the-classroom teaching gig and work one-on-one with a few teachers who were newer to the subject of AP Psychology. To be completely honest, I thought these people were nuts for wanting help from me. Granted, I knew I could give some advice, but the fact that they were willing to pay me to guide and coach them along in the course was so foreign to me.
And then we worked together on a weekly or bi-weekly schedule, and it changed my view completely. And helped me realize my new passion in education, but that’s another story for another day.
I have been blessed to teach in a school that has a student population that is big enough to require multiple teachers of almost every subject, including non-mandatory classes like AP Psychology. I’ve always been on a team with at least one other teacher, collaborating on plans, assessments, projects, and even learning the content together. I’ve learned recently, that my situation is rare, and that it’s more common to teach “on an island,” as they say, with no collaborative team and no one who knows the content.
In this post I want to give you a glimpse into the relationship of a teacher and content coach, what it looked like, how it functioned, etc., but from the perspective of the teacher, not the coach.
Check it out.
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My first client I’d like to introduce you to is Tim. He taught AP Psychology, along with other psychology classes, for the first time this past school year. He first reached out to me after finding my flipped video lectures on YouTube asking for a bit more coaching and support. We decided that meeting once per unit would allow enough time to dive into the content, particularly common sticky areas for students, as well as discuss activities and demonstrations to help drive home those concepts for students.
Have I mentioned yet that ALL of our meetings have been via a Google Hangout or Zoom call? We met in the evenings after my kiddos were in bed, which allowed me some quiet time to actually have a conversation in the evening.
Let’s take a side bar and just reflect on this idea real quick… how much would your school year or even your career change if you were able to get some professional development after the kids went down to bed, from your couch, and didn’t have to worry about making sub plans or missing class time and getting further behind in the curriculum? How supported would you feel having some personalized professional development, when you could tend to it, that was made for YOU? Not made for all teachers and then you have to figure out how it’s going to work for you – NO! How to hit the ground running. How to implement and go.
… Just sayin’. Ok, back to Tim’s testimonial.
“When researching AP Psychology courses this past summer, I came across Mandy Rice’s videos for flipping AP Psychology. I found the material that she presents as very accessible to both me and my students.
Having Mandy as a mentor has helped me and my students immensely. Without any colleagues in my building who teach psychology, it is awesome to be able to meet with Mandy every couple of weeks. Whether it be going over psychology topics, talking about preparing for the AP exam, or discussing ways to best teach students, Mandy has been an invaluable resource, guide, and psych Sherpa.
Mandy’s coaching has really helped me, and my students better understand AP Psychology and how to prepare for the AP Psychology exam. Using her flipped videos for homework and her activities for in-class reinforcement of concepts has been invaluable. It’s great to be able to refer to conversations I have had with Mrs. Rice when my students and I are preparing for unit tests in class. My students and I feel more comfortable with the content of AP Psychology knowing that Mrs. Rice and I are a team both teaching the same content separated only by distance.
I greatly appreciate that Mandy decided to mentor/coach me through this year. I don’t think my students and I would feel very comfortable about the upcoming exam if we didn’t have Mrs. Rice to help us navigate these waters that are new to me. Her excitement about her students, her knowledge of psychology and the AP exam, and her zeal for using teaching methods that really work and are research backed helps to bring the world of psychology come alive.”
In just a few meetings, I could see Tim’s confidence grow. I don’t share these testimonials to say, “Look at me and how awesome I am,” but rather to show you the transformation from feeling remote and alone, to feeling supported and confident in their own ability to deliver their content.
The next client I’d like you to meet is Courtney. Courtney was in her second year of teaching, and second year of teaching AP Psychology. She was fully capable of learning the content and delivering it to her students but knew that doing it with the guidance of someone who’s taught the course would increase her impact now, rather than years down the road. She was looking for a mentor, and I was so happy to fill that role for her when we met weekly the second half of the school year.
“I am a second-year teacher and a second year AP Psychology teacher. My first year was rough. I was a brand new teacher right out of college and was hired at my dream school. In college, I taught in World History or American History classrooms and took history courses. I took a handful of Psychology classes but was not a master in any way. Not to mention the entire Psychology department would consist of me. I went to an AP seminar prior to the beginning of the school year. It was a wonderful experience but I didn’t know the material well enough to fully grasp everything I was being told. My first year I spent all of my time creating all of my materials while learning the material. It was not an easy task. My second year I felt more confident with classroom management and preparing for the school year, however, I still struggled with some of the confusing concepts that AP Psychology discusses. I would find myself not knowing all of the answers and second guessing myself. That is when I requested help from Mandy! Mandy and I chat once a week to discuss what I am doing in my classroom. She gives me great advice on how I should pace my course and will review the units with me before I teach them. I became extremely confident with my content and am no longer worried when students ask questions. Mandy has given me awesome materials that my students have loved and have made my teaching life a lot easier! She was one of the greatest investments I made in my teaching career!"
~ Courtney Stallman
I’m so proud of both of these teachers and know they are going to be doing great things in the classroom for years to come. Although I hope I was helpful, it really was their work and their commitment to growing as a professional that allowed them, and I know their students, to be successful in the early years of teaching AP Psychology.
I share these testimonials to show you the power of a teacher being supported enough to confidently step into their role as the number one influence on student learning, and to show you that their choice of who coached them allowed them to find that success as well.
There are teachers teaching AP Psychology for the first time every year. They are given the course because it’s new to the school or the other teacher retired. We can’t avoid being given a new content, but we can support teachers when that inevitability happens.
Are you new to AP Psychology this year? Or maybe it’s your second year teaching the course and you’re more prepared but still not as confident with the content as you’d like to be. Would having the support of someone who’s been in the field of teaching AP Psychology as your mentor and coach allow you to have more impact this year rather than in a few years when you finally have learned all the content well enough to be confident in it?
Cue the head nod.
Maybe you’re not sure about this whole content coaching thing just yet, or don’t know if your district would be on board with paying for you to have a coach, but I want to help you NOW. That’s why I’ve made a workbook to help you get your AP Psychology course off the ground and running for the first day of school. I’ve crafted this workbook with first-year-of-teaching me in mind in hopes that it helps you lay out the details of your course and how to invest your energy and time in the right ways for the biggest impact. Even someone who has taught the course a few years would benefit from some pointers in the workbook, so I encourage you to go here and get it.
Not to mention, there’s going to be steps in this workbook that you aren’t going to find from any Facebook group. Well, you may find some of these pointers there, but only after scrolling for what feels like hours and sifting through the multitude of posts and comments in hopes of finding something great for the basics and basis of building your course.
Stay tuned for an announcement soon about an AP Psych-specific professional development opportunity where in a live, one-hour workshop I’ll give you some high impact strategies and resources to help you make your first years of teaching AP Psychology more like your sixth or tenth year teaching it.
Until next time,