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Content Coaching: Teacher Choice

Jun 24, 2019

Last week I introduced to you, at least on this blog but maybe not in general, the idea of content coaching and how it can truly change the game for teachers and have an immense impact on student learning.  The post started this series we're in, and you can read it by clicking on the image below.

This week, I want to focus on more details about content coaching, and how we can make it as impactful as we hope.  And, maybe, just maybe, have a greater impact on the systems of education and the impact we have as teachers.

Student Choice

Let's talk for a hot sec about student choice.  It's a thing.  It's a big thing.  And it should be incorporated into every classroom; at least every classroom that is student centered, values student buy-in, and fosters a collaborative atmosphere.

But what about teacher choice?  What impact does it have?  Is it something we should consider in our decision making at the school and district or even county level?

Teacher Choice

If we, teachers, are going to learn from a content coach about what it is we'll be teaching, then how about we get the choice to learn from who we want to learn from?

I'm hoping you're giving me the big head nod I'm feeling right now, because, YES!

We are professionals.  We have a craft, a career, an art of teaching that we want to continue to grow and nurture.  And we want to do that by following and learning from folks that we connect with... just like our students do.

Now, your students don't get to choose you, or anyone else who they learn from (to an extent).  But that's what makes us so great at what we do... we get to focus on making connections with kids so that students are more able to focus on their learning.

Now, I'm not saying we need some huge movement with a hashtag about how teachers should have a choice in all aspects of our career.  If it's publicized to that length, we're then saying we don't have a choice in our career, and that's just not the case.  There are ways we have a voice and a choice.  But that's also not why we entered this career field.  We knew some things would be out of our control...

For instance, having to teach an entirely new course that we've never taught and, although we're certified in it, haven't the foggiest idea of what to teach or how best to teach it.  And, now that we've been tasked with this new course, we have to climb the hill of not only teaching our class as usual (you know, the super significant tasks of building relationships with students and parents so we can teach this group of kids the best way possible), in addition, we now ALSO have the mountain to climb that is not only learning the content as we go but also preparing new materials, mostly from scratch, so that our students have something to look at other than ourselves and something to do other than just listen to us pretend we know what we're talking about.

Content Coaching for Teachers

In these cases - and might I say these are not rare, but we grin and bare it because it's the kids who matter - we need support.  Teachers need support that provides two things for them...

  1. A coach who can teach them about the content and build their confidence in the content so they can step into that role as the number one influence on student learning IN THIS COURSE without stumbling on their understanding, and
  2. Someone who's taught the course before that can provide quality - not randomly find-for-free on Pinterest - materials that are ready to print or assign and go in their classroom so that, again, they can focus on teaching kids, not creating everything from scratch.   And that someone should also be their coach.

A quick note about materials... and this is probably going to piss someone off, but here it goes.  When I say provide quality materials I don't mean from a textbook company. 

Screw that.  I mean tried-and-true, from the mind and hands of someone who has been in the trenches with students learning this stuff for the first time before, kind of materials.  Stuff that has been used and tweaked and improved upon by people, o I don't know, IN THE CLASSROOM.  Not someone in their cubicle creating lock-step pdf's that would go hand in hand with some textbook that's probably just collecting dust in the corner of the room.

Get with it.  Times are changing.  So should our materials and who we value in both creating content and making decisions in the education world.  Let it be teachers.  

And while I'm on this run of pissing people off, those materials, they shouldn't be free.  Those materials are made by teachers.  They shouldn't be free.  They were made by professionals.  They shouldn't be free.  

Yes, I know they'll be used in a classroom that will NEVER have a budget of its own and that the teacher him/herself will likely buy those resources.  But it doesn't have to be that way.  Sure, your school may have budget issues, and you'll have to buy your resources for now.  But stick with me while I explain two things...

  1. Time is money.  I am willing to pay $4.99 for someone at Kroger to shop for, bag, and load into my car my groceries because that would take me two hours to do myself, probably more when I have my three boys with me.  My time is worth more than $2.98 an hour... I'll pay that everyday of the week.

    Think of how much time it will take you to create resources for your course that you've never taught.  If you find something that is a bundle for the entire course that is even as much as $199, do the math.  You probably would spend about 10 hours per week creating never-before-used-or-tested material, just hoping that it's effective.  In a 36 week course (that's 9 week quarters, 4 quarters) you'll spend about 360 hours creating stuff.  Even if you spend half that time, 180 hours, having spent $199, that's 90 cents an hour. 

    Darn right my time is worth that. PURCHASE NOW!  And darn right the teacher who made that resource is worth that money (of course, doing your research and making sure that's actually the case... not all materials are created equal).

  2. Put your money where your mouth is.  If you aren't (or if your school or department isn't) spending their money (that they're going to spend anyway, have you) on teacher-built resources, they are going to spend them on textbook company-built products.  Sure, those textbooks are written by teachers, mostly, kind of, maybe.  But those same companies are ones that are making money off of the fact that our students have to take graduation-required tests built by them.

    If someone is going to make money off of my students' learning, let it be people who have taught them.

Lastly, ask.  So many teachers assume their school isn't going to buy them anything.  Ask anyway.  The status quo of teachers paying for everything they use and all their decor and materials of their classroom is never going to change if we don't start asking it to be paid for.

So who is a Content Coach?

That's just it... you should get to decide.  Find someone who has taught the new course you're taking on this year for a while (I'm talking 5+ years), and someone who has taught it in a way that you would like to emulate in your classroom.

I would also encourage that you find someone who has the time to dedicate, and this is where things get tricky.  If a teacher in your building is your mentor or coach, and they have 3 to 5 preps that they teach just like you do, they are not going to have the time to think about how to best speak value into your teaching life and classroom.  They may be superhuman and still be able to do it, but it will be a rare occurrence at best.

So how do I find a Content Coach?

I would love to help you find one.  If the new course you're teaching is AP Psychology, then I would LOVE to be your content coach.  Send me an email, that's [email protected] and I would love to chat.

But if AP Psychology is not your new course, which in most cases it won't be, I still want to help you.  Complete this form to tell me a little about your teacher-life details, and in what subject(s) you would be looking for a coach. If it's more than one (bless your heart), complete it more than once.

And make sure you don't miss next week's post where I share some stories about how I stepped into the role of content coaching, and hear from folks that I have content coached about their experiences and impacts on the classroom.

Until next time,

P.S. Be sure you don't miss next week's post by subscribing to my email list where I bother you very infrequently and mostly just to tell you about new posts :)



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