(Note: This is the first of a series of posts by Dr. Harrison McCoy, an experienced educator, but new coach. During his first year in his new role, we’ll hear from Dr. McCoy periodically regarding his journey from teacher to coach).
After almost 20 years of teaching students in the classroom, I have accepted a position as an instructional content coach for one of Texas’ 20 regional education service centers. With a shortened summer vacation under my belt, in a week or so, I will be starting a new phase of my career as an educator.
So, this week I got a notification today on my cell phone that my school district-provided email address had been locked, and I would no longer have access to its contents. That was the first “official” sign that I was no longer employed as a teacher. Don’t get me wrong, I was expecting the notification, but still, when I saw it in black and white, it gave me a moment of pause.
“Oh my God, have I made the right decision?”
The short answer to that question is a resounding “yes”. I am thoroughly comfortable with the decision that I have made, but that does not mean that I am not very aware of the magnitude of the transition that I am beginning.
Coaching, while not a new concept, is emerging as an important part of the vocabulary in many schools and districts across the country. For the past few years, I have noticed a growing number of coaches in the edtech field of education. Instructional coaches are being used at the campus level, at the district level, and even at regional/state levels. Many educators are also becoming self-employed as coaches.
Let me be clear about this, however. While I have had the opportunity to lead a lot of professional development over the past three years, I do not have a lot of experience as a coach. My new employers are taking as big a chance on me as I am on them. This will be a period of massive new growth for me. I have mentored a few teachers through the years as a part of informal programs designed to help new faculty members get oriented to their role on my campus, but that is not coaching. I was hired, I think, because I bring broad experience as a classroom teacher and administrator, good communication skills, and the temperament for helping others define and meet their goals for professional success.
So, how am I preparing for my first weeks on the job?
I’m a Googler, so I have been spending a lot of time searching for a reading what some of the best instructional coaches have to offer. Two names keep coming up, so I am reading a lot of Jim Knight and Elena Aguilar. That’s also how I discovered Eric Sandberg and this blog. I have been adapting and expanding my professional learning network through previous and new contacts on Twitter. I have a cobbled together a Twitter list with 75 or so names of coaches from around the globe on it. I have also accepted an offer to facilitate a Twitter chat about the role of instructional coaching.
What are the concerns that I have as I look forward to new beginnings?
- How will I know if I am successful? I was asked that question during the interview process, and I remember giving what felt like a good answer. It will be interesting to see how this develops. One thing is certain: I am seeing the development of a new standard of personal success for my work as an educator.
- How will I respond when I meet my first “uncoachable” teacher? What will happen when the irresistible force of my eternal optimism meets the presumably immovable object?
There are three things that I am trying to keep in mind as I prepare to begin my new career as a coach, and they come in part from a blog post by Elena Aguilar.
- Listen, Listen, Listen. Not only do I have a lot to learn about the role of a coach, I expect to learn from the educators that I will be privileged to coach. It’s a partnership and a team, and we will grow together.
- Adults are different than children and teens. Fortunately, I enjoy professional development and working with adults as much as I ever enjoyed working with students. No problem here.
- There is no coasting going on here. I am not changing my career to wind my way toward retirement in an easier role. The energy is positive and the pace is fast.
Fortunately, I am being placed on a coaching team with a wide varied levels of experience among its members. There is much to learn, but I will be well-coached as I begin my own new journey.
About our Guest Author: Dr. Harrison McCoy brings nearly 20 years of classroom and administrative experience to his new position at Texas’ Education Service Center Region 11 in Fort Worth, where he is a new Instructional Content Coach. In that role, he supports teachers and administrators in their campus improvement strategies in the service center’s more than 75 school district region. Professionally, he enjoys connecting with educators at a global level, blogging and creating amazing learning experiences for teachers and students.