Friday, June 26, 2015

The most bittersweet of announcements

Well, friends, I did something today I couldn't have imagined myself doing just a month ago.  I interviewed for a new job.  This school year things were rough and many of my teammates left for a variety of reasons.  I seized on the opportunity to apply for a math teacher specialist position in my county knowing that it would be easier on me emotionally to change schools when so many of my friends were doing the same thing. There were positions at both high schools in the county and the middle school I don't currently work at.

My interview was scheduled at 11:30.  I was a bundle of nerves waiting around all morning for 11:30.  I live about 0.2 mile from the board of ed, so I didn't even really have to factor in drive time!  I arrived about 15 minutes early (just in case?) and was taken back to do my writing prompt right away.  Martha explained, "They just want to see that you can communicate."  My thought: They hired me 7 years ago so I certainly hope I can communicate!  With that completed, I went back to the waiting room for a few minutes.  The receptionist, bless her, was making small talk with her the whole time.  Totally took my mind off the waiting factor.  :)

The math supervisor came out to get me for the interview.  I had 6 interviewers- the supervisor, 3 principals, an incoming AP and an outgoing AP.   They had just 5 questions for me pertaining to how I plan a lesson, how I would plan PD, and how I would use assessment data.  I did that thing where I talked entirely too fast and left out 3/4 of what I had rehearsed in my brain.  Ugh. 

They asked me for questions and I tried to nail down what expectations each building principal had for me.  Essentially, they all want an instructional coach who is in classrooms daily, observing lessons, modeling good teaching, and working with teachers to improve their practices.  Yes!  That's exactly what I want to do. The most interesting follow up question was about how I would build rapport with the teachers. (This will be a key hurdle; many of the teachers I'll be working with are well past 20 years of teaching.  Their own children are around my age.)

My supervisor walked me out of the interview room.  "You did a good job," she said.  "I'll be calling you at the beginning of next week.  Congratulations."  My immediate thought was that she probably should not be congratulating me yet!  The interview panel still had to decide.  

I left the interview at 12:15.  I came home, called my parents briefly to give them the run down, and headed out to the grocery store for a few items.  At 1:40 while I was unpacking the groceries, the phone started ringing.  The head of HR was on the phone to offer me the job at the high school that my school feeds into.  It was such a whirlwind; I had only left the interview room about 90 minutes earlier!  I accepted. 

I've learned so much and made wonderful friendships with my colleagues at LMS.  I'm honestly sad to leave them.  However, given all of the changes that have happened at LMS over the past year, I felt like I was in a place where I could make the transition to a new position.  I am excited for the new opportunity but sad to leave behind good friends and the stability of actually teaching the same courses again for the 3rd year in a row!  I cannot wait to implement positive changes to help my former students while they are high school students. 

So, MTBoS, I need your help.  Could you please answer these questions?
1. If you are a teacher, what support would you welcome from an instructional coach?
2. How would you suggest a teacher specialist make inroads with teachers who are not eager to try new instructional practices or to share what they are doing?

Mathematically yours,
Miss B


  1. Congratulations! I know you'll be terrific. To answer #1: I would like help on turning a few lessons into more discovery based and how I can make classroom thinking more visible. #2 Will take time. It took our new reading specialist 2 years to develop trust and build relationships. If you don't know these teachers well, sit in the faculty lounge during lunch. Slowly begin to ask them what their strengths are or describe that one lesson where they got the best results. Any way to focus on the learning and not on the individual is a good thing. I'll be interested in reading other bits of advice. Good luck!

  2. Congratulations! I just found you through Pinterest (the inequality foldable) which I was looking at while I am working on my Masters to become a math specialist. I hope that you will continue to blog through your transition since you have now been added to my feedly.

  3. CONGRATS LADY! I'm so jealous. I love the sound of your new job but I am the only math teacher teacher in a one school district so my chances of anything like that are slim.

    #1 I had an instructional coach for three years during a grant and what helped me the most was her continual support and answers to mathematical questions I could not answer, her ability to calm me down when I was in a panic, and how she always shifted my perspective. That may not be helpful for veteran teachers! To be more practical, she helped me turn lessons into opportunities for students to figure stuff out vs me telling them stuff, she shared with me her best lessons, resources, and workbooks, and she always asked me "Was it better than before?" which really helped me continue to try new things and take risks.

    #2 I would definitely eat lunch with them on a daily basis and get to know them on a personal level first. In meetings that you have to lead, bring candy to scatter on the tables. In one-to-one meetings, bring them a bottled water. In observations, be very factual and objective "At 9:25, 12 students were writing and 3 students were talking to each other." Let the teachers give meaning and reflect on what you've observed without you making any judgments. Ask more questions than make statements. Start the year by asking them to share their favorite lessons and strategies. Then ask them to try each other's strategies. Next introduce a brand new strategy and ask if anyone would be willing to try it out and report back. Try to develop the mentality of action research with the group so no one feels like they are being singled out, criticized, or attacked. Focus on growth and of course, start and end your interactions with compliments.

    Good luck!

  4. I was in your place last year, coming out of the class and taking on an instructional coach role. I made many mistakes this past year and look forward to doing a much better job. Here's what I'm telling myself for next year.
    1) Support I'd welcome from an instructional coach is for the coach to come in and listen.
    2) I'd make in roads with teachers by literally bringing in food. Ask if there's any teacher interested in you simply opening their classroom to you. Be an observer, not an evaluator.

    The best advice I read as an instructional coach is to be a "thinking partner" by Jim Knight. This is so true.

    Lastly, be patient, take baby steps, listen, be patient, and embrace small successes when they eventually come, which might not be for awhile...say Spring Break. Effective coaching can take about three year to produce. Hit me up on Twitter with any questions @mr_stadel or my blog:

  5. Everything Andrew said. Last year was my first year coming out of a classroom and taking on a math teacher specialist position. To make it even more challenging, I was hired in a new district where I never worked.
    1) Listen and when you talk, repeat what I said so I know you heard me and not what you wanted to hear. Come into my classroom and see what I do (and do not).
    2) I don't bring food or drinks to my teachers. I don't find it sustainable. I leave thank you notes for every teacher pointing out at least one awesome thing I saw in their classroom and email their admin about that awesome thing I saw (and cc'ed the teacher). I also tell teachers when I come in, I'm here to help - I can teach, I can make photocopies, I can let you go to the bathroom, tell me how you need me. My teachers tell me the best thing I have done all year is to be available in their rooms, listen to them and willing to help.

    Like Andrew has said - be patient, take baby steps, listen, celebrate every success no matter how small it maybe, be patient - sometimes you can't see the progress you have made or the successes you have had until spring.

  6. Kathryn,

    I'll be starting the same coaching journey with you this year! My plan is to ask what teachers would like their room to look/sound/be like, what obstacles they are facing in having things this way and then problem solving with them to remove those obstacles. The most beneficial thing coaches have given me is non judgmental listening and the feeling that I am never a burden to them; they truly valued the time and conversations with me. I would love too continue to read your blog in this new adventure. Best of luck!