Holding Up the Mirror with Frederick

I was a coach before I was a teacher. Literally, I volunteered as a football coach right after I graduated from high school. I played three years of high school and four years of college football, and I had position coaches, defensive coordinators, and head coaches all involved in my development as a player. Some of my coaches were good, some weren’t, but I was reliant on them in a way which is hard to explain. Today’s episode is about growing veteran teachers, but we are going to invest most of our time and attention into examining the coaching relationship rather than the technical aspects of coaching. Why? Why talk about the relationship instead of the actual nuts and bolts of working with veteran teachers? I think you already know the answer…
Celebrations: New beginnings upon new beginnings
Let me begin by clarifying some terms and connecting some dots:
·      Your two primary responsibilities:
o   Keeping people safe
o   Support and grow your teachers
·      Support and growth
·      The flywheel (e.g. coaching cycle)
·      The conundrum: how do we choose the first PD? This is the essential question, especially for veteran teachers.
·      Back to coaching:
o   As an athlete, 
§  I was dependent on my coaches
§  I assumed they knew more than I did
§  I was highly motivated to get better
§  The power differential was huge
o   As a teacher
§  The dependency was different
§  I was not convinced my principal knew more than I did
·      Especially in PE
·      Perception v. reality
·      What I wanted my classroom to be like
§  I was still highly motivated to get better, but…
·      I was not as dependent on my principal as I was on my coach
·      Asking my coach for extra reps was a plus, asking my admin for extra attention could be perceived as a negative
§  The power differential was not as big – I could keep playing without his approval
My own story:
·      My progression as a teacher (PE, SPED, SS => NBCT)
o   Unique challenges
o   I was reflective
o   I had blind spots
·      The “official” rubric and the process
·      My two real struggles
o   Boys
o   SPED
Lessons from my own experience:
·      When we are competent, we can lose sight of how complex our craft is
·      We may or may not recognize our own pain points
·      We know what we want, even if what we want may not be the most important thing
·      In all likelihood, there are many elements of our teaching that we know better than someone who is trying to help us
How do we grow veteran teachers?
·      Put them in the lead
·      Help them clarify their desires, needs, and goals
o   Example: Spending way to much time prepping lessons and taking care of a sick parent
·      Help them define what success looks like
o   Example: Still have good lessons, but am able to focus on my mom instead of thinking about school
·      Help them identify resources and map a plan (e.g. Teaching Middle School ELA and EB academics)
·      Be the accountability partner, help gather the data, and then hold up the mirror that helps them to assess how they’ve done and what comes next
·      In short – become a servant
A couple cautionary thoughts:
·      Trauma
·      Growth is a process, not an event. A single “I wonder” statement is not helpful if it isn’t a part of a larger process.
·      Focus on entering the process based on your capacity. It is better to engage in the process with fidelity with three people and ignore the rest than to do one-offs or be haphazard with 20. Know your capacity and choose appropriately. (see episode 8 Who Should I coach?) – link in show notes.
·      To care is to help people grow in the direction they want to grow, and to grow veteran teachers, you need to care.
·      You don’t know as much as you think you do. We all have biases and gaps which make our ability to determine the “one best thing” a teacher needs to work on an impossible task.
The Big Idea
Hold up the mirror for the veteran teacher. Get to know them, to understand them – their aspirations, triumphs, burdens, and fears. Help them clarify their own needs – the things that will allow them to gain more joy from teaching. Help them develop a plan for growth. Help them collect and analyze the data around their implementation of new strategies. Hold up the mirror, with caring and a servant’s heart. And if you can’t do that, don’t try and grow your veteran teachers.
Show Outro
So how do we put this into action? I encourage you to:
·      Check in with your veteran teachers this week and ask them three questions:
o   What is your teaching super-power?
o   What’s the biggest difference between who you are now as a teacher, and who you were when you began?
o   If you could get students to do one thing differently, what would it be?
·      Don’t respond to the answers, just listen and think. 
·      Do this for a week, and next Tuesday I’ll offer some additional steps to build on what you find out.
I look forward to seeing you again on Friday when we recap this week’s daily emails, which were all about the same theme underlying today’s episode – relationships! It was a fun week of emails, so I hope you will tune in.
Thank you for including me on your leadership journey. If you’d like to walk more with me, I have a couple simple ways to do so:
1.     Invest no money but a little time and download our free checklist on building your support network. That checklist is hanging around for three more days and then it is gone. If you don’t have a great support network, begin building a better one today by getting the checklist. Each day you’ll also receive some detailed advice about developing your network. If you go to my website at fb.com, you’ll be met with a pop-up window – plug in your email and you’ll get a link to the checklist. 
2.     You can also choose to become a supporting member of our community by contributing $9 a month. You’ll get early and unfettered access to our free courses, a discussion area, a library of past content, and the occasional webinar. You will also be helping me to continue investing both time and money in producing this podcast, writing the daily email, and producing free content.
3.     Finally, you can become a full member of our APEx community and join me for monthly group coaching and lots of other perks.
You can get the details and links for all of these on my website at fb.com
Please remember to subscribe and rate this podcast. Rating the show helps others find it, and if you want to be a superfan, consider leaving a review. We are at 17 ratings and four reviews. This is a good start, but increasing those numbers makes it much easier for other assistant principals to find the show. 
I’m Frederick Buskey and thank you again for joining me on this episode of the Assistant Principal Podcast. Cheers!
Episode 8, Who Should I Coach?: https://theassistantprincipal.transistor.fm/8
Frederick’s Links:
Holding Up the Mirror with Frederick
Broadcast by