Elena Aguilar is one of the best authors in the education business. I love her fresh take on coaching AND we recently bonded over what kinds of healthy foods we pack in our suitcases as PD road warriors. Elena has me topped with her travel water filter and chicken/quinoa/veggie mixtures. In short, I adore her personally and professionally, and it is always fun to compare our East and West Coast sensibilities.
As I get some summer trainings ready for teacher-leaders, coaches and the like, I re-read Elena’s first book and reached out for an interview. Elena’s publisher (full disclosure: we share an amazing publisher and editor) generously donated two copies of her current book to Together Group readers. I promise I will try to do a giveaway of her new book once it is released in a few short weeks!
Read on to learn how to snag one for yourself!
Maia: Many people in schools don’t just coach. They may coach and teach students, or coach and deliver whole group PD. How have you seen people effectively manage their time as coaches?
Elena: Coaches do well with their time by getting sharp clarity on their own priorities and goals, as well as those of their school. When a school or district has a clearly defined vision and mission, then the actions of all those employed can help support these ends. Everyone’s work is aligned to something bigger, and the work can be prioritized accordingly.
A coach is a specialist in adult learning. He or she might deliver whole group PD or work in a differentiated way with individuals. This is a deep and wide field of knowledge, and differs in some key ways from working with kids–which is why I’m not a big fan of having coaches who deliver PD, work with teachers 1-1, and also teach. I think that as we all learn more about coaching and what it takes to be effective, we’ll get clearer on which systems do and do not support coaches. Otherwise, it’s impossible! There’s just so much to do.
Maia: You mention work plans in Chapter 7. How can a coach make time to write a work plan? Should she do it with someone she coaches? How long should it take?
Elena: A work plan is like a unit plan for teachers–and I know we wouldn’t dare teach without a unit plan, right? So a coach must find time to write a work plan, even if it means taking a few days off from coaching. She needs to advocate for that planning time.
Create a work plan for each teacher (or coachee) that you’ll work with. Some elements of it are collaborative. For example, the goals need to be co-constructed. Adults don’t engage in learning that we don’t have a say in. We need to be part of determining the direction of our learning.
Writing a work plan might take between 2-4 hours. It gets easier with time and experience, but for me, it’s a critical step in ensuring that my coaching will be intentional and strategic. I’m a little obsessed with being strategic because our time is limited; we’ve only got a set amount of hours with the kids who walk into our buildings every day.
Once you get into the coaching together, having a work plan in place will help you save time in the long run.
Maia: On page 89, you discuss keeping commitments to your coaches. You also mention that coaches often have lots of resources or articles to share. How would you advise a coach to keep those tools organized?
Elena: My ideal is when schools or districts have ways of organizing resources (such as a Google Drive) and then the coach can add to those. This way it feels more collaborative, like everyone is contributing to resources and not just the coach. The coach needs to be careful not to become seen as the one and only expert with resources. Setting up a place where everyone can share and compile tools can help change this dynamic.
PS: Elena’s next book is called The Art of Coaching Teams: Building Resilient Communities that Transform Schools. It’s “on the shelves” on February 29, 2016, and is available for pre-order now on Amazon.
In the meantime, here’s how to enter our contest to win your own copy of The Art of Coaching!
To Enter: In the comments section below, please share 2-3 sentences about how you stay together as a coach or how you run a Together Team. When you comment, please be sure to include your first name & last initial, and the email address where we can reach you if you win using our random number generator.
Contest fine print:
- Entries must be received by Friday, February 12th, at midnight EST to be considered.
- US shipping addresses only.
- If a winner does not respond within 48 hours of receipt of a notification, a new winner will be chosen.
The contest has ended. Thanks to everyone for sharing!