Why Does Teacher Coaching Matter? Part 1: The Learning Curve

My first job was in a corn field. (Yep, you read that right.) corn

My official title was “de-tassler,” and it took at least two weeks for me to become proficient at the task of walking through miles-long rows of corn, plucking the tassels from the top of an ear of corn, and throwing the tassel on the ground. Seriously, that was the entire job, but as a 14 year old with no previous hard labor experience, I struuuuuggled to meet company standards. My sub-par de-tasseling led to some annoyance on the part of my supervisor at having to wait for me as I lagged behind my colleagues, but not enough to warrant additional coaching or practice, which would have required him to put down his phone.

Fast-forward to September 2010, to my first interaction with an angry parent as an elementary Spanish teacher. She was rightfully upset that her children were not speaking any Spanish at home, even though they had been in my class for a month. As a brand new teacher, I was more focused on managing behavior in my classroom than I was on instruction. Teacher coaching could have helped me do both faster, which could have gotten my students speaking Spanish sooner and more fluently.

None of us are 100% proficient in our jobs on our first day. The learning curve for new teachers is just as high as the learning curve for other professions, but the need for a teacher to progress quickly toward proficiency is especially urgent when you consider the impact teachers have on student learning. Teacher coaching matters for exactly this reason.

In addition to helping teachers improve their instruction, teacher coaching can also be a powerful retention tool for school leaders. Regular, frequent interactions can help reduce feelings of isolation for new teachers, and drive proficient teachers toward new challenges to prevent feelings of plateau. Done well, teacher coaching can strengthen a school’s sense of community, and ground the faculty in the institution’s common goals.

We want to hear from you. Share the benefits you or your school have received from teacher coaching in the comments below. And, for those non-teachers, do you receive professional coaching? If so, how has it benefited your work?

Libby Fischer is CEO of Whetstone Education