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Learnings of a Teacher Coach

Binsy Eapen

Associate, Teacher Development, Centres of Excellence, Delhi

I joined the Simple Education Foundation after my Teach for India Fellowship, and I was excited to start my new job as a teacher development coach. My perception of this role was very different. I imagined taking workshops in a conference room with 12–15 teachers, discussing culture, safety, and classroom practices. However, my days looked a little different. I was appointed to two MCD (Municipal Corporation of Delhi) schools, and it was communicated that I was a Teacher Development Associate here to support the educators. But, when I stepped into the schools, I sensed discomfort and skepticism amongst the teachers. As with many new relationships or partnerships, this made it difficult to break the ice. I felt scared, hopeless, and underprepared to support the primary school teachers and students and questioned my ability to be a coach.

The Role of a Teacher Coach is not Limited to Teaching 

I soon realized that I was not fully exposed to the reality of MCD schools in Delhi, and more so, I failed to acknowledge that the teachers I was going to coach had more than 20 years of experience in teaching. What could I have done better with just two years of experience as compared to our teachers’ decades of experience?” Understanding this reality helped me shred a layer of arrogance. 

Just because my job title says I am a Teacher coach doesn’t mean I know everything about teaching, but it does mean I should know everything about the teacher and the school.

Need for Personalised Coaching

Once my understanding of my role evolved, my initial focus was understanding the school culture, its values, and where the teachers are struggling. Our teachers’ passion and efforts in teaching our students amazed me. The culture of both schools was very different. The school leadership in both schools had distinct priorities. In one school, the focus of the school leader was school infrastructure development; in the other, it was more student-centric, because of which, the availability and priorities of the teachers in both schools were contrasting. In one school, I saw teachers focusing on academics; in the other, the teacher's administrative work outside classrooms was given equal priority. So, my methods of designing coaching spaces with them also differed.

Co-Teaching as an Effective Coaching Tool

As a team, we decided that coaching would only work if we were inside the classroom. So, we decided that we would attempt co-teaching in our schools. While it was a new concept, co-teaching allowed me to spend more time with the teachers and understand their realities and classroom needs.  

For instance, I learned that our teachers had a sufficient set of lesson plans and resources shared with them by various Government programs; they needed support in contextualizing them for their classrooms, which have children with diverse learning levels and needs.

Importance of Resilience and Relationships 

As I gained more experience and understood our teachers’ roles and lives better, I realized I needed to show ownership and resilience to work in alignment with teachers. Sometimes, we may not co-teach or not have a conversation in school, but consistently showing up was essential. My relationships with teachers improved drastically when they saw me being a part of the school community and not a guest. Being vulnerable emerged as one of the keys to strengthening my relationships. On tough days or when things did not go according to plan, I openly shared my concerns and struggles with teachers. This opened a trusting channel of dialogue between us and led to positive shifts in the coaching experiences.

Reflection as a Tool for Celebration and Learning

I realized that reflection & self-awareness are underrated in our society.  We don’t give enough time to our teachers to celebrate what is working or what could be improved. With our support, teachers began reflecting on their and students’ actions. It felt empowering to create such spaces for teachers where we talked about our lessons and the growth made by students in depth. I learned so many things from my teachers. Each teacher had a unique way of teaching a topic, which made me wonder how beautiful the school culture would be if teachers shared their practices with other teachers. So much learning and collaboration! Hopefully, we will get there soon.

Being a Coach Makes you a Teacher and  a Learner 

I always wanted to be a teacher, but only a few institutions in India provide quality teacher training. But being a coach has made me a learner again. As I supported teachers, I learned and executed some tremendous pedagogical practices. In our team meetings, we had deep conversations about different teaching strategies. And I always felt energized in our discussions. Those discussions with the practical experience helped me understand the role of a teacher more than any course I could have done. By becoming a teacher coach, I also became a better teacher. Confidence comes with practice, and the same rule applies to teaching. The more I was inside the classroom, the more confident I got in presenting my ideas to the teachers.

So, for me, being a great teacher coach means being a great teacher! This is a learning for me, and I strive to be a better teacher every day.

Looking back to the last year, I am proud of my teachers’ accomplishments. All the teachers I worked with have created positive shifts inside their classrooms. Recently, SCERT uploaded videos of different active learning strategies from our schools and used them for MCD teacher training.

Here are some links to that:

Quick Exit Check —

Frayer’s Model —

Rotational Learning Station —

Jigsaw —

I am grateful for the support of my team and organization leadership for creating a culture where I could be myself, make mistakes, and learn from them. When I experience that, it’s easier for me to create the same culture for my teachers. I am excited about the future and look forward to strengthening more teachers in India.

Binsy is a Teacher Development Associate at Simple Education Foundation.

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