The start of this school year brings a lot of excitement for me. As articulated in PSD’s new vision statement, through exploration, creativity and imagination we created a Learning Coach Program designed to help all learners reach their dreams.
Our journey last year exemplifies the spirit of our vision. Together, with a group of dedicated and passionate educators, we spent the 2011-2012 school year exploring, learning and growing our understanding of inclusive education and gaining skills that would support our work as potential learning coaches. As a result of the year’s learning we created a district wide Learning Coach Program and our school division was able to find the resources to support it for the next three years. This is the first year of implementation.
Currently, we have 16 learning coaches each of whom have a minimum 0.5 FTE assigned to them as a learning coach. It was important to us that our learning coaches have this minimum FTE so they have the time necessary to work with teachers without wearing too many other hats. Five of our coaches have full time positions as learning coaches and many of those support two or more smaller schools. As we collect evidence of the success of our Learning Coach Program, it will be interesting to hear about the challenges and successes of both being a full time and half time learning coach.
The ultimate focus is student learning, for ALL students. Our learning coaches are in schools to facilitate job-embedded and ongoing professional development for teachers. The learning coach will work with individual teachers and/or groups of teachers. The coach can:
- support collaborative work
- model lessons
- observe students and provide feedback
- facilitate lesson study or other professional learning structures
- promote reflection
- support joint problem-resolving efforts
- assist in planning – curriculum, environment, supports (technology, human, and others)
- team teach
- facilitate data conversations
- supply resources with follow-up reflection
- promote continuous learning experiences.
All teachers will work with the coach but how they work with the coach is flexible. The teacher is in the driver’s seat; he/she will determine what kind of supports they need and how they will work with the coach. The coach will use inclusion, assessment and critical thinking as a lens through which they have conversations with their colleagues.
Learning Services facilitators and I are the “Coaches of Coaches”, our job, along with Principals, is to support the learning coaches in this journey. We will continue to provide professional learning opportunities to increase learning coaches’ knowledge and skills and facilitate reflection, networking and decision making amongst the group.
I can’t wait to hear the many successes that I know we will have this year with our Learning Coach Program. As a learning organization we will learn, reflect and continuously work to refine the program. Together we will support our division’s new mission where our purpose is to prepare, engage and inspire our students to be their best in a quickly changing global community!
Leah Andrews, Director, Learning Services