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Coaching Teachers to Believe Again…….In Themselves

Updated: Jun 22, 2023

Traditionally, as a math coach, I have focused upon best content practices in the classroom. Since the pandemic, my mind has shifted to something else….Faith. I am not speaking of religious faith, rather faith in oneself. A teacher of any content area would have reflection time built into their day. However, the teachers that I have been working with, don’t seem to give themselves a break. Let me share a few key observations.

First, we know that the student learning behavior has changed since the pandemic. Math teachers used to accept the challenge of a new crew of students with a positive problem-solving mindset. Now, I fear, they do not possess the belief that they can affect any change for students. The resignation to this idea that “pandemic students” are irreparable is disturbing. Therefore, as part of coaching, I feel we must harken back to challenging times, 911 for one, and realize that we always had the passion to reach students. Moreover, we have the ability and skill to reach them now.

Second, the challenges of teaching remotely overwhelmed teachers. The toolbox that they created over years of classroom experience was not as applicable. In recent visits, it is amazing to me that teachers almost completely discarded their tools after returning to in-person instruction. Fortunately, as a longtime educator, I know what tools and strategies I have seen used effectively by many teachers. In the coaching role, I simply had to remind teachers that they do have the knowledge. We dusted off the vernacular and suddenly, the light brightened in their eyes. So many teachers would say, “I used to be so good at that!” Indeed, you ARE still!!!! Again, it is about belief in oneself.

Lastly, collaboration between teachers and between teachers and administrators has taken a turn. Teachers always shared materials, experiences, and frustrations. Administrators were great listeners and motivators. The new landscape in this area is also a wonderment. As a coach this year, I found that teachers were less able to share. A fear of being under par, in my opinion, paralyzed great math teachers. They were highly aware that administration was present and became silent. In some cases, they didn’t even see themselves as partners anymore because of “what was done to them” during the pandemic. Therefore, I think that a frank discussion of collaborative culture is paramount. We must celebrate the successes we made, together, in the past and recreate those moments.

In conclusion, I want to reference a great article by, Susan D. Sparks . I have so many friends who are working hard every day in the classroom. I know that what Sarah Sparks says is true. Therefore, I encourage any math coach to think about how they can acknowledge how the teachers feel and build them up. It isn’t all about the content anymore.

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