Coach out of Water? The Feeling of Inadequacy of Coaching and Not Having a Classroom

As an EdTech Coach, I have a unique role within the school. Especially at the beginning of the year as we roll out devices and ensure that all students are set and ready to go. One colleague this week summed my role up as the “catch all of all things tech.” While my job is specifically focused on aiding teachers in the classroom, often times I offer the assistance of what I am comfortable fixing or have the rights to change. Not to mention the magic aura of walking in a room to have everything that wasn’t working moments before starting to work. While I enjoy helping teachers with the catch-all, my real role is to assist in education and pedagogy. I love that part. I fear that I am viewed as a technology guy and not a pedagogical guy.

Fish in Fish Bowl
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A little background. I am the first EdTech coach in my building. The concept of an EdTech Coach was new to the district when I was hired. Previously, the only coaches in the district tended to be the ones in the athletic realm. I started in July of 2016 in this role, coming into a new district and a new state. Many of my colleagues do not know my past history in education or my success in the classroom. This is both a blessing and a curse. I came in as an outsider and an unknown. No one knew my past failures or successes. This makes me feel like a coach, or fish, out of water.

I feel like I have demonstrated my pedagogical and technological chops repeatedly in the last 16 months. I shared with the staff some of my stories, strategies, and activities that have worked. I have shared philosophies, explanations, and reasoning behind many classroom decisions, but I worry about the inadequacy of my words in the minds of my colleagues. While I was in the classroom, I taught social studies and math. Both classes depended on a fantastic relationship between myself and my students. In fact, we had a very collegial relationship where behavior issues did not really occur, other than the mandated dress code from the school. That is an entirely different story. In social studies, we tended to stay within project-based learning for the majority of the content, setting the projects up so that the students would need to learn the information to be successful. In math, I tried to individualize the instruction as much as I could to ensure that I was working to fill in the gaps as much as possible. I flipped a ton of my math class to offer strategies for solving the different problems that we had to complete as I worked to erase years of missing math skills in preparation for the upcoming state test. I even taught a highly structured, design-thinking engineering class for a while. While I know my success stories, many of my colleagues do not.

This is likely an internal struggle only. I may be misrepresenting what my colleagues see, but I do know that I feel inadequate and like a fish out of water at times. What validity do my words have when working with students? I came from a more urban school setting and am currently in a more rural setting. Are the students vastly different? I feel like the suggestions and ideas that I have are not too radical from what is already happening, but do take a change in approach. I understand the difficulty in change as it is not easy for many, but if it makes our jobs more fun, teaching more meaningful, and students more engaged, I feel like it is worth it. The problem comes in making sure that I am feeling validated and believed. This is my struggle that I must overcome.

3 responses to “Coach out of Water? The Feeling of Inadequacy of Coaching and Not Having a Classroom”

  1. Sounds very similar to some things I’ve encountered. In my first year as a full-time coach, I went the opposite direction… I was used to rural settings and went to a large district as a coach three days a week. The other two days were in a more rural district. Such different dynamics.

    This year, I’m in the rural district more, and everything goes back to relationships. Conversations I’ve had with teachers that had nothing to do with technology or education have resulted in later opportunities to work with those teachers on school-related projects. Consequently, I have learned the importance of uncovering what the teachers’ goals are for their classroom practice.

    One of the most important things I’m learning about being an ed tech coach is how little the part of understanding technology and education matters without a sound foundation of trust.

    • Yeah. I have been working on building the trust with my staff. We had a significant change in my main building over the last year, starting from principal down to teachers. Many teachers are now teaching multiple preps, and the time to be willing to try something new is just not there. It is a constant uphill battle to get things done, and with the new programs being implemented and new technologies piloted, it gets harder to push for meaningful change when it comes to using the technology in our classrooms.

  2. Daniel, halfway into my 3rd year as a technology coach, I completely agree with your sentiments about validating what I do and finding the time to meet with staff. Time is my greatest challenge; however, in echoing what Micheal said – the relationships developed with my staff are fundamental to many of the initiatives in process. I love the opportunities to plan units with staff, as well as being asked to explain technology to their students, (which results in the trainer the teacher by the end of the day). In order to provide more supports and information to the staff, I plan to write a monthly newsletter with tech showcase examples, student discoveries and other tech tidbits. The newsletter will be posted on the district ed tech website for staff to access 24/7 and we plan to use Instagram to share information. All of these efforts with the optimistic goal of new thinking and tech integration. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and know they are shared here too.

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