Saying What I Mean and Meaning What I Say
What do you do when your principal comes to you and says, “We’re in need of a full-time teacher for 2nd grade yesterday?” If you are Brian Duggan of Congress Heights, in Washington DC, your response is simple. I’ll do it!
Brian began developing his skills as a No-Nonsense Nurturer® (NNN) in August 2015 when he accepted the position as a Real-Time Teacher Coach (RTTC). Now, when confronted with a challenge that some may have shied away from, Brian responded, “I am the Literacy Instructional Coach who, for the last three months, has been working really hard telling teachers the best practices to employ in their classrooms. Now, I will have an opportunity to truly model the action steps I’ve asked my colleagues to not only try but also master.”
I sat down with Brian for a more in-depth look at what he accomplished in those 2 months in the classroom and the impact on his leadership role now that he has returned to full-time coaching. Here’s what I learned.
What were the top two benefits of assuming the 2nd grade teaching position?
1. Relationships – This year is my first year at Congress Heights and I didn’t know any of the teachers, students or families. I was able to fully immerse myself in getting to know my families and learning about the community deeply and not merely superficially. Thinking ‘things don’t work here’ when they actually can is not mere rhetoric anymore. I now have personal examples to share with my colleagues that truly resonate with them.
2. Teacher Investment – Assuming full teacher responsibilities helped me develop “street cred” with the staff. I was able to practice what I preached and that resonated with teachers. Their willingness to be coached increased dramatically. I repeatedly invited teachers to come visit my class. I can show you how to give precise directions, narrate around students to bring them back on task and how to set up a think-pair-share to get all students engaged and thinking.
As a RTTC, you are continuously building your skill set of unpacking disempowering mindsets. How has this experience helped you lead successful conversations?
Brian: My relationships with teachers are so much stronger now. When mindsets arise like, ‘our kids can’t do this’, or ‘these kids can’t do that’, I can now give them successful strategies from my personal lived experience. It’s real! It’s authentic!
We often hear the saying, “walk the talk!” Listening to the many benefits from Brian’s experience this school year, I’m wondering how other leaders are engaging in these “in the trenches” type of experiences. Perhaps, teaching a class a topic that you are passionate about for a week or meeting with a class for a project-based learning activity until the product is developed are some ways you can build stronger relationships and teacher investment.
If you have other ideas, I’d love to hear how they have impacted your leadership and ultimately student achievement!
By Eyka Stephens, Ed.D.