For years our professional literature has documented the challenges of rural American schools with frequent comparisons to urban American schools. For the most part, I get the picture from the lenses of researchers. Not until our Firm, Atlantic Research Partners, began providing technical assistance did I truly internalize the immense challenges:
1. harder to recruit teachers–especially teachers who have choices about where to live and work.
2. more likely to be located in very high-poverty areas
3. harder to compete for parents’ and families’ time to participate in school-related activities
4. more sparse connectivity for rich technology based learning
5. the list goes on…
One school district we had been proud to parter with for 3 years is the Hampton 2 district in rural SC. They are infusing hope into their communities and moving the needle on student achievement. By their own admission and that of superintendent Deonia Simmons, they have a long way to go, but they are making solid progress.
Check out this video of some of the educators in Hampton 2.
P.S. For information about Power of Teaching, our Firm does not distribute that work any longer. It is managed through the Professional Development team at NWEA. www.nwea.org
As a followup to my post of January 25, 2012–and what teachers want from their coaches–here is more of what the research revealed to us on teachers’ #1 need–TRUST.
TRUST – “As a teacher I have to be able to trust that your intentions are authentic and your confidentiality and sensitivity are also genuine.” –
Respondents identified trust as the most critical component of any instructional coaching relationship. In response to more probing questions on this issue conducted with focus groups, teachers spoke of trust in terms of confidentiality of work observed, reliability of holding next-step conversations and follow-up on promises to return to classrooms to support teaching and learning.
Thirty nine percent (39%) of teacher respondents rated trust highest in what they required from a coach. Fifteen percent (15%) rated trust as second most important. In the forced ranking (highest to lowest) scale, and open-ended and spoken responses, fifty four percent (54%) of the responding-teachers related trust in terms of confidentiality of work observed, reliability of holding next-step conversations and follow-up on promises to return to classrooms to support teaching and learning as their highest priority as very high in importance. These results ere even stronger among focus group participants who responded than among survey participants. We learned from the responses read and heard that “opening up the door to trust comes with detailed qualities ranging from listening to my needs without judgment, being approachable to discuss my failures with honesty and sharing…success and shortcomings [as] a classroom teacher.” This response received strong support by a majority of members in each focus group conducted.
As a point of clarity for out research team one interview highlighted these results in a real-life example. While conducting components of this research in one school, an instructional coach was observed conducting a formal observation. When queried about this practice, the principal indicated she used the coach in several capacities, the first being an instructional coach, the second being an evaluator of poor instruction. The latter use of the coach was then leveraged to help counsel or due-process ineffective teachers out of the profession. While ineffective teachers must either step-up their craft or move out, this practice impaired the coach’s effectiveness by using the coach also as an evaluator helped to create distrust with the teacher staff members. Trust. Once lost or abused trust is almost impossible to regain.