Coaches for Preschool Teachers???

The field of Early Childhood Education in the state of Nevada has gone through some significant changes in the last ten years. Governor Sandoval created the Office of Early Learning and Development (OELD) in 2014 in order to improve access and quality of early childhood programs. The OELD created the Nevada Silver State Stars QRIS in order to address the quality aspect of early learning centers. “Quality” is assessed using the Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale (ECERS) and programs are rated on a 5-star scale, much like hotels.  So far, this is an entirely voluntary program for privately owned centers, but there are incentives in place in order to entice owners and directors to participate. These include grant funds, professional development, and the prestige associated with being a 5-Star center. Programs that do not participate, are automatically given a 1-Star rating. Any program who receives state dollars are required to participate. This program has created a need for coaching teachers, directors, and owners on the importance of developmentally appropriate practices and environments for early learners.

Role of Coaches in Early Childhood Education

Coaching is used to acknowledge and improve existing knowledge and practices, develop new skills, and to promote continuous self-assessment and learning. The ultimate goal is to get the coachee to a place where they have the competence and confidence to engage in self-reflection, self-reflection, and be able to generalize their new skills and strategies to other situations as appropriate. Your job as a coach is to acknowledge and improve their existing skills and practices, help them develop new skills, and lead them on a path to continual development.

Many people thinking of sports when the word “coaching” is mentioned. However, in this type of coaching the focus is related to the learners goals, rather than on what the coach wants you to do. If you, as a coach, were to walk into a classroom, observe the teacher as if she is “trying out” and then work on the skills that you found to be lacking, you would not have any success coaching that teacher. Coaching should be a collaborative effort and be based on the goals of the teacher, not the goals of the coach.

Process of Coaching

The coaching cycle can look very different from one teacher to the next depending on their skill level. However, the process of coaching does not change. The process involves helping the teacher become aware of and analyze their current knowledge and performance. This can be accomplished informally through conversations and observations, or more formally with classroom assessment tools such as ECERS. The process also involves helping the teacher to develop alternative strategies and skills and making a plan for improving knowledge and performance. You will also be helping the teacher conduct a self-evaluation of their own knowledge with your feedback until they have reached competency and beyond.

5 Key Characteristics

There are 5 key characteristics of coaching I want to briefly introduce at this time. We will go more in depth later, but I wanted you to have an idea of what we will be talking about these next few weeks. The first is joint planning, or collaboration. The key to success will be on your ability to build a positive relationship with your teacher or coachee and work with them through the process. The second is observation. This step can be difficult for some coaches because we are often taking on coaching responsibilities in addition to our current responsibilities. I want to stress that you cannot skip this step. Find the time, and be present in the moment when you are conducting observations. The third key is action. Action involves either spontaneous or planned opportunities that provides the teacher to practice the new skill. Next comes reflection. Reflection can be a difficult skill for teachers and it will be up to you to guide them through the process of self-reflection. Feedback is the final characteristic we will discuss. Feedback can be a delicate conversation and takes some skill to be effective.

I look forward to our conversation on coaching and leading early childhood educators to create a high quality learning environment for our youngest students!

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