Coaching Approaches for Teacher Stages

As a coach, you may find yourself coaching a group of teachers who are all in different stages of teaching development. It is important to approach each teacher as an individual and specific to the stage they are in. In the book “Coaching with ECERS” by Holly Seplocha, an explanation of the 4 commonly accepted stages to teacher development: survival; consolidation; renewal; and maturity. I will outline each below along with some helpful coaching tips based on each individual stage.

Survival

Teachers in the survival stage are generally new to the profession and have 0 to 2 years experience. They do not have many goals outside of getting through the day without someone getting hurt or lost. Their primary concerns are classroom management and discipline. They oftentimes have many students who are exhibiting challenging behaviors. Because they are in a flight or fight mode, strategies are often dismissed because they “won’t work with these specific children”. Teachers in this stage typically revert to a teacher-directed style of teaching. This style of teaching is inappropriate for preschool aged children and will only compound the challenges.

To coach teachers in the survival stage, efforts need to be very focused and specific. Choose areas for improvement that will make the biggest impact on reducing safety hazards, reducing chaos, and room arrangements should be a priority. Teachers in this stage may need to be given materials and resources, and well as modeling rather than a lengthy explanation about the benefits to children. It is important to give them multiple suggestions and options in regards to their concerns.

Consolidation

Teachers in the consolidation stage are generally in their 2nd – 4th year of teaching. They have passed the survival stage and have gained a little bit of confidence in their teaching skills. They have found strategies that work and strategies that do not work and are able to focus on the needs of individual children and instruction. Teachers in this stage have a better handle on completing lesson plans and general classroom management. They may still struggle with individual children who pose challenges to their general classroom management techniques. These students might be an English language learner, a child with a disability, a child who is particularly disruptive, or a child who does not seem to be progressing at the same rate as their peers.

Coaching teachers in the consolidation phase includes discussions about what works and why, providing resources to address specific concerns, directing them to professional development resources, and connecting them with other teachers in this stage to encourage networking.

Renewal

Teachers in the renewal stage are generally in their fourth year of teaching. Teachers in this stage are usually confident in their teaching practices and are interested in new ideas, strategies, and perfecting current practices. They are looking for new and exciting ways to improve their teaching strategies and are often self-motivated. Teachers in this stage ask many questions of their coach as well as other teachers in an effort to collaborate and gain new insights.

Coaching teachers in the renewal stage includes providing them with opportunities for growth. This can mean connecting them to Master teachers, directing them to professional development opportunities, and/or connecting them with outside agencies in order to build a broader understanding of the field of early childhood education. Teachers in this stage benefit from receiving opportunities to share with other teachers. More specific feedback and guidance on individual ECERS indicators is appropriate for teachers in this stage.

Maturity

Teachers in the maturity stage have generally been teaching more than 5 years. They are still interested in purpose, research, philosophy, and reflection, but may have become complacent or picked up some bad habits along the way. Teachers in this stage are sometimes reluctant to try new ideas and strategies based on the philosophy that what they have done in the past has worked (regardless of appropriateness).

Coaching teachers in this stage is most effective when conversations are centered around the benefits to the students. They will also want to know why specific changes are needed or required. Teachers in this stage benefit from sharing their expertise with others. Creating opportunities for these teachers to mentor other teachers and assistants is an effective coaching strategy for the maturity stage.

I hope you found this article helpful. Comment with your experiences with teachers or with any questions you might have.

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