How do counselors with minimal teaching experience successfully and effectively execute a hands on, engaging lesson – that feels nothing like school?
The Summer Learning Collaborative tackles this challenge with an innovative position on an unprecedented scale: the instructional coach.
This summer, with the support of funding from Laffey Mchugh and United Way, sixteen SummerCollab Instructional Coaches spent their summer working with counselors across seven community based agencies.
On a typical day, IC’s spend their time observing counselors, providing feedback on the execution of the lessons, and developing comprehensive plans for improvement. They act as a catalyst for growth of both the counselor’s skills and the camp’s moral.
Meet Kaitlyn: during the school year, she’s a Third Grade Special Ed teacher at East Side Charter, but in the summer months she utilizes her teaching abilities as the IC at the Latin American Community Center. “At the beginning of the summer, TC’s were uncertain in their ability to execute curriculum. Now it is week 5, and it’s been incredible to see how the they have improved. I see the TCs taking ownership of the curriculum and confidently making it their own.”
Holding counselors accountable, not under an authority figure but from someone who works on the same team, has created amazing results. Throughout the summer, IC’s and TC’s develop strong relationships with one another. The TC’s feel free to share their feelings and concerns, and the IC’s work countless hours to help them improve. Across the board, counselors who originally had their “pants on fire,” are gaining new skills. They have became more comfortable talking in front of the class and managing behavior issues.
“I saw my TC’s confidence grow leaps and bounds from week 1 to week 5,” says Laura, the Instructional Coach from Shortlidge Academy, “The TC I worked with fully bought into the SLC curriculum. Recently, she developed a background lesson to prepare kids for a lesson on perimeter and area, and after she taught it, she came back saying ‘that felt so awesome.’”
At the YMCA, IC’s Anyea and Tiffany saw immense growth in their TC’s as well, especially in their ability to problem-solve. There was a curriculum club scheduled in the gym, which was far from an optimal learning space. In order to minimize distraction, the TC’s found a whiteboard and set up tables and chairs in a “U” formation. All of the children were much more engaged and comfortable, and the TC’s gained confidence in their abilities to innovate and keep the children on task by changing the environment.
As IC’s and TC’s continue to work together, the mission of SLC – to help children learn during the summer months – has begun to be fully present in camps. “Some kids began to catch onto why we was there as opposed to why they were there. They knew the TC’s and I were there to make sure the lessons were going smoothly. We observed that some children were doing activities because of genuine interest and a desire to excel, while others took longer to warm up to the idea of learning in the summer. It was inspiring to see their “let’s just get this over with” attitudes develop into deep fascination with the different activities.”
As most IC’s are teachers, this experience has greatly shaped how the they will go back into their classrooms in the fall. “This was my first time in a leadership coaching role, and it was difficult to take a backseat in the classroom. But coaching made me more confident in my TC, and in turn, I learned so much from watching her teach. I figured out things I had never known about myself and that has made me more confident as a teacher,” says Laura, IC at Shortlidge Academy, who has a very strong bond with her TC, Catherine.
This experience also provides insight into exactly how much kids need to continue learning in the summer and the potential the summer space holds. “I’ve seen kids intrigued. I’ve seen TC’s get into the lessons, and I’ve seen kids ask questions. I saw this opportunity and I thought – I believe in everything this organization stands for – I have to help,” says Bain Manley, the Instructional Coach at West End Neighborhood House, “When you see something spark in a child, you know that spark will not die out. There is only forward from here.”
Catherine, a TC from Shortlidge saw this spark: “I have a child who never wants to do their work due to low confidence. When we were doing a math lesson, I asked him to show me his work after every problem. We worked through it together, and I gave him positive feedback. Soon, he completed every single problem, and as he held up his paper, I knew this was a feeling completely and wonderfully new to him.” This sort of interaction is exactly what the IC’s foster, and evidence to their widespread impact in the camp.
This unique organizational model provides support on many levels. Most directly at the TC role, but it also to the children. The IC’s have the opportunity to get to know all the different personalities of the kids in order to better personalize and shape their learning experience. As I spoke to Laura, she teared up as she said, “They just want love, and this speaks to every layer of the Collaborative – that’s why we are all here. We’re in each other’s corners. There is ‘no I’m telling you what to do’ whether that be between team members or TC and kids – there is just mutual understanding and love.”