Everyone deserves a coach—even coaches.
The Dynamic Learning Project (DLP) utilizes coaching for classroom teachers to increase impactful use of technology in 100 middle schools across the country. These coaches help teachers tackle specific classroom challenges by brainstorming innovative, technology-based strategies and providing personalized classroom support to the teacher throughout the implementation process.
But where does the coach turn when he or she needs advice?
The DLP pairs each school with a dedicated mentor from our partner organization, EdTechTeam. The mentor provides personalized support to coaches throughout the school year. The mentors meet with coaches one-on-one on a biweekly basis and are on call when they need extra assistance.
“Coaching is all about relationships, and in the same way that a teacher needs a relationship with a coach, a coach needs a relationship with somebody who will guide them and take care of them,” said Liz Anderson, head of social impact programs at Google for Education. “Having a mentor and having somebody who’s dedicated to ensuring that not only is that coach effective, but they feel comfortable…is so important.”
“We, as coaches, need to have a support system in place outside of our school district—someone who can listen, someone who can advise, someone who is sympathetic and empathetic to daily challenges as a coach, and someone who can be trusted with concerns and challenges that the coach may be experiencing,” one DLP coach said after the pilot year of the program. “My mentor was extremely valuable to me as he shared his coaching knowledge with me, helped me navigate through the ‘rough waters,’ and helped me celebrate through the ‘smooth sailing’ times.”
Mentors help facilitate the adoption of the DLP coaching model into the school system, assisting coaches in developing a trusting rapport with teachers and an effective relationship with their principal. In addition, they guide coaches through the newest and most effective digital tools and strategies. They co-teach and provide support without judgment when there are challenges, as well as opportunities for meaningful reflection—and they are also there to celebrate successes.
After the first year of the DLP, coaches reported feeling significantly more confident in their own coaching skills and ability, attributing their growth to the ongoing mentorship and peer learning fostered by the DLP. Moreover, nearly all coaches and principals agreed that the mentor’s role was essential for implementing the program. Coaches described their mentors as “indispensable” and an “absolute must,” especially in the beginning of the year as they were getting the program off the ground.
“I would not have made it through this year without [my mentor],” one pilot-year coach said. “She was there anytime I had a question or concern. She helped me talk through decisions and issues whenever I reached out. She held me accountable without nagging.”
Because the mentor is not in the school building, he or she brings an outside perspective, helping the coach or principal see challenges from a different angle.
“It has been transformative having a mentor to brainstorm with and get new perspectives on successes and ideas for challenges,” another pilot-year DLP coach said. “Having an outsider who can see the big picture is essential.”
In addition to supporting coaches, DLP mentors also help administrators create a schoolwide culture that promotes powerful coaching, which leads to more impactful technology use, teacher growth, and risk taking. The mentors are instrumental in helping principals understand the importance of their role in supporting the coach and teachers in the DLP.
“I think one of the things that truly separates the DLP from other programs is our access to one-on-one mentoring,” one DLP principal said. “I know at any given time I can access or have scheduled time with my mentor, and that will help me grow as a principal.”
Having a mentor to provide on-call personalized support and bring an outside perspective on challenges adds a powerful element to the Dynamic Learning Project. The mentor helps the coach and principal navigate the DLP coaching model with their teachers by offering advice and encouragement when needed.