Veteran educator finds support in College of Education Coaching Academy (2024)

Posted on: June 24, 2024; Updated on: June 24, 2024
By Anna Francis, annafracis@sc.edu

Dottie Adams hopes the experience continues for teacher leaders around the state.

One would assume a veteran educator of 23 years would know all the tricks in the book. Dottie Adams shares that the Coaching Academy offered more than one new technique to engage with fellow colleagues, interact with teaching interns and practice problem solving in her school. After eight years of teaching in Columbia, Adams has been a coaching educator for seven interns. Each of these interns represented a variety of degree programs and focus areas in the classroom.

“One of the hurdles to the coaching teacher experience is understanding all of the programs that the interns are housed in,” says Adams. “Every year, my intern may be in my classroom a different time period with different achievement goals, so learning how to support each of them could be challenging.”

While Adams’ early motivation for participating in the Coaching Academy was to better support her students, she found a larger highlight of the program was the support she received for her own work in her classroom and with her colleagues.

“I’m always someone who wants to make the education profession better,” says Adams. “Right now, we have to keep people in the classroom, and one of the ways we can do that is by being honest about what future educators are going to face on a daily basis. I also really love to learn from fellow educators.”

Some of the strategies the Coaching Academy offered were techniques for supportive and productive conversations and how to build capacity with current interns. Adams shared that the academy created a space for this work that is not always available during a typical teacher workday. She also shared that the time commitment for this work was accessible to an educator’s schedule. The academy’s first meeting at Dreher High School sealed the deal for Adams.

“I saw educators that I knew, and we were surrounded by master teachers,” says Adams. “It was great to be in a room across grade levels and age brackets and hear their stories. It was reassuring and validating that we were all committed to growing in this process.”

One of the messages Adams is passionate about sharing with her interns revolves around understanding how to prevent burnout. Adams had a previous experience where an intern was spending a great deal of time creating entertaining and engaging lesson plans for every day of the week. While Adams was proud of the student’s effort, she wanted the student to understand that this level of effort was not sustainable.

“I let the student know that if you try to teach at this level for 180 days, you’re going to last about two and a half years,” says Adams. “I know they wanted to do their best, but I wanted to have real conversations that can be hard about how to take care of yourself. When educators get burnt out and leave the profession, they can’t help the kids.”

Adams has also had to have hard conversations in the opposite direction with interns as well. Sometimes the internship can help students figure out for themselves if teaching is the profession they are truly passionate about. After participating in the Coaching Academy, Adams is more empowered to be direct with her interns to help when they are struggling. She also now knows how to better connect the interns with the available resources at the college.

“I think early on in my coaching experience, it was hard to know how the whole system functioned,” says Adams. “Previously, I may have felt like my job was at the school, and I could do my best with the intern in that environment; now I know more of the community surrounding each of these students. I think the biggest blessing is those added connection points.”

Adams is excited for the future of the Coaching Academy. She’s joined a group of educators from the first cohort to help imagine how the program could continue.

“I flourish when I am around people,” says Adams. “I’m an external processor, so being able to talk things out with fellow educators is helpful for me. I really believe this work is improving education.”

Adams says the focus of the group’s continued work is about building internal capacity at schools and recognizing the work of teacher leaders through coaching.

“Teaching is coaching,” says Adams. “We do this work with students all day every day, but sometimes we forget about coaching each other.”

Some of the work in which Adams is engaging centers on creating safe spaces for her teaching team to support one another. She shares that vulnerability with her fellow educators is the key.

“I always feel like I have to fix the problems that arise,” says Adams. “The Coaching Academy taught me that it was okay for me to not fix problems, but to lead people to solve them for themselves. It taught me to create comfortable, safe spaces in my school where teachers could be real and feel empowered to tackle things in our own ways. Teaching must be collaborative. The people you work with help you survive.”

Adams says that the College of Education made the connection that supporting teachers is the difference maker in education. She says that teachers must put aside their perfectionist tendencies and let themselves be coached, so that they can continue to pour into the next generation. She’s acutely aware that when veteran teachers leave the classroom, a wealth of institutional knowledge is lost.

“The Coaching Academy validates the people in schools who are instructional leaders, pedagogical leaders, and innovators,” says Adams. “It seems simple, but it’s amazing what appreciation can do.”

Veteran educator finds support in College of Education Coaching Academy (2024)

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