Jan 21

The Many Routes to Student Success

January 21, 2016
Brooke Carson - Teacher Leader
Mastery Grover Cleveland

As a Teacher Leader at Mastery Charter Schools in Philadelphia, I support eight teachers who all have different teaching styles. I learned early on that not all educators teach like me or like the teacher next door. In order to effectively coach teachers, it’s imperative for me to get to know the individuals with whom I partner every day.

One of my teachers serves as a yoga instructor in her spare time. She cares deeply about creating a serene atmosphere in the classroom and she has very much accomplished that. I quickly discovered that the most effective way for me to support her was to recognize victories and growth before jumping into areas of improvement. Another one of my teachers is a founding turnaround teacher who prefers a fast-paced, high-energy classroom. Her style is more direct and she is hungry to know how she can improve her craft. As a result, our conversations are more frank and to the point.

Both of these teachers are committed to providing their students with an outstanding education, but they take different approaches to achieve this goal. As their coach, it is my responsibility to understand their unique teaching and learning styles, so that I can provide them with the most effective support. In the same way that I expect them to differentiate their instruction to the learners in their classroom, I must differentiate my support to them.

As a leader, it’s critical that I constantly listen to the needs of students, while keeping in mind my teachers’ unique personalities and learning styles. To do this well, I have to understand the thought process behind a teacher’s actions and adjust real-time coaching from teacher to teacher. My focus is to keep student achievement at the forefront, while encouraging teachers to be themselves.

When I started PLUS, I felt prepared for the instructional side of coaching teachers. Over the course of the residency, I have learned how crucial it is for leaders to build healthy relationships with teachers and staff, in addition to supporting them with instruction. One of the most important things that PLUS has taught me is that there are many routes to student success. My role as a leader is to set a clear destination for student achievement and support teachers as they take different routes to get there.

As I continue to grow in my ability to provide differentiated support to the teachers in my building, I’m encouraged by the diversity of our PLUS cohort. We have leaders from all different sectors, school types, grades, and neighborhoods. Our cohort consists of lifelong educators and career changers; introverts and extroverts; data nerds and artistic visionaries. However, far from being a liability, the diversity of our cohort is one of the greatest assets that PLUS has to offer me. In the same way, the diversity of the teachers in my building is a strength to be cultivated and nourished. This means that I need to do the hard but rewarding work of building meaningful relationships with staff, so that I can discover and leverage their unique gifts – whether it be yoga music inspired independent practice or a buzzing classroom participating in an animated debate.