“It’s Been Interesting Having Three Mentor Coaches…”

End of Year Conversation With A Coach

Part 1

The 2009-10 school year is nearly over.  I am finishing projects and spending time in schools working with literacy coaches I support as a mentor coach.

I have been reflecting on this work and considering some questions: What is the value of having a mentor coach?  How do mentor coaches and literacy coaches develop mutually supportive relationships that allow them to learn and grow together?

Today I met with a colleague who is concluding four years of work as a literacy coach in a combined middle and high school.

bridgeThis coach has worked with three different mentor coaches. We spoke about her experiences as a literacy coach and how the structure of having a mentor supported her growth and development as a school based coach. Below is an excerpt of our conversation:

Q.  What has the mentoring process been like for you?

A. Every coach is different.  I think that from that perspective, it’s been interesting having three mentor coaches,  because each of you brought something different to the table and I think what each of you brought is what I needed at the time.

The first mentor brought great enthusiasm and we really forged a friendship.  It was almost like we were heading west to make a settlement… to borrow a phrase from Star Trek, we were going, “where no man had gone before,” and we were working together to figure out how to get there.

The second coach brought a more seasoned, mature outlook to the work. She was really empowering. She empowered me to be able to believe in myself and the work and to stand up for what I thought was right.

Q. How did she do that?

A. When we would have discussions she would affirm my vision…  She was my sounding board and would let me know that I had right thinking about things and that I wasn’t off the deep end.

She helped me craft my message so that it could be better heard.   I loved her sense of humor; she just brought a great sense of humor to the work.

Also, I think the amount of coaching support we had the first couple of years was really essential because I needed that time for a mentor coach to be here.

Q. What about this last year?

This year it’s been challenging to have your questions… You question a lot, and sometimes it’s really aggravating, but, I think it’s been good for me to think through the work and solve problems.  You’ve challenged me to use more inclusive language, to quit thinking about the grant as an “I” project and think of it as a “we” project.  I’ve been trying to be aware of that, to change my language like we talked about.

Q. What about the level of mentoring support you received this year?

I think it was smart that you phased out the amount of contact we had, because if we were coming to the end of the project and I was still seeing you on a monthly basis… I wouldn’t have my feet planted as solidly as I do now.  I know what my work is and I feel confident enough to watch the work change as the school works independently without the support of the grant.

One of the things that struck me about this literacy coach’s experience was the importance of the mentor coach working closely beside her as they developed their relationship, learned about the needs of the school, and co-created a vision for the work. I was also reminded that there are many different ways to coach and be coached.  I really appreciate this conversation as we think about what we do.

In my next blog post I will share more of this conversation.

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