School & District Management

Instructional Coach Jumps Into New Standards

By Catherine Gewertz — June 04, 2013 3 min read
Sarah Hawley is an instructional coach at Stuart-Hobson Middle School. She has spent 13 years teaching; this is her first year as a coach.

Sarah Hawley
Age 35 | Stuart-Hobson Middle School
Instructional Coach

Sarah Hawley immersed herself in urban teaching as soon as she graduated from college in 2000. It didn’t take her long to conclude that she’d found her professional home.

Having grown up outside Toledo, Ohio, and studied K-8 education at the University of Toledo, she found it natural to apply for her first teaching job in that city’s school system. While earning a master’s degree in school leadership and administration, she taught 7th and 8th grade English/language arts for six years and spent a year teaching middle school science there as well.

But the district’s fiscal instability wore on her. Tired of being laid off and rehired at the last minute, and moved between grades and subjects, she made the leap to the charter school sector.

Ms. Hawley joined the staff of a charter school startup as a 4th grade teacher. Life at the small school was hectic, however, with everyone wearing many hats and working long hours. As a seven-year veteran, she had more experience than most of her fellow teachers—and the principal—so she ended up assuming broad responsibilities beyond teaching her own students. She was exhausted, but learned a lot, including getting a clearer sense of how she might fit into the education world.

“I saw that I could make my school the kind of place where students could learn,” she recalls. “I felt ready to leave the classroom by then, and I was starting to think about moving more into some kind of leadership role.”

When her partner moved to Maryland, she followed him, taking a teaching job in a K-8 building in struggling Prince George’s County. In 2011-12, her second year there, Ms. Hawley became team leader for grades 6, 7, and 8, working closely with the assistant principal and serving on the school’s common-core-implementation team.

In that role, she helped design grading guidelines for teachers to help them judge writing assignments aligned to the new standards, and she trained fellow teachers in using the guidelines.

When Ms. Hawley heard that the District of Columbia was hiring instructional coaches, she applied for and got one of those jobs. In June 2012, her training began with a weeklong summer leadership academy for principals, assistant principals, coaches, and lead teachers. Another week of training in August focused both on the work of coaching and on the main shifts of the common standards.

During an intensive few days last fall, the school district’s content experts immersed the new coaches in modeling lessons, writing coaching plans, and other work across the disciplines.

As the year began at her assigned school, Stuart-Hobson Middle School, Ms. Hawley worked with her instructional-coach supervisor, Abby Welsheimer, to learn how to structure her six- to eight-week coaching cycles, give feedback to teachers after observations, and master other skills required in her new role.

Ms. Hawley says her first year as a coach has been both harrowing and rewarding.

“It was pretty tough at the beginning of the year to balance everything,” she says, noting that in addition to being Stuart-Hobson’s coach, she is also its testing coordinator. That means she oversees the immensely detailed logistics of administering accountability tests at the end of the year, as well as interim tests every six to eight weeks.

Managing all that at the same time as producing coaching plans and coaching calendars, working with teachers, and meeting with the principal and assistant principals often kept her at school late into the evening during the first semester. And, she admits, it reduced her to tears a few times.

It has been tough, also, to coach for the new common standards while she and the teachers are in the process of learning them, she says. She feels that the support and coaching she has received—and continues to receive by working with Ms. Welsheimer and getting periodic district-provided professional development—has been sufficient.

But “a lot of the stuff is just stuff you have to learn by doing,” Ms. Hawley says, so it’s a work in progress.

As the year concludes, she is feeling calmer about juggling her many duties: “Every [coaching] cycle, I feel more confident.”

Coverage of the implementation of the Common Core State Standards and the common assessments is supported in part by a grant from the GE Foundation, at www.ge.com/foundation. Education Week retains sole editorial control over the content of this coverage.
A version of this article appeared in the June 05, 2013 edition of Education Week as Sarah Hawley

Events

School & District Management Live Event EdWeek Leadership Symposium
Education Week's Premier Leadership Event for K12 School & District Leaders.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Law & Courts Webinar
The Future of Criminal Justice Reform: A Sphere Education Initiative Conversation
America’s criminal justice system is in crisis and calls for reform are dominating the national debate. Join Cato’s Sphere Education Initiative and Education Week for a webinar on criminal justice and policing featuring the nation’s
Content provided by Cato Institute
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Equity, Care and Connection: New SEL Tools and Practices to Support Students and Adults
As school districts plan to welcome students back into buildings for the upcoming school year, this is the perfect time to take a hard look at both our practices and our systems to build a
Content provided by Panorama Education

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management Districts Are Spending Millions on ‘Unproven’ Air Purifiers
Schools are buying technology that academic air-quality experts warn can lull them into a false sense of security or even harm kids.
Lauren Weber, Kaiser Health News & Christina Jewett, Kaiser Health News
13 min read
A student listens to a presentation in Health class at Windsor Locks High School in Windsor Locks, Conn. on March 18, 2021.
A student listens to a presentation in health class at Windsor Locks High School in Windsor Locks, Conn.
Jessica Hill/AP
School & District Management Teachers' Mental Health Has Suffered in the Pandemic. Here's How Districts Can Help
Teachers’ stress and anxiety have soared during the pandemic, making it critical for districts to look after their mental health.
9 min read
Woman working at computer.
Getty
School & District Management Remote Learning Isn't Going Away. Will It Create Separate—and Unequal—School Systems?
Demand for remote learning is likely to continue in the fall, raising concerns about the quality of education virtual students will receive.
9 min read
Veronica Esquivel, 10, finishes her homework after her virtual school hours while her brother Isias Esquivel sits in front of his computer on Feb. 10, 2021, at their residence in Chicago's predominantly Hispanic Pilsen neighborhood. Her mother, Rosa, worries that her diabetes and her husband's high blood pressure could put their lives at risk if their kids brought the coronavirus home from school.
Veronica Esquivel, 10, finishes her homework after virtual school, while her brother Isias Esquivel sits in front of his computer in their Chicago home in February. Their mother worried that sending them back to in-person learning would put her and her husband at risk for getting COVID-19.
Shafkat Anowar/AP
School & District Management Opinion Young People Have a Desire to Save Their World. How Can We Help?
Young people have an interest in learning and an innate desire to be part of saving society. Why do adults stand in the way?
Michael Fullan & Joanne Quinn
5 min read
Michael Fullan   FCG
Shutterstock