Education Week - June 13, 2018 - 21
A Young Teacher Embraces Honest Feedback
By Emily Moyes
s a third-year teacher I am
always on the hunt for new
methods of teaching and managing my classes. I want to
find high-yield strategies and
practices that will help my students succeed. My coach (Diane
Caldwell), my assistant principal (Maggie Norris), and, most of all, my professional-learning community have helped mold me
into the teacher I am today.
The members of my PLC complement each other's
talents and deficits and have very open conversations. The PLC is a place where we all feel that we
can speak honestly about our work. I can let my PLC
know when an activity bombed or when I rocked it
in class. I can bring ideas and modifications and get
honest feedback from my peers. Maggie comes as
often as she can, and our instructional coach, Diane,
is always there. Through my work in this group, I
have seen firsthand how an instructional coach can
help teachers improve in ways that directly help
their students. The practices I have learned in my
work with Diane have helped my students leave
my classroom with a greater understanding of what
they do and do not yet know.
Diane helps us stay on track when we start on tangents and provides an outside perspective, bringing
resources or practices from across the school that
have been effective for other PLCs. She stirs our creativity with questions to help us recognize what it is
that we want for our teaching practice or how, specifically, we need to modify tools for our needs. Members of my PLC frequently have brief meetings in the
hallway, where we can exchange failures, successes,
and modifications, so that by the end of the day we
are already better than we were in the morning.
Another advantage instructional coaches can offer
is that they work closely across the school hierarchy.
Diane meets frequently with school administrators
and often knows what is coming down the pike.
With her input, when we are planning out-of-class
interventions, we know which days are reserved for
other events that may not have been announced to
Because I see Diane frequently, I know she sees my
heart and that I care about my students. If she comes
to watch me teach a lesson and I fall on my face, I
know that she knows I'm not lazy, not bad at my job,
not a complete failure, but that things just didn't go
the way I planned. She can tell me that a lesson went
terribly without making me feel that this one class
will be etched into my permanent record.
I can focus on making things better for the next
class period or the next year, with a trusty guide by
Since she began coaching last year, Diane has emphasized to the teachers she works with that she is not
evaluating us at all and that her goal is in line with
"She can tell me that a lesson went
terribly without making me feel that
this one class will be etched into my
ours: to make us better educators. It took us all a while
to let her see our weaknesses, but since we began collaborating with her as our coach, my PLC members
have improved as teachers by leaps and bounds.
Diane brings cross-content ideas to us from other
PLCs around the building. Some of these ideas I
hadn't considered or possibly wouldn't have considered, but because she has implemented these classroom practices with other PLCs within the building,
it is easier to trust and believe they will have the
desired effect. Several techniques from the math department have proven useful to my work, including
introducing peer evaluation, using a common grading
rubric, or considering other options for grading formative assessments in Advanced Placement classes.
For example, under Diane's guidance, my PLC has
begun standardizing our grading practices for common assessments. Prior to this year, we exchanged
ideas to plan the tasks and formative assessments
we would use throughout a unit, but spent much
less time discussing how we would grade them.
This year, we realized that each of us was grading
the same free-response questions a little differently;
emphasizing the importance of certain phrases or
vocabulary or expecting a specific written format.
Diane showed us the five-point rubric used on all
free-response questions in Algebra I. She helped us
think through the possible expectations that we can
associate with each number. With this instructional
support, our PLC was able to hammer out a standardized grading rubric for a unit's free-response
question in just 15 minutes. We also saved this approach to our online calendar, so we wouldn't have
to reinvent the wheel next year.
Diane has made us aware of a better practice,
guided us through how to personalize it, and then
had us discuss how this changed our students' outcomes. She knows and has impressed upon us the
importance of reflecting on new practices and recording them. We can now reference these pros, cons,
and modifications in the future. Diane has made us
better educators, because she holds us accountable,
listens to our ideas, and brings in effective practices
that we have not tried before.
Working with an instructional coach has made
me a better teacher. She knows my strengths,
weaknesses, and goals, and is committed to helping me learn, so that I can be better tomorrow
than I was today. n
EMILY MOYES is a pre-AP and AP Biology teacher at Byron
Nelson High School in Trophy Club, Texas.
students in her
EDUCATION WEEK | June 13, 2018 | www.edweek.org | 21