Kim Richardson has served in education in a variety of capacities for twenty-three years. She is currently the Teacher Development Coordinator for Hampton City Schools and the chief strategic consultant with Richardson Coaching and Consulting LLC. Coach Kim also had nine school years of successful experience in the Newport News Public School system, serving as a Technology Curriculum Integration Specialist and kindergarten, second, and third grade teacher before moving to assume positions outside of the classroom, including Title I Coordinator/Supervisor of Instruction and elementary school principal. She is a Professional Certified Coach through the International Coaching Federation, a graduate of Results Coaching Global, completed her PhD at Old Dominion University this summer, and wrote her dissertation on leadership identity development. Coach Kim is an exciting and accomplished presence within the field of education, and we are delighted that she will be presenting at this year’s Teaching, Learning, Coaching Conference!
Jim: Could you tell me the story of instructional coaching at your district?
Kim: In 2012 our Federal Programs Department decided to use some funds to hire coaches. At that time, we were making a change in our staffing model in our schools that were identified as Title I. Prior to this time there were Title I Teachers for math and reading, but over the years that role became blurry as far as the primary outcomes of the work. A lot of the people were hired with the intention to work directly with students, but as standards and accreditation changed, along with a shift in assessment focus, teachers began to need more support in our job-embedded professional development. So, we revamped our positions. It was really interesting because all we were going to do in the Federal Programs Department was pay for them, and the Math and Language Arts departments, respectively, were going to supervise those positions, train them, etcetera. The summer went on and the people were about to report and nothing had been done. So, I picked it up and we built an instructional coaching program from scratch knowing absolutely nothing, doing some serious research that first year, and that is how our journey started.
We knew that there was a need for more than going to workshops and going to conferences. Our district did a wonderful job in presenting professional development – high-yield professional development, targeted professional development, data-based professional development. But that wasn’t meeting the needs of everyone, and people could not get to enough professional development because of the amount of staff. So, it really was a need of job-embedded in the classroom, or before and after instruction, small cliques adding information, sharing strategies, modeling instruction where that all came about.
Jim: How has the program evolved since you first launched the program?
Kim: Well, the program got larger as the number of Title I schools, unfortunately, began to increase in identification due to just so many economic situations going on in the country. But we began to identify more schools, and as those schools came on board, the funding standard for position included those coaches.
We increased in a number of ways. We went from elementary to elementary and middle school instructional coaches, so each time we changed or added something we had to go back and look at how it was structured and decide if it was going to work the same way because there were so many different structures and organizational components and instructional pieces that are different.
Then we added some coaches that were not funded through Title I. They were funded through our professional funds. Most people are aware of Title II. Those people were not as focused on specific schools as our Title I coaches.
Then we looked at how to provide instructional coaching in a more broad sense. How do we keep it student-centered and not become a roaming person that’s just popping into classrooms? So, we expanded that way. We began to bring in, of course, our videotaping. We became partnered with Results Coaching Global and began to get into the professional skills of coaching and communication. And now those positions are school-based because there was such a need for them to be in those buildings with the students and the teachers full-time instead of roaming as our model was. Those positions are now principle-driven and in each school that is Title I identified, and then we have some coaching positions at the division level.
It has expanded and changed a lot as far as how it looked. The mindset of coaching and the leadership of coaching has really spread throughout our division, in our curriculum and instruction departments, and with our curriculum staff. And with our leadership, I think there’s a real hunger right now for doing things in a more effective and impactful way. Coaching in every industry is a gift, and it’s not always been that way in education because of being viewed as a negative or deficit-mindset type of thing. So, I’m excited about the focus on building capacity and growth that this whole initiative has shifted in our division.
Jim: What would you say are some of your big learnings along the way?
Kim: A huge piece that I’ve learned – and that we’ve all learned – is that change takes time. Real sustainable change takes time. That’s very frustrating for some people, especially if you’re in high-needs areas and results need to be in quickly and students need to be moving at a fast pace. But we really learned that change and true growth and sustainable new habits and practices of mind takes time. That was a big shift. It actually slowed me down as far as understanding what it is that we wanted and how we go about doing that.
Another huge learning is that there is a shift in how a person sees themselves when they are a coach. Whatever that title is, whatever the work is, when you come into this type of work and you change from being – and nothing against teachers, but – more than working with students in the four walls of your classroom, – and this is the work that I’m doing – there is a shift in how you see yourself, your identity, how you learn, things that you are thinking about as far as the impact of your leadership. Your view broadens. How you develop yourself changes. The way that you influence others. It all changes and the view of yourself changes. And that’s been completely fascinating to me. So, that’s what I’ve decided to focus on.
Those are major learnings that I saw and watched in people over the years that we have done this work – since 2012. I believe that there needs to be some more information sharing about it where people going into positions, or being hired for positions, may not have all the knowledge and information training and development they need to be as successful as they can be.
Jim: What has surprised you?
Kim: What has been surprising is how much I’ve changed. And how much I don’t depend on just my knowledge and what I bring to the table. When I’m working with a teacher, depending on their skill and knowledge level development, it really has become more of a shared process of learning versus I am coming to tell you how to do this.
And one of the other learnings is that the adult that we work with has to own that process and own their learning in order for change to take place. That has been a shift for me. I do not always feel like I have to have the answer. I want to help that other person whether it’s a client that I am working with, or a teacher or an administrator or central office coordinator. Help them increase their thinking so that they can own and find the solution or the idea or the goal for themselves because then when they walk away from me, they are still thinking about that and they can own that and continue to do what they need to do.
Now it doesn’t mean that I never share any information or hold up standards and expectations, but I don’t have to feel like my way is the highway. That’s a big shift from when I first became an administrator in schools because that’s how we typically viewed leadership. So, my entire viewpoint of leadership has changed from, “It’s a hierarchical situation here and I hold the position, and that means I’m the leader” to it being more about effectiveness and helping the people around me be more effective so we can all accomplish the goals that we have in place for our organization.
Jim: Tell me a bit about what you’re going to present at TLC.
Kim: It’s unfolding as we go, but I know it’s going to be about the shift in learning that I spoke about. My study and my findings are regarding teachers and leaders that are not school level administrators, so whatever those positions may be, and their shift and their identity, how their professional self may change, and as I said, the way that they think about their own leadership – how they engage with others.
But especially I would like to focus on how we shift on learning because of the role and the responsibilities that we have. So there’s some things that we have to learn that are different than when we were in the classroom or when we were solely working with kids and whether coaches have a half a day when they’re sharing classroom responsibilities with or working with adult responsibilities, there should be a shift in what we’re learning. That’s what I’m going to be presenting on. I’m very excited about it, and I hope people are able to walk away with another tool in their tool belt about the importance of that power development in themselves and in others.
Jim: Tell me a bit more about that shift you’re talking about.
Kim: When I first started with the instructional coaches we worked with, we were a group of ten teachers that became coaches. They were coming out of the classroom, they were reading specialists, they were math Title I teachers – whatever it may be – and then we had this position called coach. So, the identity shift that I saw was that we had to learn what that was. We had to really get clear on what the values were of this position, this person, this work because your values drive the work that you do.
I watched these people change their conversations. I watched them change their mindsets about adults and how people learn. I watched them learn how to differentiate their leadership based on people’s temperaments and skill levels and abstraction levels. So, if those are the ways that we have to differentiate the leadership and the services that we provide as coaches, we certainly have to think about a difference in the way that we are learning to support the teachers we support.
Yes, we need to continue to learn about our craft and the art of teaching and learning and assessment and all those things, but we have to add to that learning plate so that we’re able to meet the needs of the adults that we are working with. So, that’s what I mean by the shift in learning because we cannot just learn about our students, our classroom, and our content. We have to widen that, so there needs to be a shift there.
Jim: If I tell a person what to do, then what I’m really communicating is, I don’t think you can learn this yourself. And what I think I’m hearing you say is rather than tell people what to do we have to help people learn how to be learners, and that means we have to trust them to do some of the learning for themselves, not just tell them what to do. Is that part of it?
Kim: Yes, that is part of it, and I think that as a coach everybody that you work with is going to be in a different place with that. We found that being a learner is a huge change in making sure that teachers take that on. When we first started working with teachers, we were working with teachers who had historically been struggling, that were just having a lot of difficulties, and we realized that that was different than supporting a brand-new teacher out of college who never student-taught. That was different than working with a career-switcher after 25 years in a different industry.
So yes, we have to teach people the information that they need to know about supporting our children and providing high-quality instruction, but we also have to show them how to go about that learning themselves and how they make that learning happen in their classroom. Just simply saying, “This is what you need to know, this is how you need to do it” versus explaining the why behind that, maybe sharing a little bit of research.
And that’s what I love about the work that you do – everything is research-based. How do we go beyond our opinion and go into the plethora of research that is out there, and then help people understand that this may change next year, or there may be new information with another group of students that you have, or another grade level, or with a different concept? To help teachers become better learners and then help them understand that I can give you suggestions? I can tell you how I have done it, but that may not be what’s going to be best for your kids. Once we began to be comfortable with the fact that the ways that teachers went about things were going to be different from one classroom to the next, one school to the next, we began to understand that this type of coach leadership and coaching work was really going to be differentiated more than we ever thought.
Jim: Can you say anything else about what you’ve learned about setting up an effective program?
Kim: Yes, I think it is important when you are starting any endeavor in a school system or organization to first start with that organization’s vision, mission, and core values. I know that sounds very cliché, but if what you’re trying to do does not match the direction and even the goals for the organization, you’re going to be hitting a brick wall sometime sooner or later because it just won’t work. For example, if you’re trying to start an instructional coaching program or embed coaches into an organization that does not value collaboration or building capacity, that’s going to conflict.
That was one thing that we really started with before the coaches even went into the buildings. We spent an entire marking period taking all of our division’s strategic plans, goals, and aligning it with what a coach is and what they’re supposed to be and then we were able to see what that work looks like. We relied heavily on work from Jim Knight, Robin Jackson, How to Build an Instructional Coaching Program for Maximum Capacity by Nina Morel, and then we just decided we cannot start something based on how someone else did it. It has to be, “Okay, this is what could happen. How can it happen here? And how is it going to be aligned?” or you won’t have the support. You won’t have the champions behind you that you need and coaching is too important to try to go out there and force it on people and make it happen without all of those pieces being done. Unfortunately, I have worked with a lot of other school districts where that happened, and then it just flopped because they did not do that extra work.
Nina Morel and I actually talked a lot back in that time. I think her work is through ASCD, but it’s How to Build an Instructional Coaching Program for Maximum Capacity. I will find that and send it to you. That was just the biggest godsend to just think about those things when you’re starting up. Usually in education we walk into things that are already happening. I guess another thing I learned about myself is that I think I do a good job of starting things and really thinking about everything that needs to be thought about to start an initiative.
Jim: What would you say is a good metaphor for coaching?
Kim: You know that gobstopper that Violet eats in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory?” It’s just this one gobstopper. It looks just regular. It just looks like a piece of gum. But the experience just keeps changing with so many surprises and different things that you did not know that you could experience from a piece of gum. I relate that to coaching.
I have been coached as a client and a teacher, but also on the other end of this. But knowing that people experience such differences in awareness of themselves and their colleagues, and how they think, and how they learn, and stretching them to a point of being a better teacher, leader, or learner. It’s just amazing because you don’t always know what you’re going to get. But it’s surprising and you can’t even explain it because you just know from the beginning that it’s going to happen. And it connects back with that process that change takes time and because we’re all on a journey. That whole professional identity is a story for teachers. Every day that story is being constructed, and that means that it all changes as you’re going.
I know that’s a crazy example and I’ve never even said that before, but that’s what that made me think about at this very moment. That surprisingly amazing taste in this one piece of gum. In a coach you get a confidant, you get a friend, you get a guide, you get job-embedded professional learning, you get non-evaluative feedback, all in one person. That’s just such a gift for a teacher. That’s my metaphor.
Jim: I love it. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Kim: I would love to say that I am so appreciative of the focus on coaching. The work and not necessarily the word, the title. And I’m sure you’ve experienced it as well. Now there are so many titles, roles, and confusion of responsibilities that I don’t want the word and essence of coach to be muddied water. There is a special essence of the work that is done with teachers and the trust and the environment of working with children that is so special, and I hope that all the educators that are involved in this work will continue to keep that role clear and focused and un-muddied. I guess that’s the only word I can think about for that, because it can make such a difference in the lives of teachers and children.
Here is a list of some people you can expect to see at the Teaching Learning Coaching Conference 2019! Click on each name below to review some of their work.
We hope to see you in Kansas City!
| Rachel Lofthouse|
Professor of Teacher Education,
| Ta-Nehisi Coates|
Distinguished Writer in Residence,
| Jamie Almanzan|
Equity Leadership Coach,
| Linda Cliatt-Wayman|
TED Talk Presenter, Principal,
| Kristin Anderson|
Founder and CEO,
| Ellen & Bruce Eisenberg|
Executive Director, Associate Director
| Rebecca Frazier|
The Joy of Coaching
| Michelle Harris|
Instructional Coaching Group
| Jan Hasbrouck|
| Ann Hoffman|
Instructional Coaching Group
| Darnisa Amante|
CEO and Co-founder,
The Disruptive Equity Education Project
| Kathy Perret|
The Coach Approach to School Leadership
| John Campbell|
Growth Coaching International
| Marshall Goldsmith|
Executive Educator, Coach
| Jim Knight|
Instructional Coaching Group
| Nathan Lang-Raad|
Chief Education Officer,
| Nancy Love|
Research for Better Teaching
| Alisa Simeral|
Author, School Consultant
| Tricia Skyles|
Safe and Civil Schools
| Bill Sommers|
| Bradley Staats |
University of NC School of Kenan-Flagler Business School
| Sharon Thomas|
Instructional Coaching Group
| Christian Van Nieuwerburgh|
Growth Coaching International
| John Krownapple|
| Tara Martin|
Innovative Curriculum Facilitator,
Lawrence Public Schools
| Crysta Crum|
Bowling Green City Schools