Carly Nicholson, Instructional Coach, Charlottesville High School
What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
I like to push myself on a daily basis to be a better listener. I’m fortunate to have a position where I get to hear from teachers what they need for their students to be successful, but the key piece is that I have to be able to hear what that is. As coaches, we’ve gone through extensive training on how to be good listeners. We’ve learned two of the biggest mistakes with listening are to be solution-oriented listeners who move too quickly towards a specific agenda, or to be autobiographical listeners who respond immediately with a personal connection, which takes away from what a teacher is trying to communicate. I strive to use more pause while listening.
What is the most common misconception about your job?
For years at the secondary level, the majority of teachers only had other adults in their classrooms if they were there to evaluate them. Understandably, I deal with some residual aspects of that power structure. This is a new model, and we reinforce that an instructional coach is available to teachers for support without judgment. I love this idea because with compassion and without judgment, there is a huge potential for growth.
Where do you see the teaching field in five years?
This is an amazing time to be in education because we’re getting back to the good stuff. We’re putting opportunities in place for students to return to the incredible questioners they were as preschoolers. Inquiry-based learning, unleveled classes, essential questions, project-based learning, AVID, and STEM settings are just a few of the seeds being planted now that will have dramatic results in five years. Students, with ownership over their learning, will not only be better at asking questions, but will be skilled at asking questions about the answers.
What outside experience best prepared you to become a teacher?
I love to travel and have lived abroad, which has taught me the value of sitting back and learning the culture of this school and the cultures of each classroom, so I can support teachers towards their instructional goals.