Here’s a big shout out to our friends at Texas Parks and Wildlife. Al Bingham (Director of Human Resources) hosted an information session yesterday about Classroom Coaching. Mr. Bingham let everyone in the room know the agency’s commitment to Classroom Coaching was high. “This is something we really support as an agency,” he said. “We believe in social responsibility and we believe in youth. We need quality, educated students so they can grow into quality, educated employees.” He suggested that many Texas Parks and Wildlife employees who were scientists would be a good fit for math coaching. Among the group attending the session were three math Classroom Coaches from last year: Marla Bays, Sandy Birnbaum and Bob Gottfreid.
They recalled some experiences from last year’s volunteer experience. “I had misgivings at first about not remembering 8th grade algebra concepts,” said Marla. “But the teacher is there in the room with you the whole time. When I raise my hand, it shows my students that even adults don’t always have all the answers – it makes me human.” Marla talked about ways she would make learning a specific math concept or skill relevant in real world scenarios. “I’d ask about their career goals and what they wanted to be. Then I could tie a concept or skill to what they would need in that context.”
Sandy recommended reviewing the curriculum provided by Austin Partners in Education each week before the coaching session. “They’ve changed the way they teach these concepts so just reviewing the curriculum will help you be prepared. I was an A student but they way they teach this is sometimes very different from what we learned.”
Sandy and Bob carpooled last year and shared some of the trials and triumphs of coaching. “Sometimes one of your students is not going to be engaged. They may have personal issues going on,” Sandy said, “It can be tough but you just have to keep trying. You just don’t know the impact you’re having.”
Sandy recalled a moment when she was able to help a student realize she could pick out the wrong answers to help determine the right ones. “I showed her the answers to the problem we were working and said ‘Look, there are some obvious wrong answers here.’ Once she realized that she could rule those out she was better able to determine what the right answers were.”
Bob suggested his coworkers seriously consider the volunteer opportunity. He let the group know there will be days when the coach feels really successful, and days when the student and the coach just didn’t seem to connect. “It’s really important to remember when you sign up to be role model you can’t quit just because you had a hard day. You commit to being there for that student.”
All three have registered to volunteer for another year as 8th grade classroom coaches. We think several of their coworkers will be joining them. All of us at APIE send a big thanks to everyone at Texas Parks and Wildlife for your commitment.