More than doubling the number of teaching coaches on the payroll in times of tight budgets might seem counterintuitive. But that's what Bozeman public schools are doing.
And it might just be a highly defensible move.
In the coming school year, the schools will up the number of coaches from four to the equivalent of 8.5 full-time coaches. The coaches enter classrooms at the invitation of the teachers and offer ideas on everything from new teaching techniques to how to cope with students who cause trouble.
Teachers are sold on the idea and are calling on the coaches with increasing frequency.
Teaching kindergarten through 12th grade can easily lead to job burnout. Addressing students with special needs and those with behavioral problems, along with responding to pressure from parents — all the while trying to address the needs of the vast majority of middle-range students — can become a daunting and wearisome task. Years of that kind of stress can kill any enthusiasm for the profession. And that can lead to the kind of teacher that kids complain about to their parents, the one who is disengaged, uninterested and yet protected from consequences by tenure.
That's where the teaching coaches come in — to give the veteran teacher new ideas for re-sparking their and their students' interest in teaching and learning.
Many private-sector businesses employ similar ideas with great success. Business coaches are often utilized to sharpen management skills; coaches are often used to boost sales skills.
And teaching should be no different.
One of the most common criticisms leveled at the teaching profession is that it grants a 9-month work year with almost lead-pipe-cinch job security but no accountability. Some perceive that many teachers are just putting in their time while delivering little education to their pupils.
Teaching coaches are a way to make sure that doesn't happen. And one of the keys to assuring continued success in the program is making sure the coaches remain among, and advocates for, the rank-and-file teachers and don't become absorbed into already large school administrations.
Public school systems answer to a wide range of constituents and so are subject to criticism from many quarters.
But, while some may fault the Bozeman schools for more than doubling the number teaching coaches in tough economic times, they should consider that this could be a wise investment with a measurable result — better educated students.