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Instructional Coach Talks About Her Changing Role

Tara Goines works to increase engagement in math and science

Tara Goines is an Instructional Coach who specializes in math and science in the Lancaster School District just north of Los Angeles. I had a chance to talk to her recently about her work and how she sees her role as an instructional coach in an ever-shifting education landscape.

Rod Berger:  Tara, I think it's really interesting when we look at education and how it's changing public education with instructional coaches and their significant role in the day-to-day operations of a school in the way in which we can help to better teaching and learning as a whole.

How has it changed for you as a professional since you've been an instructional coach in Lancaster?

Math problemsTara Goines: I think you get a whole new lens being an instructional coach. You have the opportunities to attend various trainings, connect those pieces and make generalizations that impact instruction in the classroom.

For instance, Theresa (Morris) and I were just looking at the shifts that need to occur to understand where teachers are and meet them there, but at the same time bring them to where they need to be.

RB:  I know you're talking about Theresa Morris, a noted Stanford University researcher, in looking at a lot of these questions when we think about performance assessments and the way in which they impact instruction during the day.

Tara, a lot of people are talking about transparency. How do we communicate learning within a classroom and really document it in a way that's positive and engaging when you're thinking about accountability systems?

From your perspective and the conversations you have with teachers in a classroom, what are they talking about when it comes to either the desire they have or any concerns they have with ways in which to communicate about their students on a daily basis with their parents or caregivers?

TG: I think our teachers are still in a learning shift in how to structure their instruction to get kids where they need to go as far as rigor.

But when it comes to communication, we've done a lot. My focus is specific to math and science. We've done family parent nights. We've done activities such as a sample performance test or sample games just to get parents to experience how their child is being held accountable to those standards. Not all parents are very familiar with the “why” behind it and to understand that there are various avenues where students can show what they know in the classroom. There's not one answer in a box anymore.

We have continuous training for teachers as well and resources that we share so that they can relay those to families and to the students to keep them engaged knowing what's going on in their learning.

Teacher in classroomRB: What challenges do you see when it comes to communicating that learning that you see within classrooms?

TG:  I think, right now, for us, there's a huge sub-issue. It's the fluid communication to all stakeholders. We can't necessarily get everyone on one day to hear the same message at the same time. So it's about strategizing the when, where, and how to say it to people who need to hear it.

RB: I hadn’t thought about that. So you're talking about substitute teachers. It's breaking up the day or the week for a given student or class and the impact.

Do you find greater engagement when we're incorporating in the moms and dads and caregivers into the learning within a day? Especially for those kids who are teetering on not enjoying something like math? Do you see that playing a role in a student feeling better about their abilities within the math and science areas?

TG: Definitely. We are doing so many trainings and hearing teachers on strategies that I think the biggest thing is not enough exploration, engagement or practice with the math. The big thing I push is "don't teach just lesson plans," but bring it back to the bigger concept so that the students can see how all these things build on top of each other for conceptual understanding.

I think we get stuck in a rote, mundane routine and forget how everything ties back to a bigger picture.

RB:  Tara, let's close with this. I'd like to know a little bit more about your background and why you chose to be an instructional coach. What was it about that role that you felt was perfect for you when you thought about the different opportunities within education?

TG: I've taught for fourteen years, and I was always looking to work with a team. I was looking to find the right resource to help kids or adults see how to make learning fun, but still, reach for the rigor. That way kids can learn what they really need to learn and not just memorize things.

That's what I appreciate. It's finding the resources for our teachers in connecting the knowledge they need to know.

About Tara Goines

Tara Goines has been nominated as Teacher of the Year twice and has received honorary mention at the district level. Tara has a Master’s Degree in Education with a focus in Curriculum and Instruction, a Gifted and Talented Education teaching certificate, and an administrative credential. She is currently, a Teacher on Special Assignment supporting Math and NGSS at the district level. She has also supported English Language Development at the district level and was on a committee for the California Department of Education’s English Language Development Proficiency (ELPAC) Assessment.

Tara was a participant in the Building Educator Assessment Literacy training offered by WestEd and SCALE in the area of Math and the AV Math Performance Task Development. Tara also worked with UCLA and SBAC to align the digital resource library to lessons to support instruction based on data. She is also an active participant in the NGSS Performance Task development of NGSS for the San Gabriel Valley. Tara has also taught courses for Education for the University of Phoenix focusing on curriculum and instruction. She has also been an Administrator during summer school offerings with her school district. Tara’s most prized role is being an active parent to her four children alongside her husband, Jordan.

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