States of Mind









(This scenario is based on a real situation of coaching a student teacher.)


Interdependence: Contributing to a common good and using group resources to enhance personal effectiveness. (Abrams, 2001)

Abrams tells us that a coach uses what a novice teacher says as a guide to the ways of thinking that need "shifting" before that teacher can address other problems with instructional practice. Consider this example of a student teacher's problematic thinking. Notice how the coach responds in order to shift the teacher's thinking and foster interdependence. The coach's role here is to help novice teachers work collaboratively within an instructional community.

Teaching is often described as an isolating profession. Although the trend recently is to encourage teams and a sense of community among teachers, it is still easy for individuals to lose sight of the whole system that is a grade level or a school. Abrams mentions new teachers who report that they skip team meetings because “I have so much work to do.” Another signal that a teacher may need coaching with this state of mind is the teacher who says, “I feel like I am doing all the work at my grade level meetings."

She suggests that coaches might ask, “How might you find ways to get more help at team meetings?”

clipScenario: “I just want to teach.”

As my student teacher and I entered the library for the faculty meeting, a long- time friend and colleague stopped me and asked if we could talk for a second. “Please save me a seat. I’ll find you.” I said to the student teacher. 

My friend and I stepped out of the flow and she whispered, “Is your student teacher okay with the kids? When she’s in the copy room, she doesn’t talk to anyone, she doesn’t even say, ‘Hi.’ I tried to ask her how it was going yesterday and she sort of grunted an answer. Even just now, she didn’t make eye contact with me. People are starting to talk about her.”

I heard the principal give a 2 minute warning, so my friend and I went to find seats.
During the meeting, our second of the year, I noted that my student teacher only wrote in our students’ journals. She didn’t seem to listen to any of the announcements. She did look up when the principal announced that our academic team would be advancing to the final round of competition and everyone cheered. She smiled briefly when I touched her and said, “Isn’t that cool?” When there was a technical slow down, she didn’t join in the chatter with other teachers at our table; she stayed focused on the journals.

Except for the copy center, our school was not organized to encourage communication among the teachers. We had no common planning time within the department and no common hallway. We hadn’t met as a department yet during the year. It occurred to me that we could go into our classroom, our teaching space and not interact with other professionals for days.

During our planning period the next day, I asked the student teacher what she thought of the principal’s idea to have a faculty basketball game.

“Oh,” she said, “ I’m not into sports and I’m awfully busy. It’s such a long drive here. I just want to focus on teaching German. I’m only here for a semester.” 

“Mmm,” I said. “So you’re saying that the rest of the school doesn’t matter?”

Funding for this website came from the Virginia Department of Education Award #879-SY08 CFG to Dr. Sandi Cohen and Dr. Ruth Ferree at the Curry School of Education. Questions should be sent to Dr. Ferree at