Collaborating, learning, and supporting the coaching process in underserved districts.

Recent Posts

Using Core Competencies in Your Curriculum Planning Process

Using Core Competencies in Your Curriculum Planning Process

Core competencies in business are typically “soft skills.” Core competencies in academics have potential too. This year, I have the opportunity to facilitate curriculum writing through the lens of core competencies. I define core competencies as the 10-15 essential skills a student can expect to […]

Tracking Professional Development Hours with Certify’em

Tracking Professional Development Hours with Certify’em

Tracking professional development can be a huge headache. It doesn’t have to be. A simple add-in for Google Forms can save hours of work. It is called Certify’em. Other bloggers such as Alice Keeler and Free Technology for Teachers have written about this awesome little […]

[Instructional Coach Chronicles] Working With a Teacher You Don’t Like

[Instructional Coach Chronicles] Working With a Teacher You Don’t Like

Have you ever worked with a teacher who didn’t want to work with you -at all? I did and I promise it almost broke me mentally and professionally. All of our disagreements came to a head as we set in the office ready to have a meeting with the principal.

Before I get to that, let me start at the beginning of the story.

I was hired to work as an Instructional Coach halfway through the first month of school. So when I arrived, I was nervous, scared and hopeful that I could bring my previous work as a teacher into working with other teachers. Two days into the job, I had to run my first Professional Learning Community and go over the principal’s expectations for the team. Everything was going well and teachers were asking good questions until we came up to the line-When are lesson plans due?

I started, “So Mr. Cunningham* wants all lesson plans turned in by Thursday evening so that we- the coaches- could have feedback ready to you by the time you leave on Fri-”

Before I could get the last of the word out Mr. Fox* interrupted me.

“Why Thursday? I like to sit down on Friday after the students leave, go to an early dinner and write my lesson plans well into the evening.”

Taken aback, I explained again what the principal wanted, but with that came 20 more questions about why Mr. Fox thought this was unfair. Obviously exasperated, he left the meeting vowing to meet with Mr. Cunningham to plead his case. I could tell by the look on all of the teacher’s faces that they were not amused by Mr. Fox and I immediately knew that he would be quite different to work with.

Now, based on that interaction, you’d think that Mr. Fox was a veteran teacher, but no, he actually a second-year teacher who had decided that he knew everything there was about teaching history to high school age children. Upon observing his class, it was clear that there were issues- specifically around classroom management and instructional strategies, specifically, he lectured the entire class period and if a student didn’t do what he said at that moment, he put them “out” of the classroom. However, Fox decided he didn’t need anyone’s help.

That belief posed a major problem with the vision of our principal Mr. Cunningham who had a clear instructional vision about the school that directly in contrast to how Mr. Fox operated his class. So for the next couple of months, I attempted to build a relationship with him, but to no avail. Despite his reluctance to work with me, I still had to visit his class several times per week and offer feedback and try to get him to embrace a more student-centered classroom. Nothing worked. He relied strongly on his summer training of teaching and recoiled if anyone suggested that he use anything other than the textbook.

All of this came to head, after a visit from the state where they witnessed Mr. Fox demean a student because they didn’t have the right type of paper and lectured the entire class period. Immediately after the observation, I was called into the office and there was Mr. Fox waiting.

Not knowing what was going on, I knocked on my principal’s door and he quietly opened the door and pointed for me to sit since he was on the phone. After about five minutes, he hung up and before I could ask him what was going on, he called for Mr. Fox to sit down.

The next fifteen minutes were interesting- to say the least. There was a lot of tense moments with the principal laying out his concerns one-by-one and Mr. Fox sticking to his guns that everything he was doing was right. The entire time, I just sat in my chair and listened- this was not my meeting and despite what I personally felt about him, this entire exchange was awkward and unwarranted. In the end, the principal gave Fox and ultimatum- make your teaching more center-focused or his evaluation would show that. Begrudgingly, Mr. Fox agreed he’d work with me and we’d meet again in two weeks to reassess his progress.

We all left that meeting feeling pretty ‘beat up’ but I couldn’t just go back to my office- I needed to have a follow-up conversation with Mr. Fox- not to beat him up, but to let him know I was really there to help him. During our quick meeting, I reiterated that as a second-year teacher it was normal for him to struggle and that if he needed help with what he had to do let me know.

I left feeling better and I apparently he did also because later that night I received an email asking if he could meet with me during his planning to see how he could organize his planning better. Our work relationship got better once he realized I could help him and I did.  He ended the year feeling much less like he had a target on his back and he even sent me a nice note thanking me for working with him despite his ‘bad’ attitude.

5 Instructional Coach Books You Should Read This Summer

5 Instructional Coach Books You Should Read This Summer

In March of every year, the whispers start about if available Instructional Coach positions will be available the following school and year and in attempt to be “ready” many aspiring (and current) coaches begin to look for reading that can give them a “leg up” […]

The Anxieties of Coaching Displaced Teachers

The Anxieties of Coaching Displaced Teachers

by Shawnta S. Barnes It takes hard work to build up teachers and improve their practice, but the work is even harder when teachers are displaced.  This school year is my third year as an instructional coach and this year has been the most challenging. […]

The Instructional Coach File: Starting With a Purpose in Mind

The Instructional Coach File: Starting With a Purpose in Mind

You clear your throat. “Today we’re going to learn how to monitor data in our classrooms..” You look around the room and 20 pairs of eyes are looking at you waiting for you to finish your sentence. “..and how to increase student achievement at our school.” As you turn around to grab your handouts you can feel the collective sigh from your co-workers.

They HATE to discuss data.

As you turn around to pass out your handouts, the first question comes up.

Teacher A: “Didn’t we just look at data at our last meeting?”

Teacher B: “I couldn’t give my diagnostic exam because the computer lab was being worked on.”

Teacher C: “Can we make this short? I have papers to grade!”

As you struggle through the professional development you literally feel yourself failing as a coach. After training you just sit in your office and replay the events in your head. How in the hell did you even get to this point?

That right there ladies and gentlemen is the typical day in the life of an Instructional Coach. I experienced it and many times these types of experiences literally put you through the Instructional Coach Ring of Fire. By the time you are finished with your presentation, you have sweated out all your deodorant and your throat is dry and scratchy and you are counting the hours until you can go home and crawl in a fetal position on your couch.

The Instructional Coach Ring of Fire is an experience (or set of collective experiences) that every coach goes through despite your years and experience in education and as a result, makes you question your role and/or effectiveness of being a coach. These experiences are usually had at either the beginning of the year or as a result of a professional learning gone rogue. During this experience, many Instructional Coaches just want to go home and not come back for several days. When (and if) they do get over this initiation and make it to the other side, almost nothing else can harm them.

However, the result of this proverbial “ring of fire” is to make coaches question their position within a school. For many first-year coaches, they continue to question their purpose at the school level well into the school year. Are you there to check lesson plans and give feedback? Are you there to work with new teachers and support them? Or has your principal pulled you for more menial tasks to complete around the school? Quite simply the purpose and role of an Instructional Coach is to support teachers. Sometimes that support involves modeling classroom lessons while other times it may mean working with a struggling teacher one on one.

Finding your purpose as an Instructional Coach is a process that’s both complex and (at times) political. There may be teachers in your building who are resentful of one of them giving them feedback and seeing them at their most vulnerable moments.  However, there are some things Instructional Coaches can do that establish their presence in the building as help not more eyes for administration such as:

  • Conducting a professional learning survey for all teachers in the school. Tools such as Survey Monkey and Google Drive make it easy for you to create a simple 10 question survey about what areas teachers feel they are experts in and what are their areas of growth. Any survey given out should be specific enough so that you can gain insightful data, but it shouldn’t take the teachers 30 minutes to complete. A good “rule of thumb” is to make the survey less than ten minutes.
  • Have a discussion with your administration team of their expectations for your job. Being an Instructional Coach is not the same as an Assistant Principal or Principal, instead your role is all about support of teachers. At the beginning of the year, sit down and ask of the expectations the administrative team will have for you. When I was an Instructional Coach I was required to observe one teacher a day and offer feedback to that teacher. In addition, I was expected to deliver professional learning once a week in collaborative planning. However, after speaking to other Instructional Coaches their duties differed greatly. Some were being used as Assistant Principals while others covered classes all day. In order to see improvement in struggling teachers, it’s critical for the administrative team realize that you are there for support.
  • Meeting with teachers 1:1 about the results of their survey. Once you have data from the survey, make a face to face to all teachers you support and just let them know your role in the school. This is a great time to reinforce the data you have already had and a great way to meet each teacher and determine the teachers who may be most resistant to your role.
  • Offer genuine help to struggling teachers. During these 1:1 meetings with teachers, it will become clear who needs help and who doesn’t. Sometimes the teachers who are struggling will come to you, but many times you will find them during your routine visits. Listen to them when they tell you the areas they are struggling in and give them real help. So many times, principals suggest for teachers to read and article and expect for the teachers to become better just by reading. In reality, these teachers may need some modeling and some explicit help in overcoming their areas of growth.
  • Stay out of all administrative decisions- you are not an assistant principal. I remember when one of my principals asked me to sit in a meeting he was having with a struggling as he was about to put them on a professional development plan. I politely declined. Instead, I suggested for him to send the teacher to me afterward so I could console her and give her a plan to get off of the plan. Instructional Coaches should not take place in anything punitive (or viewed as punitive from teachers) directed toward their teachers. Instructional Coaches should be impartial and should focus on what the best for instruction at their school sites.
  • Make professional development timely and job-embedded. No one likes professional development that is a “sit and get”.  If you don’t believe go to any session at an education conference where a  PowerPoint is the center of learning. Instead, we love learning that’s relevant, timely and job-embedded.  So during every professional learning I created an activity that allowed teachers to learn through the activity.

Coaching is one of the hardest jobs in the building, but with careful planning you can help teachers tremendously  and find your purpose in your building. Now tell us how you defined your role as an Instructional Coach in the building!

 

It’s the End of the Year! What now?

It’s the End of the Year! What now?

Things are beginning to slow down in the last month of school in the coaching world. Teachers and the school are part of standardized testing, they are gearing up for awards ceremonies, and they are trying to keep their students calm. It is the end […]

Contempt of Teacher

Contempt of Teacher

Contempt of the teacher isn’t exactly a real thing. But it should be. It is the teacher equivalent of ‘contempt of cop.’ Wikipedia provides the following definition: “Contempt of cop” is law enforcement jargon in the United States for behavior by people towards law enforcement […]

Beat the Testing Season Blues as an Instructional Coach

Beat the Testing Season Blues as an Instructional Coach

The testing season has come. The joyful excitement of standardized tests is felt throughout the building. The unboxing of answer sheets, testing tickets, checking rosters twice has the whole school jumping for joy! Who am I kidding? If we are honest with ourselves as professionals, this is our least favorite time of the year. This time of year brings about a lull that is felt all throughout the building.
There are many reasons that testing season gives us the blues, but as as a coach, it’s important that we do not get sucked into the negative testing culture that can occur this time of year. So as an Instructional Coach, what do you do for that not to happen? What do you do to calm the negative feelings that surround teachers during this time of year? I’m going to provide some tips that will help to turn those feelings around. These tips will help to release some of that pressure on teachers and yourself.

Tip #1: Stay Positive
Your positive attitude will hopefully rub off on teachers. It will be a transference of energy. This is not the time to go in classes and heavily critique. Most teachers are internally critiquing themselves. This is the time to motivate, help when needed and work together as a team to prepare for the big test! Teachers are relying on your positive energy, your help and expertise, even when they don’t say it.

Tip #2: Remind teachers to make test prep fun
Just as the teachers are stressed, so are their students. Give tips, ideas and resources to make test prep fun for teachers and students. The review of PowerPoints and skill-n-drill isn’t effective teaching, students don’t retain the information, and it is just plain boring. This type of test prep can actually increase stress rather than decrease it. Plus, unwanted behaviors might increase because of the lack of engagement. Remind teachers to keep the engagement up for their students, give them ideas to create a theme, make a game, etc., and make it fun for students.

Tip #3: Plan a Pep Rally
Just about a week before the test, plan a pep rally to get students (and teachers) excited about showing what they know rather than focusing on what they don’t know. Remind students of testing strategies they should be using during the test through song or call and response. Have teachers of each grade level to create a song or cheer to perform for their students. (The students love this!) This is a time to pump up the testing culture in a positive way! Have a good time and beat the test!

Tip #4: Get everyone involved
For the grade levels that may not be testing, have those grade levels make signs, posters, and notes giving words of encouragement to their peers. This helps to build that positive culture amongst students as well. But don’t stop at students, have teachers also write notes to the teachers of those grade levels as well. Make it fun and keep that positive momentum going! This will help to create that culture and change some of the negative mindsets that surround testing.

Tip #5: Be flexible
During this time of year your job title will be iridescent. You will have many job titles because you will be needed in a variety places, spaces, areas, and classrooms. This is the time to pull out your flexibility hat and own it. It’s important to realize that being a team player is what helps to continue that positive testing culture you’ve been striving for. You are part of the culture. So get out your flexibility hat and positivity pants and put them on.

Testing season may not be our favorite season, but it’s coming and we can’t escape it.  Instead of embracing the negative parts of this season, let’s get that glass half full mindset. Let that mindset permeate throughout your building and beat the testing blues!

Meaningful Feedback-A Strategy

Meaningful Feedback-A Strategy

Today, I had a teacher tell me she “always feels so supported” when she gets feedback from my visits. That is an incredible compliment. It made me wonder why instructional coaches don’t receive feedback like that more often. I don’t have all the answers, but […]

The Implications of Action Research for Literacy Instruction

The Implications of Action Research for Literacy Instruction

Originally published for Olivet Nazarene University Guest Writers: Kathi Lippert, Ed.D. Cassie Bailey, M.A. November, 2018 Part I Change is not always welcome in the education field. Sometimes, it is even viewed with distrust and disdain as teachers are not always a part of the […]

Stuck in the Middle

Stuck in the Middle

Sometimes I feel stuck in the middle of…well, everyone. Not only am I navigating and sometimes mediating relationships among teachers, I also wind up third party to student-teacher, counselor-teacher, or administrator-teacher interactions.

Let me be clear: I do not take sides and I do not state an opinion. I listen, paraphrase, emphasize and look for potential paths forward. My focus is on student benefit. Sometimes, I have to remind myself that stress among faculty, and stressed out faculty, both negatively impacts students. My job requires me to be a patient listener. The ‘white hat’ so to speak.

Often, I feel boxed in by all the “peopley” needs people constantly share with me. Threading the needle of these situations is exhausting. How can I improve my instruction if I am sidetracked trying to keep the science clique from ostracizing the new teacher? When am I reviewing curriculum if I am mediating lunch time because teachers who hate each other insist on eating together with a larger group? What data am I analyzing if students are wandering into my office looking for advice?

The flip side

These are real and constant tensions. For the most part, those questions are a positive. If teachers didn’t trust and respect me, they wouldn’t seek my support. If I weren’t visible and approachable, students wouldn’t seek me out. The cultural positives of common lunch, outweigh the need for a referee. My lens has to be on why I am front and center in every potential conflict rather than how on annoying or petty they seem.

The most troubling and delicate situations, though, are the legitimate concerns brought to my attention. When these concerns are instructional, I am equipped with the tools to handle difficult conversations. Managing personalities is also something I feel is a strength.

But I am nervous about the legitimate critiques of administrators. My job isn’t to coach principals. No one told me I would have to advocate for different groups without alienating anyone else. I believe most administrators are well and truly stuck in the middle of everything. So, they get defensive or dismissive easily.

I have to remind myself I have worked hard to create positive relationships with them too. Generally, they respond positively to honest, helpful feedback. I am a teacher advocate. If I support principals, I support teachers too. I can be the bridge by thoughtfully sharing concerns.

An example:

Over the course of a week, I observed and worked closely with five teachers. Three teachers mentioned missing supplies. All three stated that they had already requested the items. The missing items will enhance instruction. What do I do?

I could have approached the administrator and pretended I am not fully aware of how supply ordering works. This makes me uncomfortable. My reputation as knowledgeable precedes me. Maybe I could have encouraged teachers to follow up. Though I hate to promote a “squeaky wheels get the grease” mentality or create unnecessary tension. The third option is the most intimidating: I could have brought the issue to the administrator’s attention.

I both did and did not do all of those things.

Teachers should be willing and able to speak with their supervisors. In this case, I know the relationships are positive enough to withstand such a minor issue. Therefore, I reminded teachers to ask, appropriately and professionally, about their orders.

Despite my hesitation, I heard about this from enough people to warrant my intervention. I feel somewhat intimidated by approaching administrators. Nonetheless, I felt a pattern emerging that needed to be disrupted. So I decided to include this issue in my weekly meeting.

In addition, I opted to play a little dumb. Or at least, to approach bringing up this problem as casually as possible. First, I gathered a few more details. Second, I left this discussion to the end of my meeting. I didn’t want to derail the positive trends we had to review. Finally, I reflected on how to craft my statement. I needed to get the message across without judgement. I also needed to stay out of it–to not take sides.

To my surprise, it worked. At least, I think it did. As I packed up to leave, I said, “By the way, a couple people mentioned they are missing supplies. How can I help with that?” He surprised me by saying the supplies have arrived. He just hasn’t gotten around to distributing them. Hopefully, my reminder will help him prioritize putting those items in teachers hands.

Lessons and Questions

I might be nervous over nothing in these situations. On the other hand, I am learning to honor my feelings. In doing so, I become more reflective. I can stay positive and feel less stuck in the middle when I am self-aware.

Changing my point of view also helped me recognize the compliment I am getting when people confide in me. I am slowly becoming more confident. Moreover, I am intentionally building strong relationships.

I still have questions. How can I better manage my time? In the long run, how can I reduce conflict among teachers? What steps will help strengthen a culture of respect? How do I advocate for everyone? Who coaches me? When will I feel like I know what I am doing?

Maybe the last question was somewhat hyperbolic. Maybe. I hate feeling like I am stuck in the middle. And I love being in the middle of everything. I am focused on adjusting the ‘stuck’ part and I hope will continue to improve.

The Missing Piece in Professional Development

The Missing Piece in Professional Development

What is the missing piece in most professional development sessions? Why is it so hard to change teacher behavior in learning new knowledge? What can we do to make teacher learning stick? We’ve all asked these questions. No matter how thoroughly we prepare or how […]

The Power of Modeling

The Power of Modeling

By having your students become a part of the process, they begin to understand the concept quicker because they are able to explain and communicate the learning concept.

The Coach’s Role in Teacher Self-Care

The Coach’s Role in Teacher Self-Care

Coaches have a vital role to play in teacher self-care. That statement almost sounds counter-intuitive. Honestly, I kind of hate the term ‘teacher self-care.’ I worry it puts the onus of caring for teachers only in their own hands. As coaches, as schools, as districts, I believe we should share responsibility for the care of teachers.

Perhaps, instead of encouraging teachers to learn to say no, we ought to focus on not asking too much of them. As coaches, we have an opportunity and a responsibility to take an active role in caring for teachers. There is always too much to do in schools; however, there are steps we can take to support teacher self-care.

Coaches can establish a culture of shared accountability. We can learn our teachers strengths, weaknesses, and boundaries. Instruction improves when we can help teachers divorce responsibility from blame to focus on student growth. We can clearly establish our own boundaries and stand firm in support of reasonable expectations. Mostly, we can avoid some common pitfalls.

We are, or at least I am, often guilty of asking those we know will say yes. In a pinch, when I need help, I ask teachers who are willing. The unfortunate side effect is that we unintentionally contribute to the overburdening of certain teachers. Partly, we do this out of desperation. Partly, we do this because it is easier. And partly, I think, we do this out of fear.

Not unlike our teachers, we as Instructional Coaches are frequently overworked and overwhelmed. When last-minute tasks with impossible deadlines loom, we are often desperate for help. We reach out to those we trust. We depend on those whose abilities we trust. It feels impossible not to depend heavily on the dependable.

In addition to desperation, asking those likely to say yes is So. Much. Easier. It is difficult to confront the insecurity of asking someone for help when we are unsure of the answer. It is hard enough to ask for help. Pressure makes it infinitely harder. Formulating a plan for approaching those who are less apt to pitchin takes valuable time and effort.

Asking for help is also terrifying. It makes us vulnerable. How can we balance being an instructional authority with needing to ask for support? We fear the potential loss of respect or authority or validity. It can feel like we are sacrificing our standing instead of standing on our own. We are worried about appearing weak at nervous about failure. Compounding those issues is the fear that the help we seek may be inadequate.

Despite all those issues, we can care for our teachers and ourselves by creating a culture of shared responsibility. A culture of collaboration as a positive choice that leads to success rather than a mandate. Taking the time and effort to invite every teacher to participate in shared tasks builds confidence, respect, and success. It can lead to the sharing of ideas.
Of course, teachers have different skill sets and levels of contribution. Knowing and respecting those strengths and limitations is part of the job. Accepting each other, even as we push each other to improve, is a vital part of a healthy school culture.

Teachers who fail to care for themselves eventually fail to care for others effectively. Coaches have a role in ensuring teachers take care of themselves and each other. Just as we encourage students to develop shared accountability and mutual respect, we need to encourage teachers to do the same. Maybe it would be fair to say that the coach’s role in teacher self-care is coach self-awareness and coach self-care.

Slowing Down During the Holidays

Slowing Down During the Holidays

It seems like things are slowing down a bit during this time of year. It never fails. Teachers are finishing up last minute to-dos before finals, crafts are being created, and the school has turned into a sea of red and green. All the while, […]


The Intimates of Being a Coach

The Instructional Coach File: Starting With a Purpose in Mind

The Instructional Coach File: Starting With a Purpose in Mind

You clear your throat. “Today we’re going to learn how to monitor data in our classrooms..” You look around the room and 20 pairs of eyes are looking at you waiting for you to finish your sentence. “..and how to increase student achievement at our school.” As you turn around to grab your handouts you can feel the collective sigh from your co-workers.

They HATE to discuss data.

As you turn around to pass out your handouts, the first question comes up.

Teacher A: “Didn’t we just look at data at our last meeting?”

Teacher B: “I couldn’t give my diagnostic exam because the computer lab was being worked on.”

Teacher C: “Can we make this short? I have papers to grade!”

As you struggle through the professional development you literally feel yourself failing as a coach. After training you just sit in your office and replay the events in your head. How in the hell did you even get to this point?

That right there ladies and gentlemen is the typical day in the life of an Instructional Coach. I experienced it and many times these types of experiences literally put you through the Instructional Coach Ring of Fire. By the time you are finished with your presentation, you have sweated out all your deodorant and your throat is dry and scratchy and you are counting the hours until you can go home and crawl in a fetal position on your couch.

The Instructional Coach Ring of Fire is an experience (or set of collective experiences) that every coach goes through despite your years and experience in education and as a result, makes you question your role and/or effectiveness of being a coach. These experiences are usually had at either the beginning of the year or as a result of a professional learning gone rogue. During this experience, many Instructional Coaches just want to go home and not come back for several days. When (and if) they do get over this initiation and make it to the other side, almost nothing else can harm them.

However, the result of this proverbial “ring of fire” is to make coaches question their position within a school. For many first-year coaches, they continue to question their purpose at the school level well into the school year. Are you there to check lesson plans and give feedback? Are you there to work with new teachers and support them? Or has your principal pulled you for more menial tasks to complete around the school? Quite simply the purpose and role of an Instructional Coach is to support teachers. Sometimes that support involves modeling classroom lessons while other times it may mean working with a struggling teacher one on one.

Finding your purpose as an Instructional Coach is a process that’s both complex and (at times) political. There may be teachers in your building who are resentful of one of them giving them feedback and seeing them at their most vulnerable moments.  However, there are some things Instructional Coaches can do that establish their presence in the building as help not more eyes for administration such as:

  • Conducting a professional learning survey for all teachers in the school. Tools such as Survey Monkey and Google Drive make it easy for you to create a simple 10 question survey about what areas teachers feel they are experts in and what are their areas of growth. Any survey given out should be specific enough so that you can gain insightful data, but it shouldn’t take the teachers 30 minutes to complete. A good “rule of thumb” is to make the survey less than ten minutes.
  • Have a discussion with your administration team of their expectations for your job. Being an Instructional Coach is not the same as an Assistant Principal or Principal, instead your role is all about support of teachers. At the beginning of the year, sit down and ask of the expectations the administrative team will have for you. When I was an Instructional Coach I was required to observe one teacher a day and offer feedback to that teacher. In addition, I was expected to deliver professional learning once a week in collaborative planning. However, after speaking to other Instructional Coaches their duties differed greatly. Some were being used as Assistant Principals while others covered classes all day. In order to see improvement in struggling teachers, it’s critical for the administrative team realize that you are there for support.
  • Meeting with teachers 1:1 about the results of their survey. Once you have data from the survey, make a face to face to all teachers you support and just let them know your role in the school. This is a great time to reinforce the data you have already had and a great way to meet each teacher and determine the teachers who may be most resistant to your role.
  • Offer genuine help to struggling teachers. During these 1:1 meetings with teachers, it will become clear who needs help and who doesn’t. Sometimes the teachers who are struggling will come to you, but many times you will find them during your routine visits. Listen to them when they tell you the areas they are struggling in and give them real help. So many times, principals suggest for teachers to read and article and expect for the teachers to become better just by reading. In reality, these teachers may need some modeling and some explicit help in overcoming their areas of growth.
  • Stay out of all administrative decisions- you are not an assistant principal. I remember when one of my principals asked me to sit in a meeting he was having with a struggling as he was about to put them on a professional development plan. I politely declined. Instead, I suggested for him to send the teacher to me afterward so I could console her and give her a plan to get off of the plan. Instructional Coaches should not take place in anything punitive (or viewed as punitive from teachers) directed toward their teachers. Instructional Coaches should be impartial and should focus on what the best for instruction at their school sites.
  • Make professional development timely and job-embedded. No one likes professional development that is a “sit and get”.  If you don’t believe go to any session at an education conference where a  PowerPoint is the center of learning. Instead, we love learning that’s relevant, timely and job-embedded.  So during every professional learning I created an activity that allowed teachers to learn through the activity.

Coaching is one of the hardest jobs in the building, but with careful planning you can help teachers tremendously  and find your purpose in your building. Now tell us how you defined your role as an Instructional Coach in the building!

 


From Behind the Lines

The Missing Piece in Professional Development

The Missing Piece in Professional Development

What is the missing piece in most professional development sessions? Why is it so hard to change teacher behavior in learning new knowledge? What can we do to make teacher learning stick? We’ve all asked these questions. No matter how thoroughly we prepare or how […]

The Power of Modeling

The Power of Modeling

By having your students become a part of the process, they begin to understand the concept quicker because they are able to explain and communicate the learning concept.

The Coach’s Role in Teacher Self-Care

The Coach’s Role in Teacher Self-Care

Coaches have a vital role to play in teacher self-care. That statement almost sounds counter-intuitive. Honestly, I kind of hate the term ‘teacher self-care.’ I worry it puts the onus of caring for teachers only in their own hands. As coaches, as schools, as districts, […]

My First Step to Self-Care: A Balanced Schedule

My First Step to Self-Care: A Balanced Schedule

In the life of an Instructional Coach, we are there to support teachers. We love seeing teachers continue to grow. We want to be there for them, provide feedback and do all we can to help facilitate their development. However, we often put our all […]

Steps to Becoming an Instructional Coach

Steps to Becoming an Instructional Coach

A typical response when I tell other educators that I am an Instructional Coach is, “Wow! That sounds awesome. How do you become a coach?” The response that I give them is usually the abbreviated version of steps I had taken to become a coach, […]