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

The Unspoken Truths of Being an Instructional Coach

Imagine you’re running a marathon and you’ve made it to mile 24. You’re cramping up and your mouth is dry, but you know the end is near- so you keep going. At mile 25, you’ve resorted to walking because you’re legs are on fire. You know you have roughly a mile and a half left, but mentally you’re over it. Just as you’re about to quit, there’s a water station and after guzzling down two cups, you think you can make it. Forty-five minutes later you’re literally crawling to the finish line, but you’re finished. You collapse and just lay on the pavement. You made it- you’re now a marathoner. 

The act of finishing a marathon is a grueling task that few accomplish and it perfectly describes how many Instructional Coaches feel at the end of any given school year. For the past 180 days, coaches have functioned between a pseudo teacher, confidante, and colleague and as the school year dwindles down to the final countdown, the meltdowns from teachers (and even you) are more frequent and the days are longer. For outsiders looking in on the job of an Instructional Coach, being “out” of the classroom is the best position ever, but what many don’t know is that there’s an unspoken truth of our job.

Being an Instructional Coach is a lonely job. Share on X

Lonely in the sense you’re no longer (technically) a teacher. You can’t go into the teacher’s lounge and laugh about the silly jokes about the principal, you’re no longer invited to those long lunches during planning days and you sure are not included in those complaining sessions that frequently happen in the hallway between classes. To make things even murkier, you’re definitely not invited to the Administrative Meetings, you aren’t in attendance in conferences with teachers to discuss their areas of growth and your opinion on what instructional decisions need to occur are often ignored.

So where does this leave the Coach? In a space that leaves them alone with the difficult work of trying to change the instructional practices of teachers. Many times this loneliness shows up during times that are trying to coaches such as having courageous conversations with a teacher or when they just feel defeated, but whenever the loneliness shows up it has the ability to hinder the most ambitious coach to a crying shell of a professional.

During these moments, there are several truths that become clearer:

  • Instructional Coaches need professional learning communities that are space spaces for them to cry, scream, or ask for desperately needed help.
  • As an Instructional Coach, you don’t have to “like” all of your teachers.
  • There’s a strong likelihood that your administrative team has not one iota of instructional savviness in their bones.
  • There are days where you wonder if going back in the classroom is where you can interact with reasonable people-students.
  • There’s a likelihood that the people in your building believe your job is being a glorified assistant- to everyone.
  • Leaving the classroom to become an instructional coach does not mean you couldn’t “handle” students.
  • You’re no longer a teacher. Yes, you’re still a certified teacher, but you don’t have a dedicated classroom, and other teachers know that.
  • You can know all of the coaching “strategies” you want, but if teachers don’t respect you no work will get done.
  • Your administrator will ask you to do tasks that are technically their job- you either do it, or you could (possibly) get a bad evaluation.

As each day to summer becomes nearer, these truths become harder to swallow and can leave a coach crawling to the finish line of the end of school, unwilling to confront the truths you know to be evident about your job. So instead of leaving a trail of tears, enter the theratp

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