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

Author: E'Manita Creekmore

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 […]

Beat the Testing Season Blues as an Instructional Coach

Beat the Testing Season Blues as an Instructional Coach

This is the time to pull out your flexibility hat and own it.

The Power of Modeling

The Power of Modeling

There is power in modeling. Whether you are a Math, Reading or Language Arts teacher, teacher modeling is extremely important when trying to get students to begin to understand and learn key concepts. As simple as it seems to incorporate in lessons, teacher modeling is often overlooked. We expect that if we tell our students to “do”, they will just “do.” When students do not produce the outcome as expected, we often get impatient, frustrated and discouraged. However, we have missed one of the most powerful research-based instructional strategies in teaching—modeling. Modeling helps to make learning concepts clearer.

According to Barak Rosenshine, writer of Principles of Instruction: Research Based Strategies That All Teachers Should Know, students need cognitive support to help them learn to solve problems. It also states that teacher modeling and thinking aloud while demonstrating how to solve a problem are examples of effective cognitive support. There are many different ways to model learning concepts. Here are three ways teachers, through modeling, can help students learn a concept:

Model Thinking:

One way a teacher can model their thinking with students is to think aloud as they annotate or read a text, work through a math problem, or share thoughts/feelings about a topic. Students need to observe, discuss and be a part of the modeling process. By having 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. It helps students to become critical thinkers and to be able to express themselves and their learning.


Scaffolding, having student(s) work with the teacher and provide examples, is a technique that allows students to actually see what is being asked of them to produce with teacher support. Scaffolding for students is extremely important before they begin to try a new concept or strategy on their own. In an article by Northern Illinois University, it states when [teachers] incorporate scaffolding in the classroom, [they] become more of a mentor and facilitator of knowledge rather than the dominant content expert. This teaching style provides an incentive for students to take a more active role in their own learning.

Students as Models:

There are many ways teachers can utilize students as models in their classrooms. At times, students can explain and model for their peers in a way that the concept is made even more plain to them. This is usually done after the teacher has modeled the learning concept for their class. Teachers can call a student up to model in front of the classroom or they can pair/group students and have students model within the group. Either way that is decided, it can be a powerful tool and at times students can explain it even clearer than teachers can. Let the students lead them, right?

Modeling in education is one research-based strategies that often gets overlooked. Let’s remember its power and use it to effectively teach students while providing the necessary support for our teachers.

Supporting Teachers:

As coaches here are some ways to support teachers in embedding the use of  modeling in their teaching practices:

  • Model modeling for teachers
  • Co-plan lessons that intentionally embeds the use of modeling
  • Provide professional development about the importance of modeling for students
  • Complete article studies (links above) with teachers
  • Have teachers observe other teachers using this research-based strategy
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, […]

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 the steps I had taken to become a coach; however, becoming a coach is not something that happens overnight. It is a gradual process—at least, it was for me. There are various intentional steps, sometimes unintentional, that prepare one to coach others.

Here are some:

1. Become a mentor—This is something that I had done in about the fifth year of my teaching journey. If someone had told me that about eight years from now, I would be coaching a whole school of teachers, I probably would not have believed them; however, here I am, an Elementary Instructional Coach. Mentoring other teachers, novice and veteran, is a form of coaching. Mentoring is providing support to teachers, building relationships, collaborating, co-planning and much, much more. If you haven’t been a mentor to a teacher and coaching is something that you see for yourself in the future, I suggest it for you. It will help you become an effective coach and show you the benefits and challenges in helping another adult learn and grow. Although rewarding, it can be very different.

2. Become Team Lead/Grade Level Chair—Becoming a leader for a team can be overwhelming and stressful, but coaching at times can be too. If you are thinking about being an Instructional Coach over a school or multiple grade levels of teachers, you need to be ready to lead and support. The duty of the Grade Level Chair is a great stepping stone in becoming an Instructional Coach. Here’s why—you are the liaison between your team and the principal. An Instructional Coach is also the liaison between teachers and the school principal. Becoming a Grade Level Chair teaches you to be a great communicator, support your team members, and lead/facilitate meetings. This job will definitely lead you on the path of becoming an Instructional Coach and teach you valuable skills needed in the future.

Becoming a Grade Level Chair teaches you to be a great communicator, provide support to your team members and lead/facilitate meetings as well. Click To Tweet

3. Become Engrossed in Professional Development—While I realize that as a teacher, the acronym PD is not on your list of favorite things to do. Professional development will be an essential part of your job as a coach. As a teacher who wants to be an instructional leader in the school, I would definitely jump on opportunities to attend professional development and share learning with the staff. If you do not like leading professional development, this is your time to practice. Yes, practice. It is one thing to get up in front of children and teach. It is a whole other ball game to stand in front of your colleagues, teach and provide professional development. Do you think the students are bad? Whew. Get in front of a group of teachers who think the professional development you provide is a waste of their time. However, it is extremely rewarding when teachers want to learn and grow. The more you practice at this, the better you will become. One tip is always to be a learner and to allow yourself to grow as well.

It is one thing to get up in front of children and teach. It is a whole other ball game to stand in front of your colleagues, teach and provide professional development. Click To Tweet

4. Become Knowledgeable about Instructional Coaching—Take time to learn about what Instructional Coaching is all about. I am not saying to take courses or apply to be Coaching Endorsed (although some colleges do provide that). However, I am saying that if you want to become a coach, you have to know what the job entails. It is extremely important to read many articles, and books, and listen to podcasts about the life of an Instructional Coach. Here are a few below:

The Instructional Coach Academy, The Many Roles of an Instructional Coach, What is an Instructional Coach?, What is It Like to be an Instructional Coach?

Books- The Art of Coaching by Elena Aguilar, Student-Centered Coaching: The Moves by: Diane Sweeny, Instructional Coaching by: Jim Knight

Podcasts- Instructional Coaching Corner, Educators Lead Episode 107: Jim Knight-How to Have Better Conversations, Arkansas: Eight Key Components of Coaching

5. Become Open to Positions Being Posted—Around February or March, be open and on the lookout for positions being posted in your county and in the surrounding counties. You do not know what is out there if you are not actively looking. This does not mean that if a position becomes open that you will be ready to jump to apply. However, it gets you in the mindset of the possibility. I always tell myself, if it is for me, it is for me. If it is your time to become an Instructional Coach and if, after taking these steps towards this path, you still want to go for it, I say take the leap. What are you waiting for? Go for it!

These five steps are merely just possible pathways into the role of an Instructional Coach. Does this look the same for every Instructional Coach? Of course not. But these are steps that worked for me and planted seeds for my growth as an Instructional Coach. Some of these seeds were intentional, and others I might have needed a little push. I would like to say that this Instructional Coaching job fell in my lap—but had I not taken these leadership roles and opportunities, I would not be adequately prepared for this job. Make sure you are ready for the job. Prepare yourself in order to support teachers.

Creating Partnerships in Uncomfortable Situations as an Instructional Coach

Creating Partnerships in Uncomfortable Situations as an Instructional Coach

As a coach, there comes a time when you are asked to work with a teacher who has not been one of the ones banging down your office door. This situation can cause feelings of discomfort for you and the teacher. Sometimes it is not […]