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

Recent Posts

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, […]

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, you may be twiddling your thumbs figuring out what todo. Here is some week before break tips to get you through:

  • Remain Visible

While the students are involved in “craftivities”and other before break assignments, capture the moment. Be a part of it all. Allow yourself to have a good time in these classrooms. During this time, it is important that you stay connected to teachers, students, and the school. It is easy during this time of year to venture off into your Instructional Coach Island and do your Instructional Coach work. That work will eventually get done. However, in the meantime, go see what is going on throughout the rest of the building.

  • Start planning Professional Development.

I am sure that after Winter Break, you will be back on and ready to go. This is the time ultimately to be prepared. Make sure your professional development is planned, your data meeting materials are prepared and you are ready to tackle the rest of the school year with ease. No one wants to have to do work over break because that would infringe on your self-care. 

  • Give the gift of time.

I do not know about you, but during thistime of year, I miss being in the classroom. I want to teach lessons and interact with teachers and students. This is the perfect time to give the gift of time to your teachers. This allows teachers to get some “free time” and get a break while you “cover their class.” They need it. This just might even land you a “Coach of the Year” trophy. Well maybe not a trophy, but they sure will appreciate it!

  •  Be flexible.

This is the best advice that a coach can give another coach during this time of year and here is why. You will be asked to cover classes, stand in hallways, check parents in, check parents out, and any other extra duties that may come up during this time. The truth is you are needed. You have to be as flexible as possible. This is a time when you may think this is not in my job description, but this time of year your help is needed. Be flexible.  As we all know with being in education, being flexible is in your job description.

  • Set goals for 2019.

Use this time to reflect on your year so far. Write down at least three professional goals for yourself and the work you want to do in 2019. Ask yourself what are some things you can improve upon and some areas you are going to continue to grow in. Celebrate the successes you have made and make some next steps for yourself.

This time of year use this calmness and quietness before winter break to allow yourself to breathe, plan and get ready for 2019!  

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 […]

How Soon Is Too Soon to Observe Teachers?

How Soon Is Too Soon to Observe Teachers?

How soon is too soon to visit classrooms? Maybe that is the wrong question. How soon is too soon to start observing teachers and providing feedback? This is my struggle. Of course, as a coach, I want to get into classrooms as soon as possible. […]

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, however, becoming a coach is not something that happens overnight. It is a gradual process—at least it was for me. There are a variety of steps that are intentional, yet at times, unintentional that makes one ready 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 would have told me then that in 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 grow into becoming an effective coach and it will 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 level of teachers, you need to be ready to lead and support. The duty of 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, provide support to your team members and lead/facilitate meetings as well. This job will definitely lead you in 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 one that is on your list of favorite things to do. Being a coach, professional development will be an important part of your job. As a teacher who wants to be an instructional leader in the school, I would definitely jump on opportunities to attend professional development as well as opportunities to share learning back to 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. You think the students are bad? Whew. Get in front of a group of teachers that think the professional development you are providing 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 to always 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 go take courses or apply to be Coaching Endorsed (although some colleges do provide that), however, I am saying if you want to become a coach you have to be knowledgeable about what the job entails. It is extremely important to read many articles, books, 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 it is 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 as 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 […]

Evaluating Instructional Materials: An Integral Part of Being an Instructional Coach

Evaluating Instructional Materials: An Integral Part of Being an Instructional Coach

Evaluating materials is often a part of the coaching gig, even though it isn’t in the typical coaching job description. We are often called on as experts to evaluate a variety of instructional materials, books, and programs. There are so many things to consider when […]

Gossip and Gripes: The Instructional Coach Chronicles

Gossip and Gripes: The Instructional Coach Chronicles

People talk. They gossip. They gripe about their colleagues. As a coach, I feel like I hear it all. To be successful, though, I can’t participate, no matter how tempting.

It isn’t because I don’t enjoy gossip. And certainly, it isn’t because I have no gripes. One of the things I focus on establishing with my teachers is that they can tell me anything without worrying about privacy, judgment, or negative consequences. To preserve the relationships I am building, I must be a vault. The black box. Information goes in raw and comes out not at all.

It is incredibly lonely to only listen. It is exhausting to choose my words carefully with everyone. It is depressing to hear accounts of terrible teacher behavior. It is delicate work to determine what action, if any, to take in response.

Developing appropriate responses to gossip and gripes is an ongoing challenge.

There are times when I gently suggest to someone sharing another teacher’s personal dramas that perhaps spreading rumors isn’t the most supportive course of action. Though nerve-wracking, the direct route usually works best. Questions I’ve asked include “How is sharing this information helping your colleague?,” “What could we do to support this person?,” or “I wonder if this information can help you work with this person?”

Often, gossip is an avoidance tactic. Teachers who gossip about others are generally attempting to avoid focusing on themselves. Those in this category are often unwittingly revealing insecurities about their professional acumen. When I recognize a teacher using gossip to stall, I can more easily put aside any irritation I might feel.

Other times, I simply listen and hold my tongue. There are people who use gossip to build connections with others and establish a personal relationship. Those same individuals are often also testing the trustworthiness of the people in whom they confide.

When teachers complain about each other’s professionalism, I find that trickier to manage. It irritates me when teachers tear each other down. Criticisms that are unjustified are especially irksome. The best I can do in those circumstances is to express surprise and offer counterexamples.

Criticisms based on legitimate concern are tough. Generally, I work with the teacher speaking to try and see things from a different perspective. Then I try to ensure I work with the teacher who is struggling on those areas that are problematic.

For example, two teachers came to me to complain that another teacher in their subject area is neither paying attention or contributing to group efforts. I tried to be tactful and ask them what efforts they have made to give her meaningful tasks or play to her strengths…to no avail. Finally, the tirade ended with a “How can she not sense the almost open hostility?”

I took a deep breath and said as calmly as possible, “Maybe she does and it rightly fuels some sense of self-righteous superiority.” Both women paused, looked at each other, and then one said, “Well, that’s counterproductive!” I agreed and asked them what they could try instead. There was some grumbling. I gave them a choice “Put some extra effort into finding ways to work with her, or expend that energy being irritated.” Despite the continued grumbles, they conceded that being irritated wasn’t working well for them.

Being so direct is always risky, but I know my teachers fairly well by now, and I felt confident a more direct approach was an appropriate course of action.

Still, though, I worry. What if I had been wrong? What if this teacher’s behavior becomes even more egregious. How much griping can I take? How do I help this teacher?

Gossip and gripes are inevitable with any group of people. Navigating them as a coach is tough. I wish I could wave a magic wand and make the ick people spew about each other go away. I don’t know if I always handle it in the best way possible. All I can say is that I try. I try to be the black box. I try to create and nurture relationships.

Coaching a Dysfunctional Team

Coaching a Dysfunctional Team

Remember your college days, where you were assigned to a group of peers who did not always have your work ethic or attention to detail?  Did you carry that group to an “A” or mourn when they brought your grade down?  The outcomes were important […]