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

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Instructional Coaching: Finding Your Purpose

Instructional Coaching: Finding Your Purpose

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 […]

Instructional Coaching 101: You’ve Just Been Hired, Now What?

Instructional Coaching 101: You’ve Just Been Hired, Now What?

As I sat at my desk and fumed all I could say to myself was, “I did not sign up for this. This is not how you treat others!” The longer I repeated those words the angrier I became and before long I was hurriedly typing away […]

Coaching the Coaches: the Benefits of Instructional Coaches

Coaching the Coaches: the Benefits of Instructional Coaches

Originally posted on The Educator’s Room

By Katie Sluiter

Many teachers consider themselves to be coaches rather than just instructors. We are not just imparting knowledge, but we are there to mentor our students and develop them into becoming better thinkers, writers, readers, doers.  We don’t bark orders, rather we kneel down and workshop papers and assist in labs and calculations. It is reasonable to assume that teachers would want to be the best coaches possible for their students; however, demanding schedules of lesson planning, assessment-creation, grading, and data digging leave little time for teachers to engage in seeking out resources or new strategies. This is why instructional coaches are becoming valuable in the districts that provide them.

Many teachers think of their job as one of a coach rather than just an instructor. Click To Tweet

The junior high where I teach in a Title 1 urban district in West Michigan decided to allocate some of our Title 1 Grant funds to providing four instructional coaches (one in each core area: math, science, English language arts, and social studies). Our coaches, who are all participating voluntarily, are all current veteran teachers in our building who have a history of strong educational practices.

I’ve brought up the idea of instructional coaches in other educator circles and was surprised that there was pushback and misinformation about the role they play in helping teachers be better at what they do in the classroom. From my admittedly limited perspective of working with our coaches during the first semester, I have seen many advantages to bring Instructional Coaches into the classroom.


In our school, our instructional coaches get an extra release hour on top of their planning hour to work on instructional coach responsibilities. This means they teach four classes (we are on a six-hour-plus lunch daily schedule), have a prep for their own teaching responsibilities and an additional hour for coaching. All four of our instructional coaches cite collaboration with their department and other departments as the number one thing on which they spend their coaching time.

From personal experience, I have been working with our ELA coach to develop curriculum for the 8th grade ELA classes. We’ve created fun activities like Book Tastings and World Read Aloud Day activities, as well as brainstorming better ways to assess our standards. I have also worked with our math coach on how I can better incorporate math in my classroom because one of our district goals is math across the curriculum.

Our ELA coach has worked across disciplines (specifically with the Health and PE teachers, but also in conjunction with Social Studies) to boost writing across the curriculum, and our science coach is devoted to working with her department on the new Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and what that implementation will look like. Our Social Studies coach has worked with some of our newer staff on creative and engaging ways to make history come alive as well as how to create more relevant assessments. Our math coach has even worked with one of our band directors on a collaboration of creating a “Music and Math” class for next year.

Research and Resources

I have often heard teachers complain that while they know there are really good ideas and resources “out there,” but they simply do not have the time to find and vet them. Instructional coaches do! Weekly we get emails from our coaches about internet resources and research that supports our best practice strategies.

When the 8th-grade team decided to try a Book Tasting Event with our students, it was our instructional coach who found the resources, reserved the Media Center for us, and created the materials we would need.

Our math coach provides her department with resources for state test prep, using questioning strategies related to their “8 standards for mathematical practices,” and the most innovative teaching and technology strategies that relate to math instruction.

Observation & Feedback

All of the instructional coaches have stated that one of the first things they did was get into classrooms to see firsthand the practices that were going on already in our building. They were very eager to share all the good things they saw that largely go otherwise unnoticed since teachers don’t tend to toot their own horns. Our math coach, for instance, could specify something awesome every single teacher in her department was doing.

Some teachers balk at the idea of having a coach observe them, feeling that they are being scrutinized. That is understandable given the trauma of judgment teachers often have to endure from the public and even from well-meaning administrators and the evaluation systems that are in place. However, in my experience with coaches, I have found that they are not there to “catch you,” so much as to get an idea of the great things that are already happening and be an outside observer of something you choose to have them coach you on.

Sometimes it’s behavior management, but more often it’s actual instructional practices. Our ELA coach has been invited into numerous classrooms to observe and then collaborate on lessons focused on the writing process and close and critical reading.

Our science coach is also observing what is currently being done in science classrooms so she can help teachers adapt their units when the NGSS rolls out next year.

Demo Lessons & Teaching Strategies

Sometimes the observations lead to a quick meeting or email giving feedback, but in some cases more in-depth collaboration occurs. One of the most specific examples of this comes from our ELA coach. She was able to observe one of our newer Health teachers and discuss the class’s paper on Character Values. She worked with him on how to make the assignment more relevant, then did a demonstration lesson to his first hour. After that, he taught the rest of the day–writing with the students and modeling how to cite sources in MLA format. Student writing was the best it had ever been for him.

There are so many other ways our coaches spend their time: developing new assessments and modifying old ones to be more relevant while maintaining rigor, mapping curriculum for the department, assisting our new teachers, and finding the latest and greatest strategies and resources for their subject area.

This is just our first year with instructional coaches and I can already see the benefits multiply as more and more teachers take advantage of the goldmine that we have available to us.

The Hidden Secret to Success With Instructional Coaching

The Hidden Secret to Success With Instructional Coaching

Originally posted on The Educator’s Room By Terri Froiland In my six years as an instructional coach, I have been fortunate to have been given a great deal of professional development in a variety of coaching models, from invitational coaching to transformational coaching.  As I have […]

10 Interview Questions for A  Potential Instructional Coach

10 Interview Questions for A Potential Instructional Coach

Just like athletes get ready for the big Friday night game, by running, throwing catches, and rehearsing plays, teachers who want to be an Instructional Coach should practice before the big game (i.e. interview) for the position. Sometimes the practice may be sitting in front […]

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” in the interview process. The five books we picked are all different with the one common theme- to be an effective instructional coach. 


The Impact Cycle: What Instructional Coaches Should Do to Foster Powerful Improvements in Teaching 1st Edition

Identify . . . Learn . . . Improve

When it comes to improving practice, few professional texts can rival the impact felt by Jim Knight’s Instructional Coaching. For hundreds of thousands of educators, Jim bridged the long-standing divide between staff room and classroom offering up a much a more collaborative, respectful, and efficient PD model for achieving instructional excellence.

Now, one decade of research and hundreds of in-services later, Jim takes that work a significant step further with The Impact Cycle: an all-new instructional coaching cycle to help teachers and, in turn, their students improve in clear, measurable ways.

Quintessential Jim, The Impact Cycle comes loaded with every possible tool to help you reach your coaching goals, starting with a comprehensive video program, robust checklists, and a model Instructional Playbook. Quickly, you’ll learn how to

  • Interact and dialogue with teachers as partners
  • Guide teachers to identify emotionally compelling, measurable, and student-focused goals
  • Set coaching goals, plan strategies, and monitor progress for optimal impact
  • Use documentary-style video and text-based case studies as models to promote maximum teacher clarity and proactive problem solving
  • Streamline teacher enrollment, data collection, and deep listening

Jim writes, “When we grow, improve, and learn, when we strive to become a better version of ourselves, we tap into something deep in ourselves that craves that kind of growth.” Read The Impact Cycle and soon you’ll discover how you can continually refine your practice to help teachers and students realize their fullest potential.

Student-Centered Coaching: The Moves 1st Edition

Student-centered coaching is a highly effective, evidence-based coaching model that shifts the focus from “fixing” teachers to collaborating with them to design instruction that targets student outcomes. But what does this look like in practice? This book shows you the day-to-day coaching moves that build powerful coaching relationships. Readers will find:

  • Coaching moves that can be used before, during, and after lessons
  • An abundance of field-tested tools and practices that can be put to immediate use
  • Original video clips that depict and unpack key moves
  • Richly detailed anecdotes from practicing coaches


Help your staff get “unstuck” no matter what challenges they are facing through solutions-focused coaching techniques that help them envision desired outcomes and the actions needed to achieve them. Through video examples and tools, this step-by-step guide shows you how to:

  • Introduce a coaching approach into a wide range of conversational contexts
  • Use the GROWTH coaching conversation framework to improve both staff and student success and well-being
  • Use coaching approaches in areas that school leaders typically find challenging: informal performance reviews, when giving informal feedback, and when working with teams



Instructional Coaching in Action: An Integrated Approach That Transforms Thinking, Practice, and Schools

Unlike “fix-it” strategies that targeted teachers are likely to resist, educator-centered instructional coaching—ECIC—offers respectful coaching for professionals within their schoolwide community. Evidence-based results across all content areas, authentic practices for data collection and analysis, along with nonevaluative, confidential collaboration offer a productive and promising path to teacher development. Coaches and teachers implement ECIC through a before-during-after—BDA—cycle that includes comprehensive planning between coach and teacher; classroom visitation and data collection; and debriefing and reflection.


Drawing on their extensive experience with ECIC, authors Ellen B. Eisenberg, Bruce P. Eisenberg, Elliott A. Medrich, and Ivan Charner offer this detailed guidance for coaches and school leaders on how you and your school can

  • create the conditions for an effective ECIC program,
  • get buy-in from teachers,
  • clearly define the role of coach,
  • roll out a coaching initiative, and
  • ensure ongoing success with coaching.


Filled with authentic advice from coaches, Instructional Coaching in Action provides valuable insight and demonstrates how educator-centered instructional coaching can make a difference in teacher learning, instructional practice, and student outcomes.

The Art of Coaching: Effective Strategies for School Transformation 1st Edition

Hands-on resources for new and seasoned school coaches

This practical resource offers the foundational skills and tools needed by new coaching educators, as well as presenting an overview of the knowledge and theory base behind the practice. Established coaches will find numerous ways to deepen and refine their coaching practice. Principals and others who incorporate coaching strategies into their work will also find a wealth of resources.

Aguilar offers a model for transformational coaching which could be implemented as professional development in schools or districts anywhere. Although she addresses the needs of adult learners, her model maintains a student-centered focus, with a specific lens on addressing equity issues in schools.

  • Offers a practical resource for school coaches, principals, district leaders, and other administrators
  • Presents a transformational coaching model which addresses systems change
  • Pays explicit attention to surfacing and interrupting inequities in schools

The Art of Coaching: Effective Strategies for School Transformation offers a compendium of school coaching ideas, the book’s explicit, user-friendly structure enhances the ability to access the information.

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. […]

Just Because You’ve Left the Classroom Doesn’t Mean You’re An Instructional Coach

Just Because You’ve Left the Classroom Doesn’t Mean You’re An Instructional Coach

We’ve all heard it before. “I left the classroom in May and in the Fall, I’ll be operating as a Behavior Specialist/Instructional Coach.” Or “Hey, I’m actually an Assistant Principal, but I function as an Instructional Coach”.  Or the real “doozy”- My principal took away […]

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!


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