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

Tag: Instructional Coach

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, […]

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 that the teacher does not want to work with you as a coach. However, there could be some feelings of inadequacy, reluctance, and resistance to change. These feelings most likely have nothing to do with you. The idea here is to not take it personally.  You are not there to have hurt feelings because you are not at the top of this particular teacher’s “friends” list. Being an Instructional Coach is not about any of that. It is about fostering a relationship with teachers to foster their growth in order to produce adequate growth in students.

Being an Instructional Coach is not about any of that. It is about fostering a relationship with teachers to foster their growth in order to produce adequate growth in students. Click To Tweet

According to the article produced by the Pennsylvania Institute for Instructional Coaching, it states, “while building your relationships with teachers in your school find out what they need, what their teaching insecurities are, and how you can support their growth.” In order to reach this plateau of growth, there must be a partnership that is built for it to occur. The teacher has to make the decision to be open and willing to grow and change. You, as the coach, have to be willing to facilitate the process, be open and leave judgment at the door. Here are some researched based strategies that you can help with the feelings that the teacher may have.

Feeling of Inadequacy: There will be teachers that you work with that feel inadequate in their teaching practices. One thing that helps before I even walk in the door is allowing myself to think back to a time when I felt the same exact way. No teacher has “arrived.” Every teacher can think of a time when they have had these feelings. Remember and hold on to your past feelings of inadequacy in the field of education because you are going to need to mentally refer to that while facilitating conversations with the teacher. Another way to begin to lessen the teacher’s feelings of inadequacy is reassurance that you are there to help and to build a partnership. Reiterate the fact that you are not there to judge them or to ridicule them with your note-taking, observing, modeling, co-planning, etc. You are there to facilitate and aid in the teacher’s growth so that ultimately their students will make strides.

Feeling of Reluctance: There will always be teachers who are a little reluctant, especially in uncomfortable situations such as involuntarily working with the Instructional Coach. However, there are ways to help with this. One way is to have open communication with the teacher and let them know that what you discuss is confidential. Remember, as the coach, you are in their room without invitation. However, I would state that working together can be an experience of both growth, exploration, and celebration. But be honest that there will also be constructive feedback that will be given in the process. In order for that growth to occur, there has to be openness, willingness, and honesty. The teacher will have to let down some walls and for you to help them do that, they have to see you as a support system that they can trust and with whom they can be open.

Resistance to Change: “I’ve always done it this way,” or, “This is the way it’s always been done,” are comments you often hear from teachers who are not ready and sometimes unwilling to alter their instructional practices and are reluctant to change. However, with a solid relationship established, a supportive environment and building trust, you will be amazed as to how much teachers are willing to change and expand their instructional horizons. One way for this to happen is through other teachers that you have coached. Once the “word” begins to spread about the work you are doing in other rooms, along with student growth, more teachers will begin to open up and allow small significant changes to their instruction.

Sometimes as a coach when we are putting in the authentic work of building relationships, building trust and supporting teachers, we can become discouraged when there are teachers who are not as receptive to our work. The key is, to begin with the end in mind and remember, ultimately you are there to support teachers to aid in student growth. When we keep that at the forefront of our minds, we will be able to keep pushing forward in doing what is best for students.

12 Reasons to use a Web-Based Assessment Platform

12 Reasons to use a Web-Based Assessment Platform

Moving to a web-based assessment platform can be daunting. The hype is real. Here are twelve reasons it is totally worth it (and a couple of reasons to be cautious). Collaboration- It is possible to collaborate with teachers from all over the world with a web-based […]

[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 […]

Adventures in Coaching..Giving Effective Teacher Feedback

Adventures in Coaching..Giving Effective Teacher Feedback

This year I did what many teachers fear the most,  I went over to the dark side of school administration in the form of being an Instructional Coach. As  I transitioned into this role, I thought surely that this would give me more time to reflect and “cool my heels” -things that I rarely was able to do as a teacher. Working with new and older teachers was not anything new, I had always unofficially “coached” teachers on effective classroom practices, but what would be new was the idea of not having a classroom to dictate my time on a daily basis.

As I readied for my first day in this role, I knew the type of  Coach I wanted to be- one who went above and beyond in supporting teachers in all aspects of teaching especially being able to give immediate feedback. As a classroom teacher I can remember people coming into my room with clipboards and walking around examining not only what I was doing in class, but inspecting my Word Wall, Quality Student work and the other things on the standards-based classroom list. They would only stay for a while, but I was always confused because rarely did I receive feedback. When I happened to receive feedback it was so general that it was of no use to me and my teaching practices.  According to Teaching in Focus,  the appraisal and feedback that a teacher receives is just one of the many factors that can influence his or her feelings of self-efficacy. However the content of the appraisal is equally important when provided feedback on certain aspects of their teaching, teachers can directly target portions of their teaching where they are less confident.

Consequently, giving teachers timely feedback is crucial for both veteran and newer teachers in further honing their educational practices.

So as a Coach, how can you give effective feedback when your time is pulled in literally twenty directions? Follow these simple tips to guide your practice of giving teachers quality feedback:

1. Visit classrooms for varying amounts of time each visit. Visiting a classroom is an integral part of being a good Instructional Coach, but what about the time that you visit in each classroom? At the minimum, when I visit classrooms I stay for at least thirty minutes in a ninety-minute block. This gives me time to see the direction of a teachers lesson and have time to interact with students and their learning. If I come in for anything less than thirty minutes then I’m looking for specific things such as a lesson opening and/or closing, grouping or use of guided practice.  In addition, I always make sure to visit teachers frequently so that I have a clear picture of what my teachers are doing in the classroom. In addition to visiting classrooms often, I try and go at different times during the day to make sure I’m getting a clear picture of the class loads teachers have during the day. While it’s important to visit multiple classrooms throughout the day, it is equally important to give timely feedback to teachers. As a rule of thumb, I give feedback within 24 hours of me visiting the class.

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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 […]

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!