Last month before our shutdown, I had the opportunity to explain what instructional coaching is to our staff members at both of our elementary buildings. Our district is expanding the number of coaches in our district. I am thankful both of these building principals allowed me to speak to the teachers. Prior to meeting with both faculties, I met with their principals to ensure that I was on the same page with them as far as the expectations that would be placed on staff and the way they envision such a program in their buildings. I thought it important for me to share my thoughts and perspective with them as they begin to visualize coaching in their buildings. I then asked to meet with faculty independently from the administration as a way to roll out the position from a coach’s perspective rather than from an administrator’s. By doing so it also helped me solidify the different roles every stakeholder has: administrator, teacher, and coach. It was important for me to allow teachers to listen to not only listen about the position directly from a coach but to also give them the opportunity to ask questions about the position as well.
To me, here are the big takeaways from my first 2 years in the position.
- Coaching is not just for inexperienced or struggling teachers. Coaching is for all teachers. Every teacher has goals for their students. A coach can help you get them there.
- The coach is not an agent of the administration and your work together should remain confidential and your conversation should remain privileged.
- Trust each other. If you and your coach are on the same page and can build a relationship, you can take your instruction to new heights. All stakeholders need to know each other's roles.
- A coach doesn't tell you how to teach, but instead provides support and works to serve your needs as a teacher. For a coaching cycle to be successful, the goals have to be owned by the teacher. A coach is also there to help guide a teacher through the often murky water of a new instructional initiative.
- Be vulnerable! A coach is not there to judge you. Nor do they have any impact on your evaluation. They are there to serve you so have confidence in your skills as an educator and give yourself the chance to try something new. It will pay off.
- Have a coach help you turn your gripes to goals. If you go home at night thinking about a struggle in your classroom then it is worth it to chat with your coach about it.
- A coach can give you the freedom and support to take risks that you may not have before. A principal should remove themselves from an informal observation if it coincides with a coaching cycle.
- The coach and principal both have responsibilities to instruction. They HAVE to have conversations at a global level to drive potential PD for the building, but these conversations should never pinpoint an individual teacher. A strong relationship between coach and principal is essential for the success of the program as long as clearly defined boundaries are set up and followed.
- The teacher is the owner of the cycle. They keep all the resources and it is the teacher who gets to decide what gets shared with others.
- Teachers need a lot of different options when working with a coach. Coaches need to allow them the opportunity to pick the option with which they feel the most comfortable (growth plan, student-centered 4-6 week cycles, impact cycles).
- A coach is there to support you, but they won't always have all the answers. However, it is their role to share in the research to help find that right answer. Work together to set goals and develop a plan of action to solve your problems. A coach can give you a new perspective and a clear picture of reality.
- Keep the conversations focused on students. It's not about fixing teachers, but instead working to ensure the success of your students.