September 21, 2020

New Instructional Coaches

This week I was asked to join the #educoach chat on Twitter (Wednesdays at 9 pm Central) to be part of a conversation concerning starting out as a new coach. Here is some of the initial thinking as I gathered my thoughts: The tweets are archived here.

Establish the definition/roles that you will play as instructional coach. (Presented in an earlier blog.) This is the crucial first step to gaining trust. It is especially important if the coaching position is new to the staff. Even new coaches in an existing program should review roles, expectations, and responsibilities at the start.

Set out to be the most coached person in the building. Coaching is based on vulnerability. Teachers who invite coaches into their classrooms are making themselves vulnerable which creates the climate for learning and change. Therefore that vulnerability should be modeled by any coach and especially a coach new to the staff.

Ask teachers for opportunities to instruct their students, especially working with any new strategies that have been part of a professional development experience or a change in curriculum. Provide the teachers an observation tool that assists them in focusing on critical student or teacher behaviors. In this role the coach can also model how a person uses coaching input.

Do some co-teaching in classrooms and request that the principal coach you. This also models for the teacher how to interact with a coach. The teacher sitting in on this coaching conversation and having been part of the lesson might find herself requesting some coaching input from the principal.

Have yourself videoed and ask teacher teams or PLCs to coach you from the video. If a PLC was examining how to increase student perseverance in math problem –solving, a coach could facilitate an activity with students and have students working and her interactions with students recorded. At the next PLC, the coach can facilitate the members providing feedback on their observations and forming ideas for modification. This could lead to another teacher agreeing to repeat the process.

Build coaching leaders among the staff. Work at becoming the coach of coaching. My first book on coaching is titled, Quality Teaching in a Culture of Coaching .  The message behind the title is to not see coaching as an isolated activity but as a practice embedded in the culture of the school.

If you have a mentor program for new teachers, consider asking the mentor teacher to invite you to coach him with the new teacher observing. This helps the mentor illustrate  coaching for the new teacher. It may lead to the new teacher requesting coaching from the coach. The coach might have the opportunity to build the mentor’s coaching skills as the mentor, mentee, and coach work together. An effective mentoring program should lead teachers from mentoring to peer- coaching relationships.

Work to have coaching built into all professional development. If teachers are attending training, follow up activities asking teachers to pair up and coach each other or to bring observations from a coach to a debriefing session should be included.

Collaborate with department heads, team leaders, and PLC facilitators to have coaching observations built into their problem-solving. Use coaching to gather data on current student behaviors or student reactions to a change in practices. Use coaching observation to identify similarities and differences in individual teachers’ implementations. Establishing these coaching practices builds teams.

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