Welcome to a new feature here at Your Instructional Coach: Q&A!
Our first Question comes from Blaire Conner (@blaireconner): What is the most important piece of advice you would give to a new instructional coach?
To answer Blaire’s question, we turn to a panel of our guest authors. Please welcome our panelists (with their respective Twitter links)…
Stephanie Laird (@lairdlearning):
“The first piece of advice I share with new instructional coaches is to take time to build relationships. Whether you were already in the building serving in another capacity before stepping into the coaching role, or are new to the building, taking time to develop relationships is crucial. Most likely, you chose to move into Instructional Coaching because you recognize the importance coaching plays in teaching and learning, and, although you’re ready to hit the ground running and set up meetings with teachers to set goals, be intentional about setting time to build relationships. By devoting time up front for relationship building, you will establish rapport, which you will draw upon as you form coaching partnerships with teachers. In the long run, you will benefit from the time you are taking upfront.”
Tonya Moody (@MrsMoodyIC):
“No significant learning occurs without a significant relationship.” Dr. James Comer Without forming relationships with the teachers you serve, your impact as an instructional coach will be minimal. One great way of forming relationships is to find teachers’ strengths and to learn from them. Our role as instructional coach is not to be the fixer, but to be the connector, communicator, collaborator, supporter, and learner that will lead us all to success.
“The best advice that I would offer for a new instructional coach would be to be patient in building relationships with the teachers or administrators that he/she might be coaching. There are a lot of variables in the growth of the relationship, but the kind of trust that enables true coaching only comes when the bridge of relationship has been cultivated.”
“New coaches often create a list of projects that they want to do. It’s always good to have a goal and a direction. However, it’s important to remember who we are coaching. The most important thing I have to keep reminding myself is that it’s not about me. It really isn’t important how I would do something, what tools I would want to use, the language I would use. When I plan my days, my meetings, or my projects, I have to put my teachers first. It’s all about them and what they need to help their students learn and grow as individuals. As a new coach, one must take time to make the relationships with their teachers and students. One must understand the daily challenges, the amazing strengths, and the culture. This takes time and effort. It’s easy to brush off making relationships, to take time to truly understand the teachers and students. But it is the best thing I did and continue to work at.”
“The best advice I have for a brand new instructional coach is to familiarize him/herself with coaching models and seek out professional development and training on them. A common mistake I see new coaches who have not received training make is creating their role as one to fix the teacher. Yes, some teachers need to reflect and hone skills, but coaches who consult and advise all the time feel like mini evaluators and the last thing a teacher needs is another evaluator. What teachers need is a trusted, knowledgable thought partner who can offer classroom data for reflection, who can question in a way that promotes reflection, and who can find the right resources for sharpening teaching craft.
My formal training is Cognitive Coaching, but through coaching conferences, professional reading, and webinars, I have learned much about other models which has helped me formulate my own coaching philosophy. Coaches are not teachers who “have arrived” or “have all the right answers.” Coaching, like teaching, is a craft that is continuously evolving. Some of the coaching gurus who have helped me grow over the years are Jim Knight, Elena Aguilar, Peter DeWitt, Michael Bungay Stanier, Dianne Sweeney, and anything from Thinking Collaborative. Ask your administrator to send you to this year’s Teaching, Learning, and Coaching Conference – this was a great experience for me! Last but not least, seek out an instructional coach professional learning network (PLN) on social media. Have a wonderful school year!”
Thank you to Blaire for the great question to start us off and thank you to all our guest authors for providing such great responses. If you are looking to build your PLN, I recommend following all our guest authors on Twitter. You can also find their past guest posts on our Index-O-Posts page. Please use the contact form below or in the main menu (Connect and Contact) to submit your questions for next time.