Author: Stephanie D. Jacobs
Bring Your “A” Game to Instructional Coaching
In education, there are many takes and/or perspectives on what true coaching looks like when it comes to an instructional focus. The overall consensus seems to be that the role of instructional coach is designed to support teachers, provide relevant and timely feedback, while also providing relevant and timely professional development. Effective coaching requires a whole team approach. School districts and building administrators communicate clear expectations and show support for instructional coaches. This ensures that teachers/staff gain a full understanding of this working relationship. Instructional coaches are willing to grow and improve their craft which translates into building a professional toolkit of strategies and approaches that will benefit the work with teachers/staff. As intentional instructional coaching is gaining momentum, many coaches are looking to fine tune their game plan to address the current needs of teachers, staff, and students. What’s “Trending” in Coaching?
We know coaching is serious business and not just a trend in education. At the same time, there are many different ways to approach coaching. This section outlines some of the overarching areas of coaching that you may consider for a successful experience.
Gather Data- In Elena Aguilar’s book, The Art of Coaching, she emphasizes the importance of gathering information and/or data about the school before you dive into coaching with teachers. This is an important step in the process. It can be especially beneficial if you are working at multiple sites. There are so many data types that can paint the picture for each learning environment and help you to determine the best way to focus your time with teachers. You may be able to identify trends in the data. Are there certain areas of concern school-wide, such as attendance? Where does the school place its emphasis for instruction (i.e. schoolwide goals for math, ELA, or other subjects)? Is this demonstrated in the school’s vision and/or mission? How do these areas translate into the classroom, instruction, and student performance? Cupcakes with Coach-Although I am placing the spotlight on this one idea coined by Nicole Turner of Simply Coaching & Teaching, there are many other ways to connect with teachers and build relationships. The “Cupcakes with Coach” is a good way to combine food, goal setting, and a beginning of the year get-to-know-you activity. Just think about what other ways you can spin this to add your personal flair. For example, when I did this, my “cupcakes” included zebra cakes because that is my decorating theme. Throughout the year, you can add other cute ideas such as Copier PD, PD in a Mug, Lunch and Learn, or a “Pop” Up PD. These examples were shared at ISTELive by presenters Jessica Fasani and Sarah Collins. Just let your imagination run wild! The main goal is to use this time to provide professional learning in small bits while also building your relationships with teachers.
Systems-As an instructional coach, you will be navigating through a great deal of information. In some schools/districts, the system that you use for coaching may be predetermined. If not, you will want to decide how you interact with teachers and what ways you will provide support. From the research, one model suggests using three approaches: consult, collaborate, guide/coach. Consult is that information gathering phase, Collaborate can be a part of your building relationships phase, and finally Guide/Coach is putting in the work to assist teachers with finding solutions. Two other models that you may use are Coaching Choice Boards or a Coaching Menu. Both provide teachers with some input in how you will work together. If you are working within a system that is predetermined by your school/district, you may consider adding in some informal surveys to get feedback about how you are meeting the needs of the staff. In addition to coaching cycles, you can use coaching conversations to determine next steps or areas of focus for a particular teacher. You may also use observation and feedback. Some teachers may actually prefer having an extra pair of eyes to observe what is happening in the classroom. In another model, it is suggested that coaches use the following four action steps depending on the teacher’s self-efficacy and belief in their students: Team Teach, Live Coach, Model Teach, and Teach & Support. One of the benefits of the matrix is that it takes into account that the go-to “model for teachers” may not work out in every coaching scenario. It is always good to have coaching options and to have a plan for how and/or when to use them. Coaching Notebooks-How do you organize your work? Consider implementing a coaching notebook. This can be a physical notebook where you keep notes, logs, work samples, coaching schedules, etc. Or, you may decide to use a digital notebook. Either option keeps all of your documentation neatly organized in one space. You can go to SlidesMania to download free templates or you may purchase one that is specific to coaching.
Coaching Options, that is the ultimate game plan. As an instructional coach, you can find resources in a variety of places such as professional reading, conferences, or sharing with other colleagues. Having a clear system and a way to organize your work can assist with making your work more intentional. Planning professional development in a variety of ways will also go a long way with helping you connect with your staff.
In the comments, please share your go-to ideas as an instructional coach. We would love to hear from our content area specialists, technologists, elementary, middle, and high school instructional coaches. Teachers, you can chime in as well. How can the people in these positions best support you?
About the Author:
Stephanie D. Jacobs serves as Math/Tech Coach at Indian Land Intermediate School in the Lancaster County School District. Connect with Stephanie @MsClassNSession on Twitter.