Last year, I started a new role as an instructional coach at a new school. Previously, I was an innovation coach focused on educational technology integration in teaching and learning. After a short time on my new job, I picked up some insights that may help others who are new to the job to be successful.
5 Tips From One New instructional coach to another
1. Instructional coaches should have resourceful ideas but shouldn’t be seen as resource providers. As a resource collector, I like to share teaching resources with our teachers via email, blog, YouTube, or other channels. However, I must hold this impulse when I work as an instructional coach because it will weaken the instructional impact of my coaching role.
In other words, our teachers will see me strictly as a person who provides resources—not as someone who improves their teaching and student learning. So, I share my blog with them and explain that I use it to collect resources and to serve as a reflective journal on my teaching. If they see an idea they’re interested in or would like to try with their class, they may reach out to me, and we can start our coaching journey from there. I’ve noticed that there are a few benefits of sharing my blog with our teachers, which include showcasing my teaching skills with concrete examples. Sharing this information increases the chances that teachers will want to work with me.
2. Instructional coaches should be viewed as colleagues rather than teacher supervisors. Every school has its own preferences for how to integrate coaching programs into their learning communities. But when teachers view coaches as colleagues rather than supervisors, it alleviates anxiety and tension between the two groups. It also helps both parties to create a professional relationship built on trust and respect.
3. Instructional coaches may co-teach with some of the teachers in the building but shouldn’t become substitute teachers. Some coaches will act as substitutes when needed, but being a substitute teacher should not be our primary role. Working as a substitute could be a way to collect student learning data and offer constructive feedback to teachers. However, it should not be the norm for instructional coaches working with teachers because substitute work gives coaches only a quick snapshot of a class rather than the holistic observation that makes it possible for us to do our work.
Co-teaching is a much more meaningful approach to walking teachers through setting learning goals, planning learning activities, collecting student feedback, and reflecting on their teaching. It also makes the coaching role more transparent for teachers and students.
4. Instructional coaches should assist with teaching when necessary but shouldn’t function as teachers’ assistants. When I first started coaching, I voluntarily made a lot of copies for the teacher I was coaching, and I thought that was a good way to build a relationship and make the teacher’s life easier. After reading The Art of Coaching by Elena Aguilar, I realized that wasn’t the best approach.
An instructional coach’s job is to help teachers refine their teaching instruction and make a positive impact on student learning. Assisting teachers with copying, grading papers, or preparing lesson materials doesn’t directly affect the instruction in the classroom. Nevertheless, I still believe that the presence of instructional coaches in the classroom will bring a positive message to teachers and students if teachers are ready and comfortable with a second teacher in the same environment.
5. Instructional coaches should encourage teachers to refine teaching and learning but shouldn’t be used as parameters to measure teachers. As I mentioned earlier, instructional coaches are not teacher supervisors but colleagues who help with professional learning. Schools adopt a coaching model to refine teachers’ craft and improve students’ learning performance. Coaches are not there to measure teachers’ performance and give evaluative feedback. Instead, instructional coaches are there to encourage teachers to reflect on their teaching and fine-tune instruction and other related skills such as presentation and question selection.
To sum up, I think the past six months of being an instructional coach have been a valuable learning experience for developing new skills and gaining a deeper understanding of the teacher coaching program at my school. I hope these five things that I have learned will help other coaches who are also new to the field.