Are you considering making the transition to becoming an instructional coach? Every teacher deserves to be coached, and so do soon-to-be coaches. While there are numerous resources to support you in preparing for an interview, here are my suggestions for questions to keep in mind, the kinds of questions you’ll be asked.
First, though, you should ask yourself, is your mindset ready—really ready? The idea of leaving the classroom can be stressful, exciting, and, for some, filled with guilt. Are you ready to step into that interview with confidence that you are the right person for the role?
Reflect on your mindset. Say goodbye to that negative self-talk. List out the numerous experiences you bring to this position as well as your skill set. Don’t compare yourself to others—you’re unique, and you know in your gut that you’re ready, so believe in yourself. Now that your head is in the game, let’s move forward.
Questions You’ll Be Asked in an Interview
1. Why do you want to be an instructional coach? What’s your “why”? Your answer explains your knowledge of what an instructional coach does and does not do. Understanding what coaches do can help you better articulate your why. Coaches effectively improve teaching and learning, provide a deeper dimension of transformational change, build relationships based on trust to build capacity, and provide a tailored form of professional learning.
As a follow-up, you may be asked: “Have you been coached before? Describe how this coaching relationship transformed your teaching and learning.”
2. What can you tell us about yourself? The panel wants to get a better feel for who you are, in addition to your experience. Are you a problem solver? Do you enjoy building relationships? Tell them. They want a better feel for your demeanor and how you interact with others. How might you handle various scenarios (which will be covered below), and what might it be like to have you on campus?
Although you might be nervous, it’s important to be confident when you’re talking about yourself. Instead of telling yourself to stay calm, try to get excited! Natalia Autenrieth refers to this as cognitive reappraisal—excitement and anxiety, on the physiological level, are the same emotion. Shift that nervous energy into excitement.
3. How do your background and experiences align with an instructional coaching position? There’s a misconception that you have to be an expert in order to become a coach. That’s simply not true. Your skills, beliefs, and experience as a teacher are all informative. What are you already doing that aligns with the role of a coach? Maybe you’re serving as a lead teacher. Jim Knight, the godfather of all things related to instructional coaching, encourages the partnership approach. Do you already infuse this approach when it comes to team teaching or working with colleagues?
4. What do you think an average day of an instructional coach looks like? The best answer to this question is, “Average?” There’s no average day. Flexibility is key, yet it also equates to an alignment within the roles of a coach. Joellen Killion teaches us 10 specific roles: data coach, resource provider, mentor, curriculum specialist, instructional specialist, classroom supporter, learning facilitator, school leader, catalyst for change, and learner. Familiarize yourself with them, as each day is likely to involve at least a few of them.
5. How might you build a foundation of trust in relationships with teachers? Trust is everything. It means that your coaching relationship maintains mutual confidentiality. It means showing up and being present and genuinely wanting to help teachers improve their teaching practice. Remember: To build and maintain strong relationships with teachers, go slow to go fast, listen for the request in the complaint, assume positive intentions, and employ effective listening.
6. How might you work with a teacher who doesn’t want to be coached? Your answer shows how you approach coaching and handle negativity. The reality is that you will meet a few teachers and administrators who are negative about coaching. Do not feel you have to justify coaching defensively. Start with defining the mission, vision, and purpose of instructional coaching. How do you see yourself bringing that vision to life on a daily basis through the roles of a coach? Remember, coaching relationships take time to develop.
7. What coaching skills do you think you’re strong in? This is a question where you can showcase your strengths, which is also the approach you should take with your future coachees. Begin by sharing what you’ve taught; specific content knowledge may help you stand out. Amy MacCrindle and Jacquie Duginske identify communication skills as essential to building relationships. They are the key to coaching to ultimately improve teaching and learning, and are centered around what’s best for students.
Be sure to familiarize yourself with protocols and structures as well as questions to ask that support learning. You’ll be building capacity among teachers, and that requires your ability to spot strong teacher leaders, sometimes in areas that you aren’t strong in. Continue to learn! Ask the panel how you will be supported to keep learning.
8. Can you explain your views on working with adult learners? Malcolm Knowles distinguishes how working with adult learners is different from working with children. It’s important to articulate at least a few of these differences and how you might use this knowledge. Adults have a significant amount of life experience that can serve as an important resource. Adults also expect that new learning is immediately applicable to their daily work. Plan on ensuring practicality to your delivery. Adult learning theory reminds us that adults may have fixed viewpoints. Communicate that you are comfortable with that and seek to understand them.
9. Do you have any questions for us? This is a moment when you can regroup if you might have stumbled in a previous question; clarify or add to points you made. Remember, you are interviewing your interviewers too! Make sure you feel like this is the right place for you. My number one walk-away question is “If I were to be in this role, what is your top suggestion for me to be successful?” Place yourself in the interviewer role. Listen. Reiterate how you are the right person for the job, and share your excitement about the next steps in the process.