Now that we are wrapping up the end of the year, I like to think about how I can improve my coaching for the next school year. One of the questions I start with...
Who am I coaching for? Am I coaching for Me? Teachers? Students? Community?
This question is more than just a quick reflection for current coaches. If you just snagged your first coaching gig “Congrats!” and this is the question you definitely need to get answered...
When first getting into the instructional coaching business, it’s important to take a moment and set some standards or expectations. When coaching for the first time, creating a WHY you are even taking this route, will help to drive your motivation. Looking deeper into WHO you are coaching for helps to create a sense of direction and motivation. Bottom line is, when it comes down to it, instructional coaches are there for the kids. But in actuality, you are coaching not only for the kids, but for the teachers, school, and community as well.
The main goal as an instructional coach is to promote student achievement. So you’ll definitely want to spend time in the classroom and get to know the kiddos. The disadvantage you have here as a coach is that as the classroom teacher, you had time with the students ALL. DAY. LONG. As a coach, not so much. It can take weeks, and months to get to know kiddos. But making sure that you are a visible part of their day, will help in assisting building that knowing relationship. Which leads to the next step of who you’re coaching for ~ teachers?
In order to get student achievement in motion, you have to know the learner. But knowing the learner takes time, and as a coach, you aren’t always in the classroom getting to know each individual child, as well as the classroom teacher, does. Sooooo, with that in mind, you are also coaching for the teacher! Getting to know your cooperating teacher, how he/she teaches, favorite strategies, strengths, weaknesses, and opening the door to communication is how you are going to see into the eyes of those learners. As with students, there may be some teachers who need more or less assistance and some who are or aren’t excited about the idea of an instructional coach. That’s ok! Choose who YOU are going to make the most connections with first because if you choose a teacher who is set AGAINST having an instructional coach, whether they need it or not, the outcome won’t be pretty. Taking the tie to coach and see some successes will help as you move into working with resistant teachers. Remember, this is your job, and to reach your top goal of promoting student achievement, making choices on who you’ll be working with first will be the most beneficial for all.
Once you have the teacher or teachers chosen who will be working with you, get to know them. Take the time to build a relationship with that teacher to let them know that you are in this for the long haul! Making them a priority by setting up your schedule to work around theirs will show that you are willing to go the extra mile to make the most out of the time you’ll have together. When you take the time to let them know that this isn’t just a job and that you are here to help improve student achievement, all will be well with the world.
We know that our bottom baseline goal is for the students. That’s really what we’re here for, but as the old saying goes, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Teamwork is what will essentially assist in making the gains needed to promote student achievement and the only real way to do that is to get everyone involved. So are you a coach just for the students? No. Are you a coach just for teachers and students? No. “It takes a village to raise a child” means that it is going to involve the entire educational community and so that means that you are also instructing for the support staff of your cooperating teacher as well. Seeking community connections as a coach is a powerful move. It sends the message to the community that everyone is needed. In my time as an instructional coach, I have volunteered for community activities outside of the school building. When students saw my face at the event, they quickly made a connection. This is turn means that I coach to improve the lives of the students and where they live and what they do outside of the classroom is important as well.
More is less as some say. Delegating and getting the other staff involved in assisting in the growth of student learning, not only shows the students that you are all there to help, but it creates a sense of family among the staff and the students see and feel that as well. Again, closing the gap in the areas where the students are struggling most.
In turn, when all of these things come together, student achievement, teacher camaraderie, and a school working together as a family, our community reaps the benefits. These students who are our main goal, the bottom line reason why we do what we do, is because someday, these students will be fully-functioning citizens living and working in our community.
Quoting Malcolm X,
“Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.”
In the grand scheme of things, you are coaching for students. But there is so much more to what we do. Connect it to the many roles you have in your life. Many of you are mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, husbands, wives, daughters, and sons, just to name a few. Then you add to it your occupation, and with that, some of us hold many titles, teacher, nurturer, scientist, cook, writer. Coaching is not just for the benefit of one group or of one person. Coaching is changing the world, one student, one classroom, one teacher, one school, and one community at a time.