Pennsylvania Institute for Instructional Coaching — A Partnership Between the Annenberg Foundation and the Pennsylvania Department of Education
Coaching Tip of the Month
December 2017 PDF Print E-mail
Coaching is a messy and humbling experience. We think at the onset that everyone wants to be coached and everyone welcomes advice. Not so! Although teachers want to get better at their craft, figuring out ways to do that can be challenging.

Most coaches initially experience the “Wow” factor… that is, they think their teaching colleagues teach like they do and when they find out their colleagues teach differently, WOW, what an eye opener that is! As a result, the coach needs to focus on keeping the goal front and center; that is, being mindful that the ultimate goal is to help teachers identify practices that need to be strengthened; engaging the teachers in ongoing conversations about those practices is what leads to change.

Coaching is all about change but how does change happen? It’s not automatic and not a quick procedure or quick makeover like getting a haircut. Think about it… if you want to change your hairstyle, how many pictures and magazines do you review before settling on a few desired ones? And then, depending on your stylist, is there a discussion about your desires vs. the reality of having that cut/style? It may be difficult to hear but I bet your stylist gives his/her “expert” opinion on whether the style fits your hair, facial features, and lifestyle. And, you sit there taking it all in because you are getting some feedback about a hairstyle/cut you want.

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November 2017 PDF Print E-mail

As a coach, adjusting to not having your own classroom or your own students was probably challenging at first but now that school has been in session since late August, you are finding your way and strengthening the process of coaching. I am sure, however, you initially engaged in conversations with your colleagues and offered to demonstrate or co-teach some lessons to those teachers willing to share their students with you so that you could demonstrate your street “cred.” (This is especially true if you are new to the school; coaching in a school where you previously taught, however, comes with a different kind of street “cred” issue.)

Although alien at first, I’ll bet it was very rewarding to work with students again and feel that great “high” that a teacher feels when the lesson worked well. In fact, I bet it worked so well that you offered to teach regularly in some teacher’s classroom, basking in the knowledge that “you still had it” when connecting with students. If the teacher needed to leave for a moment (or longer), you were in the classroom and had no qualms about continuing the lesson while the teacher needed to go to the office to deliver some paperwork, duplicate some materials, call students’ homes, or investigate some resources in the library. You were there already so why not become an extra pair of hands for the teacher who is working diligently to focus on TDAs, common core, differentiating instruction, test prep, and a host of other equally demanding district requirements?

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October 2017 PDF Print E-mail

“Asking the right question at the right time affords the possibility that there is another way to approach an issue” says Isobel Stevenson (Connecticut Center for School Change) in the June 2017 issue of Learning Forward Journal, The Learning Professional. This should sound familiar as questioning is the currency of instructional coaching. Coaches and teachers engage in interactive discussions that very often result in more questions, fewer answers, and multiple opportunities for ongoing conversations that foster both individual and collective thinking.

While this article reflects on the efforts of the Center to collect data about coaching as a tool for principal capacity building and specifically addresses the principal and his/her coach, it offers insights into collective problem-solving and is applicable to the instructional coaching role. Yes, here is another example of a coaching relationship in schools… that of principal and coach which is quite different from principal as coach. In fact, to help understand the difference, think of a principal being mentored by his/her own coach. This is like a coach being coached by his/her mentor. The idea of helping the “coachee” come to his/her own conclusions through the questioning process is the takeaway without regard to the role of the person being coached.

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September 2017 PDF Print E-mail

Welcome back! As we greet the 2017 school year, the stressful fiscal conditions continue to exist statewide which certainly influences our local decisions. Schools are facing cuts in budgets which have a damaging impact on personnel, programs, and resources. Despite this, the determination and dedication of instructional coaches to change the landscape of teaching and learning continue to be the priority across all content areas even in the face of these financial struggles.

So, what does that mean? These challenging times may result in either part-time coaching or only time after school to work with teachers. This is less than ideal and will surely create anxiety for the entire school community. If this is the situation in your school/district, you must think “out of the box” and work with what you have and know.

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June 2017 PDF Print E-mail

Strengthening, supporting, and maintaining a collaborative environment in schools is critical for school improvement. As the school year ends, some of our coaches are moving forward in their practice and transitioning to the classroom. Their role as a teacher leader will certainly change. What will not change, however, is the commitment and dedication to pursue their work in school transformation, promote teacher professional development, and continue to provide opportunities to improve practice and redefine the title of “coach.”

This is tricky business. Does coaching from the classroom provide another opportunity to support colleagues in financially stressed times or give policy makers the excuse that we can do more with less? I don’t know the answer but I do know that we must continue to create an evidentiary trail that makes the association between improved student achievement and coached teachers. In fact, one of our recent studies, March 2017 Teacher Follow-Up Survey Report documented that 89% of teachers surveyed indicated that their classroom practice changed as a result of working with a PIIC instructional coach. (Click here for report.)

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