Saturday, May 9, 2015

Instructional Coaching is Not Fixing

Every teacher has something they do really well. It's the job of an academic leader to find it and use it as an inroad to that teacher's development. Teacher appreciation week has come to a close, but I'm still reflecting on what I've learned this year that will help me be a better teacher and leader.


Being trained as an instructional coach has provided me with a few tools to find the answer that awaits in those who reach out for help. But it's not fixing. It's coaching. 

What's a Coach?

This year, I was fortunate enough to be on a team of instructional coaches that received a lot of training, practice, and follow up development. Before this experience, I thought I knew the role a coach plays, but I was mistaken.

Coaches don't fix. They support teachers by meeting with them to learn about problems. It's a process that allows a professional in need to talk through what they know about a problem, what they can do to solve it, and, most importantly, it provides the opportunity to build a trustworthy audience. 

Coaches don't mentor, either. If a coach begins to offer suggestions that include strategies outside of what the professional being coached adds to the conversation, the coach has the obligation to acknowledge that s/he will be playing more of a consulting role.

This respect for boundaries and the focus on the strengths of the individual being coached is what maintains the trust. These aspects of coaching have been the most powerful lessons I've learned this year. They've also made me a more empathetic listener for my students.   

Why Instructional Coaching?

Professionals build trust and bonds with colleagues all the time. Why would they need a coach when they could talk to someone they already trust?

Sometimes the nature of the problem requires a trust that's more protocol based, similar to a doctor-patient relationship. For me, playing the role of a coach, especially with my "teacher friends," has added another layer of discipline when it comes to being a good listener and holding back fixes that only come from my toolbox.  

Not Another Thing To Do

I truly believe that it's people, not programs, that make a difference. Practicing instructional coaching has allowed me to grow as a professional and a leader in ways that are far more powerful than a rule or policy.

Coaching provides the opportunity for teachers to address a special kind of audience – one that will be in confidence and show the utmost respect and belief in the teacher's capacity.