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4 Moves to Start the Year as an Instructional Coach


4 Moves to Start the Year as an Instructional Coach

Last year I wrote a blog 10 Simple Things Every Early Reading Teacher Needs. This year I’m going to shift my focus to the Instructional Coaches. It’s the beginning of the year, some of you are starting your first year as an instructional coach and some of you have been coaching for multiple years. Regardless, the start of a new school year is always a time to reflect and gain perspective. 

 

Setting the stage is an important part of launching your year of instructional coaching. Here are some things I think every Instructional Coach should consider as they gear up for the school year.


1. Before school starts, begin thinking about the big picture by organizing your yearly calendar.

Remember the first few weeks of school teachers are settling in and setting up routines most of the time they will not be ready for an in-depth student-centered coaching cycle until a few weeks of school have passed. 

  • Think about the yearly school calendar, and mark things like parent-teacher conferences, school breaks, and school events/field trips. 

  • Decide an approximate time you want to start working with teachers in coaching cycles. Think about how many coaching cycles you can fit into each semester. Rember coaching cycles usually last 4-6 weeks and teachers will need to rotate through cycles, every teacher in a building can not be in a coaching cycle at the same time.  

  • Consider the needs of any new staff members. They may need some initial support to get the school year started.

  • Also, consider new instructional resources that teachers might need support with. For example, if your district adopted a new core math program, teachers may need help understanding the resources and materials now available.


2. Define your role. It’s crucial that your role is clearly defined with leadership and teachers.

  • Make sure there’s a common language and understanding around coaching, including the coaching cycle and student-centered goals.

  • Don’t assume everyone has the same expectations about the role of an instructional coach. Set up a time to clearly share the process of setting a student-centered goal, the process of a coaching cycle, and ways that you might partner with staff to improve student outcomes.

  • Make sure that it is clear that all teachers benefit from instructional coaching, your role is NOT focused on specific teachers.

  • Be clear that your role isn’t evaluative.


3. In the first few weeks of school make connections with everyone!

Instructional coaching rests on strong relationships.

  • Find fun ways to build relationships and get to know the staff. This could be something simple like a 3-question survey, a 5-minute conversation, or an open office time. Sometimes a quick note is all it takes to break the ice with someone.

  • Set up regular office hours for the year. This time will be specifically dedicated to any questions, resources, or needs that pop up over the course of the year. This helps reduce the number of requests that might come in passing that are easy to miss.

  • Get to know the students in your building. Greet students at arrival, dismissal, and passing periods. Show interest in extra-curricular activities, and visit classrooms when appropriate. If students are used to seeing you around and knowing who you are, your presence is a norm and won’t interrupt instruction when coaching cycles begin.


4. Carve out time for the behind-the-scenes work of instructional coaching.

There’s a lot that has to happen that no one sees for instructional coaches to be ready to successfully fulfill their role. Be purposeful and carve out time from the very beginning of the year to make sure you are prepared.

  • Set up a regular time (weekly or bi-weekly) to meet with the principal or other designated leadership.

  • Schedule time for learning. As an instructional coach, you are a lead learner and you need to dedicate part of your schedule to learning. Most likely your role will involve multiple grade levels and subjects, that’s a lot to stay on top of. Scheduling time for learning is an important way to do that. I remember scheduling fifteen minutes a day for learning and just that short amount of time made a huge difference.

  • Set time aside to prepare and plan for your commitments. If you have twenty minutes at a staff meeting to discuss reading resources, plan time on your calendar to prepare for those twenty minutes. Don’t leave the planning to chance or think that you can accomplish all of it before or after school, dedicate part of your day to making sure you’re prepared.

  • If possible, participate in a PLC for instructional coaches. Often there is only one instructional coach in a building, so finding other instructional coaches to connect with is very beneficial.


Conclusion

In closing, instructional coaching is a complex job built on strong relationships. Like any job in education, it takes continuous reflection, preparation, and learning. As you start the new school year, stay focused on students and doing what’s best for the children you serve. Student learning is what it is all about!

 

You can find additional resources here that might be helpful.




The Impact Cycle

Knight, Jim (2017). The Impact Cycle: What Instructional  Coaches Should Do to Foster Powerful Improvements in Teaching. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin






Student Centered coaching

Sweeney, Diane and Harris, Leanna (2020). The Essential Guide for Student-Centered Coaching. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.






student centered coaching

Sweeney, Diane and Harris, Leanna (2016). Student-Centered Coaching: The Moves. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

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