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Impact Student Learning by Building a Strong Principal and Instructional Coach Partnership

Impact Student Learning by Building a Strong Principal and Instructional Coach Partnership

One of the biggest impacts on the successful implementation of any educational initiative is the relationship between the principal and the instructional coach. The partnership between the two fosters an environment of learning, sets the stage for change, and focuses discussions on student data. A school culture that focuses on helping everyone understand and take ownership of student learning is facilitated by the principal and instructional coach. 

What are some key factors in a strong principal and instructional coach partnership?

Both the principal and the instructional coach need to prioritize their relationship and take responsibility for maintaining their partnership. That isn’t always easy, especially because schools run at full speed from 7:30-3:30. It can be easy to push off touch points or delay discussions because of the urgency of day-to-day school functions. Here are four things to prioritize that result in a strong relationship between the coach and principal. 

1.COMMUNICATION: The principal and the coach need to both clearly communicate and plan together. Even though this often happens incidentally as your paths cross during day-to-day interactions, you must have a designated time that the principal and instructional sit down and meet. Setting aside a specific time every week or two gives you a space to communicate freely and helps avoid drive-by conversations that often don’t lead to resolutions. 

2. SHARED VISION: The principal and the instructional coach should communicate the same shared vision. Not only should the vision be shared but also the steps and priorities to make that vision happen. Nothing is more confusing than mixed messages and too many next steps or priorities to make something happen.

3. TRUST: The relationship between the principal and the instructional coach rests on trust. The principal has to trust the instructional coach to lead instructional practices because the coach is typically the person “in the weeds” working alongside teachers. The coach has to trust the principal to determine and focus the staff on the instructional goals, timelines, and steps, essentially leading. The instructional coach also has to respect the principal’s decisions.

4. LEAD LEARNERS: Both the instructional coach and the principal should fulfill the role of being a lead learner in the school community and within their partnership. The coach and principal should share their learning, learn together, and pinpoint which learning will help them solve their problems. Learning is contagious and when both the principal and coach are actively engaged in the learning process teachers and students will follow their lead. 

Regardless of whether you are entering a partnership or you’ve been working for several years together, communication, shared vision, trust, and lead learning are all critical to a successful partnership.  It’s easy to drift away from strong practices over time. Therefore, it’s important to revisit and keep these four things at the forefront of all the work. 



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