So, watcha’ watcha’ watcha’ want?

Attention coaches: The teachers have spoken! As coaches, we are charged with the goal of working with teaccropped-slice.pnghers to improve student learning. We cannot attain that goal without understanding the perspective of the teachers we serve.

To better understand teachers’ perspectives of coaching, I recently conducted a (highly unscientific) data collection on Twitter using the following question:

What are the essential qualities of an instructional coach?

Approximately thirty responses were submitted. After reviewing the results, several patterns emerged around the need for the following: Positive relationships, Communication, Flexibility, Learning and growth.

Positive relationships: The need for strong, positive relationships appeared in the responses of nearly all teachers. Teachers described these relationships using words like non-judgmental, honest, trustworthy, and supportive. Building relationships is an essential component of coaching.

Communication: Several responses expressed that communication was essential. Teachers emphasized not only clear and coherent speaking, but the importance of the coach as a patient listener. Teachers want to be heard!

Flexibility: Teachers described the need for instructional coaches to be flexible. Flexibility in time is no doubt essential, but flexibility in approach and coaching strategies is perhaps more powerful. Teachers expressed this as support in “whatever way you need” it and not giving “cookie cutter advice.” Teachers want to work with coaches who personalize and differentiate their approach!

Learning and growth: Teachers expressed the desire to learn and grow. Teachers want to work collaboratively with coaches who build on their strengths. Teachers want to work with coaches who are resourceful, innovative, and student centered.

So, the teachers have spoken. This small sample of teacher response represents powerful feedback for instructional coaches. The challenge is to take this feedback and feed our practice forward. More importantly, don’t take my word for it. Instructional coaches, ask the teachers you work with: What are your essential qualities of an instructional coach?

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5 comments

  1. This is a timely challenge you’ve proposed. As the summer has been winding down, our coaching PLC, if you will, will be meeting this week to talk about what coaching will look like on our campus this year. I’ll definitely propose that we provide an opportunity to receive this type of unfiltered feedback from the teachers we will be coaching. And as you put it, the feedback we hope will “feed” our work forward…

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  2. I think 2 more essential qualities are being knowledgeable and modeling professional expectations.

    Example of modeling: Early in my career, I had a coach who was always going on PD and sharing. She encouraged us to do the same. It was low stakes and fun. We learned from one another and PD & trying new things became a part of our school’s culture. Plus, it was fun spending professional/personal time with my colleagues outside of school. Even after we lost our coaching position, her legacy stayed with us.

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