Guest Post: Be the Instructional Coach Your School Needs You to Be

With one school year ended and another beginning we often examine our role as instructional coaches out of a deep desire to ensure that the work we do best serves our screen-shot-2016-10-08-at-12-58-29-pmsite, but creating a functional and effective coaching model at a school can be complex work.  Much is written about the role(s) of an instructional coach.  Killion (2006), Knight (2007) and Aguliar (2013) all outline the diverse roles and responsibilities of an instructional coach. In addition to detailed descriptions in educational literature, the role is often further clarified, defined and outlined by our school divisions.  Beyond the district outlines and guidelines, principals have a vision, direction and ideas for how they would like the coaching role to function in their school. Taking it one step further, we as coaches have preferences.  There are some roles that come more easily to us or roles we enjoy and conversely some that we dislike and are a struggle to carry out.  All these books, documents, articles and other publications leave a wealth of possibilities to be sifted through and deliberated upon as the role of a coach is brought to life within a school.  It is easy to take the roles straight out of the educational literature and divide your time table up accordingly, or take the district handbook and replace the bullet points of the coaches role with check boxes of things to do for the year.  It is also just as easy to turn a conversation with your principal into a grand vision statement for your work, or fill your days with those roles that you love and excel at, but any of these aforementioned methods of defining your role will result in overlooking the most influential feature that should drive the job description of an instructional coach… what are the needs of your school site?  

Including the thoughts of your administrator, the vision of your district and the work of those in the education field is necessary, but it should all be put through the lense of the teachers and the learners at your site.  Unfortunately, there is no book you can order on Amazon or shiny pamphlet from your district office that can tell you the needs of your school site.  You need to get out there. Get to know the teachers in your building by talking with them. Find out about the  learners that make up their classes by teaching along side them.  Work alongside the people you serve in order to get to know them well.  Learn intimately and first hand about the students who have learning difficulties, about the fears of the seasoned teachers who just switched grades, the anxiety behind the determination of the brand new teachers are on your staff.  Know the names of your English Language Learners and find out who your non-readers are by sitting next to them.  The qualitative data that is out there to discover is as vast and unique as the teachers and students at your site.  Sifting through all this to figure out which roles to emphasise and which can take a lighter focus can be intimate and gritty work, but this invaluable knowledge can create a lense through which to consider the direction of your district, the vision of your administrator and the roles defined in educational literature.   Clearly defining your role as an instructional coach takes a strong understanding of the varied and dynamic roles of a coach, but and an even stronger understanding of your school site and both are essential in becoming the instructional coach that your school needs.

Resources:

Aguilar, Elena. The art of coaching: Effective strategies for school transformation. John Wiley & Sons, 2013.

Killion, Joellen, and Cindy Harrison. Taking the lead: New roles for teachers and school-based coaches. National Staff Development Council, 2006.

Knight, Jim. Instructional coaching: A partnership approach to improving instruction. Corwin Press, 2007.

About the Author: Cory Roffey is a school based Instructional Coach in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.  He has coached in a variety of educational settings from Kindergarten to Grade Nine. He holds a MEd in Elementary Education from the University of Alberta and has a particular interest in supporting teachers as they explore educational technology and constructivist practices.  You can follow Cory on twitter @coryroffey

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