August 2016 marked my fourth year as an instructional coach, but my first year at a middle school. I knew changes were headed my way when I interviewed for a middle school position but had experience only as an elementary instructional coach. I considered the new middle school position as my second child. If I could garner the respect and affection of my peers at my former elementary school, then I could replicate the same process at a middle school. And so the journey began…
Raising your second child is uniquely different from raising a first. You know from experience how to properly care and nurture your newest edition, but you also forget the struggles of starting over. We tend to “forget” the growing pains, relationship building, and time invested over years of practice. I walked into school on the first days knowing that I needed to be a servant to teachers, honor my commitments, and ask a lot of questions.
I knew coming in that I had a large learning curve as I immediately noticed the differences between an elementary and a secondary school. Teachers are absolutely content experts in middle school, students are given a lot of freedom, and teacher-student mindsets are vastly different from those of elementary teachers. I spent the first 9 weeks of school working solely on relationships, even though I was extremely impatient to start doing my “job”. My administrator told me constantly that she didn’t want me to do anything but work on relationships.
I had some positive interactions within my first couple of weeks. I was walking down the hallway one day when a teacher asked if I could show her students how to create an “All About Me” iMovie. Little did she know that I had no idea how to do this! I said, “Sure” and quickly learned how to create an iMovie.
I spent the second 9 weeks beginning classroom visits. As an instructional coach, you won’t know what needs there are unless you’re in the classroom too. During my classroom visits I would post on Twitter “Tweetable” moments in the classroom. Teachers began to call on me to assist in lessons, collaborate, or come by during a dynamic lesson to Tweet about it. During this time is when I began to become emotionally taxed. Staying positive for teachers, constantly managing new relationships, and negative comments were beginning to get to me. In these moments is when you begin to wonder, “Am I making any impact?”
We typically romanticize the past forgetting the hard parts of the journey. I had forgotten all those hard parts from my elementary school because I had spent 3 years building strong relationships and making myself invaluable. I have had to constantly remind myself to “stay the course” and that “change is slow”. Change is inevitably hard and uncomfortable. As an Instructional Coach you are the “Change Agent” in the building and you have to be stubborn enough to stay the course regardless of speed bumps in your path.
This year, I’ve had to define what an Instructional Coach does, lead many professional development sessions, and learn new technology for a 1:1 school district. As the school year is wrapping up I’m reflecting on my accomplishments and failures as I navigate middle school students and teachers. This has been a year of growth and change and often it’s been out of my comfort zone. I’ve learned that best practices are best practices regardless of grade level and content, middle school students are tricky to manage, and that middle school teachers have my utmost respect. I’m going to stay the course and remain focused on the end goal of growing teachers professionally and impacting student achievement.
About our guest author: Sabrina Frost is an Instructional Partner at a 1:1 middle school in Alabama. She has been an educator for 13 years. Sabrina has taught elementary school for 9 years and was an elementary Instructional Coach for 3 years. She has a Master’s Degree in elementary education, Google Level 2 Certification, and will be presenting at my first technology conference this summer. You can contact Sabrina via Twitter: @ceramies or Email: firstname.lastname@example.org