When will you get your diploma?

“All change is not growth, as all movement is not forward.”growth-Ellen Glasgow 


As a coach, you certainly have a long list of changes you are charged with implementing in your school. You are also concerned with the daily growth of students and teachers in your school.  While the development of others is always on your mind, don’t forget to move your own learning and growth forward.

You can focus on your learning and growth in both formal and informal ways. You might pursue additional degrees and certifications. You might take a class in art, music, or another interest. Continue to challenge yourself both outside and inside of school.

In your daily coaching role, commit yourself to improving an aspect or two of your work each month.  As you work to improve, seek feedback from a few trusted colleagues on your progress.  You might find it helpful to collaborate with this partner on each other’s goal.

The key to learning and growth is to never stop. As Eartha Kitt said,  “I am learning all the time. The tombstone will be my diploma.” When will you get your diploma?




The True Spirit of Conversation


“It was impossible to get a conversation going; everybody was talking too much.”  — Yogi Berra

We have all been there, in the midst of a meeting that can be described as having too much talking and no conversation.  We have all been in meetings, both large and small, where people are not truly listening, only waiting for their next chance to talk.

Part of an instructional coach’s role is often to facilitate meetings, whether one-on-one with a single teacher or in a grade-level meeting or PLC.  These meetings will certainly vary in the quality of conversation. The coach must develop strategies to move the meeting from simultaneous monologues to true conversations.  Some possible strategies include:

  • Beginning the meeting with a statement of purpose and reminder of working agreements.
  • Asking probing questions (Can you tell me more? Can we hear from ____?).
  • Using a protocol (National School Reform Faculty offer many options @   nsrfharmony.com).
  • Taking a time-out for reflection on a guiding question.
  • Summarizing and paraphrasing

These conversation strategies (and many others) can be developed with patience and practice.  Coaches must be prepared to utilize these strategies to improve the conversations in which they participate.  If coaches improve their ability to facilitate meetings, we can bring to life the true spirit of conversation.  In the words of Edward G. Bulwer-Lytton, “The true spirit of conversation consists in building on another man’s observation, not overturning it.”


Changing Change?

“Change is such hard work.” -Billy Crystalc&c

Change, in the name of raising student achievement, is a constant in the field of education.  The work of the instructional coach is often closely tied to change and reform.  Goldring (2002) states that “studies of schools involved in reform intended to raise student achievement have concluded that the culture of a school is more powerful than any formal aspect of leadership” (p. 33).   It is the powerful nature of culture and its impact on real-world results that makes understanding the role of culture in the process of change so essential to instructional coaches who are working to plan and implement organizational changes in public schools.

Locke and Guglielmino (2006) also discuss the importance of understanding culture with respect to organizational change, “The relationship between organizational culture and planned organizational change is well established; change theorists assert that efforts to bring about significant change without addressing the organization’s culture will be futile” (p.109).

Noted instructional coaching expert, Jim Knight (2009) acknowledges the possibility of the strong culture of teachers derailing a planned change effort, but turns the idea from one of blame into an essential question:

“When efforts to improve student learning fail, teachers often end up being blamed.  Teachers were resistant to new ideas, say the leaders who were working with them.  Rather than blame teachers and ask, “Why do teachers resist?” perhaps those of us who lead change should ask, “What can we do to makes it easier for teachers to implement new practices?” (p. 509)

So the question is, “As coaches, what can we do?” Leave a comment below and join the conversation! In the meantime, a word of encouragement… “A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” -Margaret Mead


Goldring, L. (2002). The power of school culture.  Leadership, November/December.

Knight, J. (2009, March). What can we do about teacher resistance? Phi Delta Kappan,         90(7), 508-513.

Locke, M.G. & Guglielmino, L. (October 2006).  The influence of subcultures on         planned change in a community college.  Community College Review, 34(2) 108- 127.

Are your hands dirty?

Leo Tolstoy once said,“Spring is the time of plans and projects.” That quote makes me smile, even though Spring this year seems to be more about snowflakes than sprouts and seedlings. In fact, our gardens are covered in snow at this hour, but my mind has begun to consider the plans and projects of the coming months.  When I survey the garden, I think about a few things:

  • What parts of the garden are fine without any work?
  • What needs to be cleaned up and head to the compost pile?
  • What needs trimmed or weeded?
  • What new projects should happen this year?

Likewise, Spring is a great time of year to take stock of your work, whether as teacher, instructional coach, or school administrator.  If your work is a garden, what parts are working fine? What parts of your work need to head to the “compost pile?” What parts of your work need weeding? What new projects should happen as you look toward the coming months?

These are not easy questions to answer. Just like the work in the garden, our plans and projects in schools can be messy.  Don’t become discouraged by the mess. Take the time to reflect, think, and make plans.  Spring is the perfect time to roll up our sleeves and get our hands dirty. As Margaret Atwood said, “In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.”