What: Making the shift from classroom teacher to instructional coach can be quite a challenge. I recently read an article by EdTechTeam that discussed five lessons to learn from being an instructional coach and in a time of reflection over my own career I thought about a few more. The suggestions below are blend the lessons offered from EdTechTeam in this article and my own suggestions for being a successful instructional coach.
- Embrace the chaos, but set boundaries. Megan Purcell, in this EdTechTeam article, suggests that the biggest lesson to learn as an instructional coach is to embrace the chaos. With change being the only constant, instructional coaches should always be ready for the unexpected. Setting boundaries helps curb some of the chaos but I always understand that empty space on my calendar is never truly time to myself. Maintaining an attitude of flexibility at unending interruptions make a huge difference in how often people seek my help.
- Don’t lose your street cred. Megan Purcell, in this EdTechTeam article, also suggests that instructional coaches are both a coach and a teacher and it is important to stay connected to what is happening in the classroom. A teacher told me once that I wasn’t a real teacher. She wasn’t being mean, she just meant that I was not in the classroom teaching a core subject all day every day. Maintaining my own credibility in the classroom became something that I made a priority and began teaching at least one class each year. Teaching added more work to my already growing load but it gave me credibility with teachers and a place to try out ideas and new tools.
- Make every moment count. I cannot tell you how often great ideas and collaborations happen with teachers from discussions at the lunch table. Teachers want to do what is best for their students but do not often have the time for another meeting with me. I try to find small pockets of time throughout the day – lunch, recess, break, walking to and from assemblies, etc – to speak with teachers about a new idea or collaboration. They appreciate that I am not asking for yet another meeting and usually welcome new ideas.
- Be visible. It is often easier to stay holed away in my space fixing devices and researching new tools than it is to be visible but teachers (and students) have a hard time making it to me for help. To make it easier on them, I make it a point to walk up and down the hall every day and I observe at least one teacher a day forcing myself to be present in the hallways and in their classrooms. My one observation and being present in the hallway has become a way for me to be visible. Students stop me for help or to ask questions and teachers welcome me into their classrooms (often to fix something broken). My observations became a talking point the next time I sit with them at lunch. I encourage them for something they are doing well and offer ideas for implementing technology and/or collaborating with a coworker. Being visible has allowed me to make more of an impact than waiting on teachers to come to me.
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TLDR (too long didn’t read):
Making the shift from classroom teacher to instructional coach can be quite a challenge. I recently read an article by EdTechTeam that discussed five lessons to learn from being an instructional coach and in a time of reflection over my own career I thought about a few more. The suggestions below are blend the lessons offered from EdTechTeam in this article and my own suggestions for being a successful instructional coach.