A Summer Conversation for Instructional Coaches and Principals

I am a strong advocate for the Principal Coach Partnership  (see earlier blog).

Agreement defining student learning outcomes (vision) builds trust and focus among the leadership team at a school. An administrator can build increased shared leadership knowing that time the coach spends with teachers and decisions made in PLCs will focus on the shared, desired result. As a teacher I can make myself more vulnerable and open to my coach when I am aware that she wants the same outcomes for my students as I do. A frequent re-examination of crucial student achievement goals and the student and teacher behaviors likely to achieve them keep the coach and administrative team connected. Steve Barkley

It is critical that coach and principal function as a team and are seen by staff as being “on the same page.” A teacher should discover that as she implements changes discussed with a coach, a principal notices and reinforces those efforts. It should be obvious to the staff that issues addressed in their faculty meetings align with topics of PLC and coaching conversations sparked by the coach. This does not mean there isn’t confidentiality in coaching conversations. It means the common focus on student achievement and the thoughts about the necessary student behaviors to produce that achievement are in place.

Scheduling the time, especially uninterrupted, for the necessary coach/principal conversations is often presented to me as a difficulty. The summer schedule may provide the perfect opportunity for the instructional coach to call the principal and request a coffee hour to catch up and/or establish a plan for the start of the new year. Here are some questions that a coach might use in such a dialogue with consideration to varying partnership situations. (Mix and match as appropriate)

Coach and principal both returning, having worked together last year.

  • What do you identify as our greatest success last year in student learning?
  • What did you notice in classroom observations that would have led you to predict the success?
  • What do you see as our focus for student growth this year?
  • What changes will teachers need to make to gain the student behaviors we need?
  • What would you see and hear students doing that would tell you the teacher changes are in place?
  • How would my work support the changes we need?
  • What do you believe you will need to do?
  • How should we plan to communicate the plan to the staff?

Principal returning and coach is new to the school

  • What are some of the strongest student achievement results the school is getting?
  • What do you believe are the staff efforts that are getting those results?
  • Where are you envisioning the next desired increase in student achievement?
  • What will you need to get students to do to reach that result?
  • What will that require teachers to do?
  • How should I begin my work to support those efforts?

Coach returning and the principal is new

  • What have your experiences been coaching, being coached and working with school based coaches?
  • How does the role of a coach fit into promoting the school culture you will want to develop?
  • What questions do you have for me?
  • How can my work assist you as you begin knowing and guiding student achievement success?

Coach and principal are new to the school

  • What have your experiences been coaching, being coached and working with school based coaches?
  • How does the role of a coach fit into promoting the school culture you will want to develop?
  • What do you know about the school that will focus our beginning work? What do we need to find out?
  • What are some of the initial impressions and messages you want the staff to receive?
  • How can I best support the start of that work?

If you are a principal and your coach doesn’t request a summer conversation, consider sending an invitation. Then forward this blog. I believe there is real value in the coaching hearing your responses. I’d love to hear the experiences of anyone experimenting with these questions. Good luck in building your partnerships.

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9 Responses to “ A Summer Conversation for Instructional Coaches and Principals ”

  1. DWitz Says:

    Would love to see a section with questions where both principal and teacher are new to coaching.

  2. Jenny Says:

    This blog really brings to light the importance of the principal’s involvement in the coaching model. I am not sure how scheduling these conversations over the summer would work, but it is a creative idea for finding time. The blog also helped me realized that it is important not only for the coach and principal to meet and discuss progress, but also for the principal to then meet and give feedback to the teacher being coached.

  3. Paul Chambers Says:

    I like the question (both returning) of “How should we plan to communicate the plan to the staff?” It brings to the forefront that the coaching is a collaborative effort between administration and teachers. Words like “we” are made for this!

  4. JGeiser Says:

    We have such freedom to choose a way in which we could “meet”. Perhaps coaching partners struggle to find a time to speak because they are fixed on a meeting as a face-to-face set-time event.

    Google among others easily allows for coaching teams to meet virtually and flexibly. A log is also easily referenced after the meeting.

  5. Tracy Says:

    This gave me good insight as to how to approach the principal and define my role as a coach.

  6. Kim Lemberger Says:

    It’s important for the coach and the principal to be on the same page and have a common vision or purpose. I’m wondering what the order of authority is in our district in regards to the digital transformation? Ex. Who oversees the principals? the TLC? the coaches?

  7. Peggy Says:

    With our plates overflowing, I have to trust that if my principal is not verbally specific about my performance or does not make an effort to meet with me but continues to give me additional responsibility or puts me in a leadership role that I must be doing something right.

  8. Melanie Says:

    Our principal started weekly (or almost weekly) meetings for our coaches to help maintain vision as we begin to implement the coaching model. These help provide discussions on best coaching practices and next steps for our school coaches.

  9. Jesse Says:

    I agree that setting goals is an integral part of coaching. Before you can successfully coach, both the principal, the coach, and the teacher need to know what outcome they are looking for.

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