I had a request from a group of coaches to hold a Skype discussion. Several new coaches had been added to the team and wanted to touch base with me knowing that I had trained existing coaches over the last two years. In addition several experienced coaches had questions and scenarios they wanted to discuss.
Here are some of the questions and a summary of my responses. The power point slides shown below can be here found for your use.
- Where should a new coach start?
- How might a new coach go about establishing their own identity as a coach instead of taking on previous coach’s issues and roles? i.e What if the coach was not perceived well in the building? What if the coach was not as focused on change and more on “support and resources”?
I began this response with the suggestion that the place for a new coach to begin is with a conversation with the principal that identifies the coach and principal are on the same page. I recommend using the following backward plan to guide the discussion.
(See Slide 3 in show and view full screen to read.)
First identify the agreed upon picture of student achievement. Overall big picture…“What does a successful completer of this school take with him or her?” Then specifically what should the initial focus area of student achievement be that will drive the coach’s work (5th grade math success, writing and critical thinking in all areas, readers by grade 2).
Next, agreement on what student behaviors will likely produce that achievement. ”What change in what students are doing/experiencing would cause the principal to believe that the achievement will occur?” Then what teacher actions are most likely to create the desired student behaviors?
At this point the principal and coach have a common picture of what outcomes from the coach’s work would signal that progress is being made.
The YOU on the diagram above represents the coach. How should the coach prioritize her time? Working with students, individual teachers, parents, teams of teachers (grade levels, departments, PLCs) or working with administrators’ skills and knowledge?
This will be different in every building which is why it should be an initial new coach and principal conversation.
An early on must for a new coach is a principal/coach/staff conversation that defines the roles of the coach. I use the following diagram:
Most instructional coaches work as peer coaches, mentors, and get very close at times to supervision. When peer coaching, they really follow the teachers’ request. The teacher guides the work and conversation. As a mentor they may go into classrooms uninvited and at times share observation data that the teacher may not have requested. When a principal requires a teacher to work with a coach the relationship is very similar to supervision.
Since coaches’ roles will differ from school to school it is critical that every one understands what “our“ program is. Trust is built when coaches say what they will do and then do it. If teachers believe that the coaching program is invitational only, they are angered when they see the coach collecting walk through data.
Up front as the year starts, describe what the coach will do. Then answer questions and do what you said.
Lastly, I recommended that coaches begin conversations with teachers focusing on the student behaviors that teachers want to change or create. (Discussed in earlier blog)This provides a nonthreatening opening for a change conversation. The coach can recommend new teaching behaviors not as a “fix or correction” but as an idea to get the desired student behaviors.