How Administrators Support Instructional Coaches

“What does your principal do/say that supports your work with teachers?”

That was the question I posed to a team of instructional coaches I worked with recently. The coaches had sent me a list of scenarios that expressed some of the challenges/resistance that they were finding in their work, with a desire for me to analyze and model possible responses or strategies. I sent the question above because I believe that the answer influences how a coach would respond.

The following response from a coach suggests my question created valuable thinking:

Steve, this seems like such a direct easy question, yet I’m really struggling to define a clear answer as to how I know. And, now, I’m wondering if I really do know that she supports my work with teachers, or that I just want to believe she supports it?

And since she doesn’t interfere, she must support me, right?? I do believe that our assistant principals are more vocal and involved in the asking of questions and wanting to be a part of what I actually do than the principal. I feel, sometimes, like the words of support are given, but not always getting the sense that there are actions to back up those words.

So, let me try again to answer the question posed…
1) I believe that my principal supports my work with teachers by keeping my schedule free of extra duties knowing that those “before/after minutes” are the only times we can get with teachers.
2) She was instrumental in moving us from the faculty room to a real office space this year.
3) She recognizes the need for a flexible schedule.
4) When I ask about needed or new supplies/materials to help teacher(s), she hasn’t turned me down yet.
5) She doesn’t use us for sub coverage unless it’s absolutely necessary, or in an emergency.
6) Acknowledging in faculty meetings how fortunate our building is to have the resources immediately available to our staff via the 2 instructional coaches.

In an earlier post, The Principal Coach Partnership , I listed the following areas of agreement for coaches and principals (Killon and Harrison NSDC)
The coach’s comments above fit in two categories.

Roles and Responsibilities
1) I believe that my principal supports my work with teachers by keeping my schedule free of extra duties knowing that those “before/after minutes” are the only times we can get with teachers
5) She doesn’t use us for sub coverage unless it’s absolutely necessary, or in an emergency
Timelines
Clients
Boundaries
Support and Resources
2) She was instrumental in moving us from the faculty room to a real office space this year.
3) She recognizes the need for a flexible schedule.
4) When I ask about needed or new supplies/materials to help teacher(s), she hasn’t turned me down yet.
6) Acknowledging in faculty meetings how fortunate our building is to have the resources immediately available to our staff via the 2 instructional coaches.
Communications
Process
Confidentiality

What her principal does provides support for this coach. What else might extend that support? Here are a few of my thoughts:

The principal might volunteer to teach a teacher’s class and be coached. If this process were videoed and played for the staff it would illustrate the principal’s value of the coaching process.

Does the principal encourage other school leaders to model the value of coaching? What expectations would the principal have for department chairs or mentors to be the first people volunteering for coaching?

Can the principal coach the coach when she is modeling in a teacher’s classroom?

How often does the principal ask teachers how they are using the coach’s services?
This is different from sending teachers to a coach which often puts the coach in a supervisory position in the teachers’ eyes. The question suggests that utilizing the coach is a professional responsibility.

The principal can meet with the coach to identify desired instructional changes for the staff or groups of teachers, and then meet at intervals identifying observed changes and requesting ways to support the coach’s efforts.

As suggested in the earlier blog, communication between coach and principal is critical. If you are the principal ask your coach, “What things do I do to support your work? And what else can I do?” If you are the coach ask your principal,” How do you communicate your value of the coaching process? And “what can I do to support that message?”

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Steve Barkley

For the past 30 years, Steve has served as a consultant to school districts, teacher organizations, state departments of education, and colleges and universities nationally and internationally, facilitating the changes necessary for them to reach students and successfully prepare them for the 21st century. Read more…

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