Orientation for Coaching

I had the opportunity to work with two school districts who are implementing new or reorganized instructional coaching positions. In Gallitin, TN (Sumner County Schools), Instructional Coaches will be working in each of the buildings this fall. They will be joining some Title 1 , Reading, and Special Education Coaches who were already supporting teachers.


While the coaches trained in and practiced verbal skills for one-on-one coaching conferences, we also explored their role in creating a culture of coaching within the district. How would they generate teachers coaching teachers as a common professional activity?


As identified in an earlier blog (8-17-08), the coach/principal partnership is critical to establishing a culture of coaching among the staff.

Here is the invitation program coordinators Carla Cushman and Nina Morel prepared for principals’ and coaches’ orientation. Great ideas for any coach principal conversations for the start of the year.

Orientation for Instructional Coaches
Principal’s Role

Acknowledging the role of the principal as key to the success of any instructional coaching program, we invite you to participate in the orientation process for new coaches in the following ways:

-Participate in the Principals and Coaches Joint Kick-Off Breakfast on Wednesday, August 12, 8:00 – 10:00, at the Teacher Center.

-Identify a space in your building to house your instructional coach one to two days per week. Have this space move-in ready by August 14 (suggest teacher’s desk or table, chair, electrical outlets, and trash can).

-Prepare a list of superstar teachers for your instructional coach to start coaching during her first week in your school. (High school principals should identify all department chairpersons as well.) Inform these superstar teachers of the coach’s upcoming visit and tell them why they were selected.

Be available to meet with Nina or Carla and your instructional coach in a brief meeting structured around the following questions:
1. If you went into a classroom, what would you see that would help you predict that the kids will be successful? What district initiatives are most widely implemented in your school? (Quantum Learning, brain-based teaching/learning strategies, differentiated instruction, instructional technology, DIBELS, benchmark assessments, etc.)
2. In general, what should the focus of classroom visits and professional conversations between your instructional coach and your teachers be? (engaging strategies, use of technology, student/classroom management, etc.)
3. How can your instructional coach best assist your school in achieving your school improvement goals?

-Welcome and introduce your instructional coach to your staff and encourage teachers to invite the coach to their classrooms.

My second training was with a team of instructional facilitators from Fort Smith, Arkansas schools. These facilitators with a focus on literacy, math, science, or social studies will be working with staff and administrators from several buildings to build student achievement.

Our two day training session culminated with a luncheon for the facilitators and building principals. We reviewed the backward planning process that begins with defining student achievement, then identifying the student behaviors that will produce the achievement, then the teacher behaviors most likely to generate the necessary student behaviors, and the staff relations likely to produce the environment to support individual teachers as learners….and lastly, the administrator behaviors that support the process.

Now that we’ve planned from the student achievement, we start the change process with administrator behaviors.

The concept clicked as facilitators and principals began to plan the start of the school year. What behaviors on their parts were most likely to generate the necessary staff thinking and doing?

It was exciting to see principals offer to be coached as they conducted a faculty meeting. Some requested that they be video taped teaching and then be coached on their instruction as staff observed. That vulnerability and modeling on the part of leaders will have a powerful impact on staff actions and student behaviors and achievement.

I’d love to hear your strategies for coaches and principals communicating in action the messages you want staff to receive and act upon.

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2 Responses to “ Orientation for Coaching ”

  1. Teresa Schweinsberg Says:

    We appreciated your training so much! We are beginning to get personal requests from our teachers to come into their classrooms. It is wonderful to feel so welcomed. Your training has helped us to form trust relationships and give positive feedback, new strategies, resources and support for a coaching community. Thank you!

  2. Teresa Schweinsberg Says:

    We appreciated your training so much! We are beginning to get personal requests from our teachers to come into their classrooms. It is wonderful to feel so welcomed. Your training has helped us to form trust relationships and give positive feedback, new strategies, resources and support for a coaching community. Thank you!

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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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