Roles that Coaches Play

Joellen Killion and Cindy Harrison have produced a book for the National Staff Development Council titled, Taking the Lead: New Roles for Teachers and School-based Coaches. After exploring why coaching is important to student achievement, they dedicate a chapter to each of the following roles that school-based coaches can play:

Resource Provider
Data Coach
Instructional Specialist
Curriculum Specialist
Classroom Supporter
Learning Facilitator
School Leader
Catalyst for Change

I have had the opportunity this year, along with my colleagues, Steve Sassaman and Mark Thompson, to work with the instructional coaches in the Salem Keizer School District in Salem, Oregon.

At Houck Middle School, I met and worked with Instructional Coach, Shanda Brown. I was told that Shanda had a middle school team that found great value in working with a coach. The team agreed to meet with me over lunch and shared how they work. I was impressed with their “teamness”. One neat example was that the Social Studies teacher had agreed to assume responsibility for one of the writing standards in the English curriculum.

I asked the team if they would be willing to create a list of the benefits they gained from working closely with an instructional coach. Also, what did they feel it cost them.
They provided me the following:

Instructional Coach Payoffs/Costs
Synergy Team 2007-08
As evidenced by anecdotal notes re: Shanda Brown, Instructional Coach
Shanda’s List:

Was an additional team teacher, working alongside all members of the team.
She knew all the kids. This not only assisted us in the classroom, but also in hall supervision/lunch supervision/after-school supervision; i.e. she could catch kids who “forgot” after-school study hall at the crosswalk!
Tracked students of concern.
Facilitated student calls home. Made calls home on behalf of the team when we were in class and unable to get to the phone.
Liaison to administrative staff in office regarding discipline or other issues.
Support for rookie teacher on the team; i.e. classroom management, teaching strategies, etc.
Modeled lessons for veteran teachers, which provided a chance for self-reflection on our current practices as compared to the strategies she used with our classes.
Observed lessons for all teachers, focusing on whatever aspect(s) we asked her to observe, and wrote anecdotal accounts, which provided a chance for low-key self-evaluation. Made suggestions for improvements. Answered teacher questions such as, “What’s going on behind my back when kids are working in groups?!” so that we could gain awareness of potential problem situations and adjust our practices accordingly.
Did research on unit materials, literacy materials, and supplementary math materials. Obtained materials when requested.
Did action research as requested, following the most difficult class from class to class and providing anecdotal notes for teachers which were valuable in self-reflection on classroom strategies and procedures. Pointed out “holes” / resources the team had that we could make better use of. (effort poster)
Visited a LA arts class in Albany and shared her observations at a team meeting, which prompted reflection on the way we were doing team vocabulary, followed by a brainstorming session on making it more useful and relative to test-taking skills. Also gave us tips for new strategies/materials that would relate to building reading fluency.
Helped track kids for after-school mandatory study hall.
Helped facilitate curriculum projects on in-service days.
Was a resource for subs in our classrooms. Knew all our procedures and practices, so she could give them specific assistance.

We had to be willing to be transparent and have another instructor in the room at any given time. She saw the good, the bad, and the ugly!
We had to develop a trust relationship, in that she was a part of the team and not there to evaluate us in any way.
We had to release control in our classrooms when she was modeling lessons.
We had to be willing to accept constructive criticism/suggestions without allowing ego to get in the way. Having developed the trust relationship, we knew she had our best interest and the kids’ best interest in mind.
We had to be interested in self-reflection and bettering our practices.
We had to remember to include her in all team communications.
We had to make time for conversations following observations, etc.

Take a moment and compare the list of Shanda’s work with the NSDC roles.

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