Professional development is changing. There are numerous new models: blended learning, personalized learning, culturally responsive teaching, and more. There is new technology: learning management systems, apps, websites, and more.
As we ask teachers to adopt these new models and tools it is essential that we provide ongoing and continuous support through instructional coaching. For teachers who are working with an instructional coach, here are four tips to ensure that your experience has a positive impact on you and your students.
1. Work with a master teacher
Coaching works best when the coach and teacher view their relationship as a thought partnership and see themselves as accountability partners. Amazing things can happen when you pair two thoughtful educators who are willing to do hard work and are energized by their goals. Working with a coach who has extensive experience in the classroom will ensure that you learn new strategies that you might not have been exposed to before. Your challenges, worries, and fears are likely something that your coach will have also experienced. While your coach is not meant to be an expert, working with an educator who has been there and done that will ensure that you learn something new and feel supported as you make shifts in your practice.
2. Work virtually and consistently
As an instructional coach who also taught in a classroom, I know that the biggest barrier for teachers is time. You are asked to wear many hats and you are busy teaching. Having a personal coach allows you the flexibility to schedule coaching sessions at a convenient day and time; video conferencing allows you to meet with your coach from anywhere. I recommend meeting every two weeks so that you can receive ongoing support from your coach. The classroom and your students are constantly shifting, and as a result, your challenges and needs are shifting. Meeting consistently allows you to adapt and pivot as needed.
3. Be clear about what you want
Always start by writing a vision. Consider what you want and hope for your students. The goal isn’t to change anything, but rather to build on what is already working well for you and your students. After you write your vision, your coach and you can identify a goal and backwards plan. Pick strategies that will support small shifts along the way. It is important to be honest with your coach about your challenges and goals so that you can create a plan that will support you to grow in those areas. Once you have visualized, talked through, and written about what you hope will change by the end of the school year, that becomes a North Star that you can refer back to as you are teaching. It is hard to get where you want to go if you don’t know where you are going.
4. Be willing and open to trying new things
Change can feel uncomfortable. Trying new things in your classroom may feel risky. So much of this work is about stretching yourself. You will get the most out of your coaching experience if you keep an open mind, and if you are committed to trying new things, looking at student work and data, and reflecting on what you tried and the impact it had (or didn’t). There will be weeks where you don’t have as much time or you have competing priorities, but if you are willing to consistently try new things and meet with your coach, you will grow in your practice and your students will benefit from your growth.
Successful coaching is possible when the teacher and the coach are equally willing and committed to the work. Knowing your goals, keeping an open mind, and working with a coach who has strong experience and expertise will ensure that your coaching experience makes a difference.