As wonderful as summer is, most schools will begin within the next couple of weeks for most of us. 😦 We all knew it had to come to an end didn’t we? 😛 Personally, my countdown usually begins around July 4th…. Or when I see the first back-to-school displays go up in Walmart and Target lol. This year marks my 4th year as an Instructional Coach, and the 3rd principal at my school. Because I’ve had to “start over” so many times, I thought I’d share some of my thoughts with those of you who might be facing a similar situation.
Oftentimes, principals do not know exactly what the job of an Instructional Coach involves. We don’t technically “teach”…. So what in the world do we do with our time? It’s common for principals to think we don’t “do” anything because they can’t physically walk past our room and see us engaging with students in a traditional way. They might simply see us observing in a teacher’s classroom, working one-on-one with a teacher, or engaging with several teachers at lunch. What they don’t understand is that we are w-o-r-k-i-n-g… every minute that we are at school, every day. The strong relationships with the faculty I serve weren’t built overnight. They took work, really hard work. You can’t just walk in as an Instructional Coach and expect teachers to open up their classrooms, and their teaching practices to you without a strong foundation of trust and mutual respect. This is achieved by proving to them that you are a resource that they can rely upon to help them be the most effective teacher they can be. Being this kind of resource for the teachers I serve typically requires HOURS of work on my part, both at school and on my own time. I wish principals would remember this when they walk by and think I’m just “hanging out” and chatting with teachers when I am, in fact, gathering information …..about what a teacher might need for their classroom, about the challenges they are facing with their students, or about any insecurities they might have in teaching a new curriculum. I.am.working.
The second thing I wish principals would realize is that they need to include the Instructional Coach in basic administrative discussions and decisions. We don’t want to serve as administrators, but we do tend to have our finger on the pulse of the faculty. We can provide insight into whether something new being implemented would stand a chance of working… or if it would be met with a wall of opposition. Principals can dictate things all day long but if the teachers don’t believe in it, it is never going to succeed. Teachers confide in the Instructional Coach much more often than they ever would in a principal or assistant principal. We know exactly what is happening with faculty morale. We know exactly what the real issues with students are. Teachers are on the front lines. They know which students need extra attention, or come to school so hungry they can’t pay attention. A principal that doesn’t give the faculty a voice in the day-to-day running of the school is simply doomed to fail… or in for a very long year 😛 Instructional Coaches provide a bridge between the administration and the faculty of the school. Smart principals quickly embrace this and use the insight of the Instructional Coach to help build a school culture of collaboration.
Finally, principals need to support the Instructional Coach in their building. Make time in your busy day to touch base with us at least once a day. Often, we can clue you in on potential issues going on in the school before they become large problems (Please don’t think I mean we tattle on people. I never do that! I am referring to things like student behavior issues and such). Not only is a strong relationship with teachers important for an Instructional Coach, you also need an equally strong (or stronger) relationship with your principal. A short 5 minute conversation between the principal and Instructional Coach helps build the relationship and establish a feeling of trust. It keeps everyone on the same page and working towards the same goal (which, hopefully the Instructional Coach and administration worked together to establish for the new school year). Personally, I think that most principals don’t trust their Instructional Coach enough to handle things and this is the reason most principal/coach relationships are never strong. Principals tend to want to dictate how every aspect of “their” school is run, especially those who are stepping into a new principal’s job (I’ve had 3 principals in 4 years remember? 🙂 ) I have only had one principal whom I thought valued my opinion. We had an awesome relationship of trust and, under his leadership, our school really seemed to be headed in a positive direction.
I am really looking forward to a great school year. I know it will be different, but I am excited about the possibilities that it holds 🙂 .