You Want to be an Instructional Coach?

Am I Ready?

Being an effective teacher is not the same as being an effective coach. Many who possess enormous abilities in working with children and adolescents find themselves having an abysmal time when coaching adults. Why? Because, the needs and dynamics are far different. Each role involves high communication and interpersonal skills. But when assuming a leadership role in any organization, individuals are frequently confronted with unexpected resentment from peers, and demands unlike those historically found in a classroom. Virtually every individual who takes on a leadership role – whether in an organizaiton, a community or a family – discovers personal and professional vulnerabilities. And in part, coaching of any sort is perceived as “leadership.”

In considering the characteristics of the role of a coach, a prerequisite for school-based coaches is a deep understanding of the credible research around high-quality instruction.  Coaches are informal leaders in their schools and, in the end, are measured by how well they have influenced both teacher quality and student learning.  Working with adults involves a very different skill set than working with students.  Although a sufficient amount of experience helps the coach relate to teachers, coaches need to become leaders of learners to both students and adults.

Coaching involves hard conversations with teachers and sometimes administrators.  Believe it or not, teachers – like most adults – occasionally can be even more intractable than students.  The work of a coach requires courage to do what needs to be done, even when the “doing” creates internal discomfort.  This work requires acceptance of a harsh reality confronting schools:  maintenance of the status quo is no longer an option.  Not if we are going to make a difference in the lives of students.

And that’s where conflict can arise.  The status quo is comfortable for multiples individuals in the system, many of whom are adults… adults who are likeable… and kind.  Often, a coach is compelled to confront a harsh reality:  likeable and kind adults sometimes need to be doing more than they are doing – sometimes a lot  more – to sufficiently meet kids’ needs.  Occasionally it is simply a matter of unawareness on their part; occasionally it’s  more.  the bottom line is this:  taking on the role of coach is taking on the role of change-agent.  And as research establishes, human beings are wired to resist change – and to resent those who push for it.  Before making a commitment to pursue instructional coaching, it’s probably important to keep in mind that th likely discomfort you feel – is a very real part of the work.  And, it is probably the hardest.  The effort can be exhilarating over the long term, but it’s crucial to go into coaching with “eyes wide open” about very real, but necessary, pain the work can cause.

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