As an experienced instructional coach, who can attest to the benefits of being coached firsthand, I offer some tips to consider to maximize your next instructional coaching opportunity.
Have Clear Expectations
You can optimize your coaching experience by knowing exactly what to expect. To fully take advantage of the time with your instructional coach, the coach’s role in your success should be clearly defined along with your administrators’ expectations. You should aim to answer questions like:
- How much time is available to spend with your coach?
- What type of change in your practice is expected?
- How can your coach support you?
These questions, among others, can guide you in setting clear expectations for the game plan between you and your coach—even down to being clear about the schedule to ensure you have the necessary coverage to fully engage with your coach. I have seen many instances where coaching visits have been unsuccessful because the teacher did not have uninterrupted time to think, reflect, and plan with the coach.
Keep the Goal in Mind
It’s key to establish a clear understanding about the focus of the work with your coach. Oftentimes, coaches are tasked to support a particular initiative or have a specific focus that was determined before your coaching visits start.
Being aware of your administrators' priorities and focus areas that you are being held accountable for will help you to be better prepared. Aim to answer questions such as:
- Will the coach support you with a particular curricular resource?
- Is the coaching program specific?
- Does the coaching focus on implementing certain strategies?
Although there may be a specific focus from your school or district, you should also have your own ideas about the areas of your practice you would like to enhance. Often, coaches will be able to support you with your individual needs while supporting you to excel at the focus area defined by your administration.
Getting to know your coach to build a strong relationship is essential to a successful coaching experience. The more your coach knows about you will enable them to provide you with advice, recommendations, and resources that are tailored to meet your style as a teacher and a learner. By the same token, understanding your coach’s background, core competencies, and professional expertise can open up opportunities to expand your skill set in new areas and to identify common interests that foster further professional growth. Maintaining a friendly relationship with your coach can make it easier for you to openly communicate about the type of support needed to move your practice forward. Coaches use this information to understand your motivations and to pinpoint the best approach to support you.