What Are the Qualities of an Effective Classroom Coach?

As part of our Coaching in Action blog series, we’ve invited classroom coaches from across HMH to share their perspectives, experiences, and success stories from working with educators. In this post, we hear from former Math Solutions consultant Mary Mitchell on the strategies and qualities that lead to successful collaborations. 

As a former National Board-certified teacher, math coach, and Math Solutions consultant, I’ve had a lot of experience working with students and education professionals. In the past decade, after extensive facilitator professional learning I’ve identified coaching strategies to develop teacher leaders with the goal of helping them deliver student-centered instruction across grade levels. 

Recipe for Successful Coaching 

In my work as a coach, I focus on listening and learning. Understanding the needs of the respective districts I serve leads to providing customized services and strategies they can then use to implement programs to improve their educational outcomes. Why individualized services? Each district and classroom has different requirements for success.

Through my coaching experience, the most valuable lesson I have learned is that to create effective strategies, it’s important to partner with my teachers by setting goals for their students’ learning. This includes helping teachers analyze and respond to student data. When teachers and administrators know what goals they need to aim for, they can be confident they are building the best programs and curriculum to ensure higher achievement for every student. 

Coaches Across the Country

Over the last seven years in my work for Math Solutions I’ve collaborated with teachers and coaches across the country. It’s been interesting to hear them share their experiences and feelings about their preparation for coaching. In listening to their feedback, I’ve learned that there are some common skills and knowledge most coaches have and there are areas for improvement that would help them become more successful as coaches.  

What Coaches Need

Having a passion for teaching and learning and a desire to make a difference are certainly important qualities of an effective classroom coach. However, most coaches need coaching skills that will help them build stronger relationships, communicate more effectively with their partners, and ask dynamic questions that result in action. While classroom experience and knowledge of effective pedagogy are important background for coaches, a well-planned coaching model and tools to guide the process are critical to ensuring that the coach is set up for making an impact on student learning.

Building a Common Vision for Coaching

Here are some guiding questions districts and education leaders should address in order to ensure the best results from coaching efforts:

  • Is coaching making the desired impact on teaching and learning?
  • Are coaches guiding educators in the use of data to inform their classroom practices and measure the results and success of students?
  • What professional learning opportunities have you provided for coaches?
  • What common structures and tools do your coaches use to support their coaching work?
  • What coaching skills would your coaches say they want help building?

Coaches’ Corner

What are your personal coaching successes and challenges? Join the conversation on Facebook