By Heather Moschetta, AIU 3 PIIC Mentor
Anyone who has spent time as an instructional coach, watched a coach, or worked with a coach knows that instructional coaches serve in many roles and perform many duties. Admittedly, not all tasks coaches are asked to perform are specifically aligned to the goals of instructional coaching, but with the increasing demands of the 21st century, the reality is that everyone has many roles, responsibilities, and duties so that our schools can function.
So how can coaches who are pulled in many directions maximize their impact? The answer is by keeping their focus on the main purpose of coaching: to support teachers with the art and craft of teaching. Even when not working with teachers directly in the BDA cycle to strengthen their teaching, if coaches still view every duty they are tasked with through the lens of “How can I leverage this responsibility to support teachers with the art and craft of teaching?” then they can turn everything into a coaching opportunity and spend less time beating themselves up about all the time they are not spending coaching.
(Disclaimer: we know from research and practice that the most impactful coaching comes from working directly with teachers one-on-one and in small groups. This post is not intended to excuse coaches from striving to work with teachers in meaningful coaching cycles that transform teaching and learning.)
For example: A coach is assigned the responsibility of assessment coordinator. The coach asks, “How can I leverage this responsibility to support teachers with the art and craft of teaching?” The answer might be “I can use my role as data coach to formulate data reports, initiate data team meetings, and begin important conversations about teaching and learning from trends we notice in student data.” Using these data leads to BDA cycles with teachers to implement effective, research-based instructional practices to address student needs as identified by the data.
Or, heaven forbid, the coach is required to cover a teacher’s classes for the day when the substitute shortage has hit hard. The coach asks, “How can I leverage this responsibility to support teachers with the art and craft of teaching?” There are several possibilities here. The coach can offer mini instructional learning visits to allow other teachers to visit the classroom as he or she uses evidence-based instructional techniques to implement the teacher’s lessons. The coach can debrief with all teachers who visit the classroom, discussing how those techniques might fit into their classroom. Or, another possibility is when the absent teacher returns, the coach can say, “I tried strategy XYZ with your students while you were out. Some students responded very well, and I would like to share my experience with you so perhaps you can take it even further to benefit your students’ learning.”
The point is that, with the right mindset, almost everything we are asked to do that doesn’t “feel” like coaching can be turned into support for teaching and learning. So here is a challenge for you: the next time you are asked to do something that isn’t truly coaching, ask yourself, “How can I leverage this responsibility to support teachers with the art and craft of teaching?” See what possibilities await you!