5 ways instructional coaches can support teachers

Are you getting the support you need from the instructional coach in your school?

Instructional coaches have been an integral part of education systems for a long time now. You may have an instructional coach at your school who serves as a generalist, or they may be content specific, such as reading or math coaches. Often, teachers are not quite sure how to leverage the support of an instructional coach. At the same time, coaches are not always sure what teachers need and want, or how best to support them.

I had the honor of serving teachers at my school as their instructional coach for several years, and I’d like to share a few of my favorite ways to foster a strong teacher-coach relationship. If you’re a new teacher, you may want and need an instructional coach but feel overwhelmed and unsure where to begin or what to ask. As a veteran teacher, you have your routines set and it’s smooth sailing in your classroom, so you may not see how useful a coach could be to you.

Whether you are a new teacher or have been teaching for 20 years, you can benefit from your school’s instructional coach. Here are five things to turn to them for.

1. Resources

Do you need an activity for guided reading? A center activity for graphing? Formative assessment ideas? Two more copies of Junie B. Jones to do a literature circle? Your instructional coach can help you with these requests and more.

Whether you are a new teacher or have been teaching for 20 years, you can benefit from your school’s instructional coach.

Instructional coaches are a treasure trove of resources. They are often veteran teachers or teachers who have demonstrated expertise in various instructional strategies. This experience means they have many resources to share or, if they don’t own them themselves, they know where to find them. They frequently have connections with other coaches, teachers at your school, and others around your school district who can help them find what you need. Instructional coaches may also have a flexible schedule and be able to find time to locate resources for you.

2. A coaching cycle

Your instructional coach may be trained to provide a coaching cycle to you. Think of coaching cycles as personalized professional development.

A coaching cycle begins with a pre-conference to determine what you are wanting or needing to work on. During the pre-conference, you will sit with your instructional coach and create an area of focus. Next, your coach will observe your class. During the observation, your coach will take notes on what you discussed. After the observation, you will have a post-conference to discuss the data they collected and the next steps you should take. Your instructional coach can provide resources and support you need to help you meet your goals.

3. Modeling

Instructional coaches can provide modeling in your classroom. That means they can demonstrate instructional strategies you might want to see in action with your class.

You may want a collaborative structure or a specific area of your curriculum demonstrated, for example. By utilizing your instructional coach as the teacher, you can become the observer. During your observation, you can take notes on the process, how your students are responding, and what you would like to do when you try it on your own. After the modeling process, you should meet with your instructional coach again to discuss what you observed and decide your next steps.

4. Class coverage so you can observe another teacher

One of my favorite ways to use an instructional coach was to have them cover my class so I could observe another teacher. There are amazing things happening all over your building, and you can learn so much from seeing each other in action.

At my school, we set up a pineapple chart to help us see what exciting things were happening in the classrooms throughout the building. As an instructional coach, I would cover teachers so they could observe the classrooms they had signed up to see.

5. Data conversations

Meeting with your instructional coach after each time you administer MAP® Growth™, or any other assessment used in your district, is a great way to discuss how your data may impact your instructional decisions. Your instructional coach could also meet with grade-level teams to help determine trends in the data and identify areas of focus. They may suggest a data protocol to help you analyze your data both as a group and as an individual.

If you do not give MAP Growth assessments, you can still have data conversations with your coach around your data sources. Instructional coaches can help you triangulate your data to best meet the needs of your students.

You don’t have to go it alone

Research shows that a strong teacher-coach relationship has a positive impact on both teacher practice and student achievement. Utilizing your school’s instructional coach for these purposes can be highly beneficial not just for you but for your students as well.

I encourage you to find your instructional coach and start a conversation about how they can help you this year. Each school and district uses coaches differently, so clearly defining your coach’s role at the start will be helpful. Partnering with them will help you grow in your practice and make an even bigger impact on the lives of your students.

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