Must-Do #2: Instructional Coaching→ Defining How to Serve
How You Serve
Teachers are all over the place in their journey as an educator, and so are instructional coaches.
In the first part of this series, we discussed why it is important to define your role as an instructional Coach. Once the role is defined, it’s time to move into building trust in the program and, more importantly, building the staff's trust in you.
Establishing trust may seem like a no-brainer. And that is true, but how do you do that? If you like to toss around catchphrases, you might say use a "lens of compassion," "lead with empathy," or create relationships. And these are all correct.
But at the same time, they are also a bit ambiguous - easy to say and hard to do. This makes choosing how you will serve them all the more important. Here are two theorists we can quickly look at for starters.
Jim Knight, in his book The Impact Cycle, addresses three types of coaching you might use. Each has its place, and if you are tuned into the teacher, you can figure out which one fits best.
The first type is facilitative coaching. This type of coaching has the coach and teacher as equals. Knight will reference a "partnership approach." The coach listens and asks questions for the teacher to find their own answers.
This is a great method for those who are open to being facilitated, have experience in the classroom, and are open to new ideas.
Next, there is directive coaching. “Directive coaching is the opposite of facilitative coaching,” according to Knight. This is where the coach has the capacity to be the expert and guide through advice-giving.
Who is this good for? New teachers. They often don’t have the years of experience to integrate new knowledge or frameworks into what they do in the classroom. If you choose this model, you need to communicate directly and listen deeply.
Finally, Knight speaks of dialogical coaching. This model is all about using questioning techniques and deep listening to help a teacher uncover the answers he or she already has.
This takes lots of skill. Lots. You have to know a few inquiry models of questioning and practice them frequently so you can use them at a moment’s notice when the opportunity arises. Don’t think you won’t struggle with this. The most experienced coaches I know feel vulnerable here.
Elena Aguilar is another thought leader in this space. She speaks of transformative coaching in her book, The Art of Coaching: Effective Strategies for School Transformation.
This model goes deep in examining behaviors, beliefs, and ways of being.
Vulnerability is key for success with this model. Trust isn’t a catchphrase here, you will have to be ready to live it. People have to know you have a level of confidentiality like attorneys and clients do.
If you can’t provide that, this model doesn’t work.
A structure of questioning that works well in this format is the question series from the book The Coaching Habit. Author Michael Bungay Stanier provides a coach with seven easy-to-use scaffolded questions to get at what the heart of the matter is. No matter the amount of time you have for a coaching session, these questions get the coachee talking.
If you feel you struggle with what questions to ask, the Coaching Habit questions are a great beginner's guide. Master these and you will be able to find moments to go deep with the work from Aguilar or Knight.
The theorist you pick matters on many levels. You will get better as a coach when you see the strengths and areas of growth in each model so you can start to mesh them together in order to address the needs of those around you.
How to Measure and Message Impact
You can, and should, start to measure the impact of your efforts once people trust you enough to work with you willingly.
There are multiple ways to measure impact, and also to reflect on the techniques you are implementing: Surveys, observations of your coaching, video recording a coaching conversation, peer review, student improvement data, and the list goes on and on.
It is important to know what your administrator wants for evidence of your work. This is a direct conversation to have. Make sure that you both have a clear understanding of the need for this evidence to still remain confidential, because any inkling that you are an arm of the administration will stymie your efforts to partner with teachers.
It is imperative to protect the relationships with the teachers you have developed. A teacher or administrator will approach you and ask who you are working with and what you are talking about. Think about how you can share information that helps the administration understand the important work you and teachers are doing without revealing teachers' vulnerabilities.
In Summary: Know Who You Are, How You Serve, and How to Measure and Message Your Impact
The first step as a new instructional coach, or as a seasoned veteran who is ready to set the reset button, is to truly know what your mission is. This will set you up for how to navigate the journey to making the deepest impact with teachers, and to communicating effectively with administrators. They will know what to expect because you will know exactly who you are.
Establish how you will function based on the relationships and outcomes you seek with the people you serve. Look to the leaders in the field for direction here. Philosophy of coaching and adult interaction abounds.
Make a plan for measuring your impact regularly and messaging it in a way that serves all stakeholders.
Now here's where it's going to get a little dicey ... the next step is to break through the theories above and see what it all looks like in action. This is your so called "boots-on-the-ground" moment, and here's where practical "what should I do next" type of discussions need to take place. Part three of this series is all about moving from theory to practice, what you need in your toolkit, and how to get there.
Click here to jump back and review Part 1: Step One: Defining the Role of a Coach
You do not have to walk alone. Feel free to message Agile Ideas Leadership for any questions or thoughts at email@example.com.
Ross Herdina, Co-Founder, Agile Ideas Leadership