What I Wish I Knew about Being an Instructional Coach

Being an instructional coach looks different based on the needs of your school and/or district. This post will outline my experience coaching new teachers in a large urban district in Charlotte, NC.

what i wish i knew about being an instructional coach

  1. Vision– Coaching was so new that many leaders didn’t know exactly how to use a coach. Not understanding how you want to utilize a position in your strategy to support teachers makes it a frustrating, energy-wasting experience for all involved. Sit down and get clear on the north star. “We are using coaching to support teachers because __________ and we plan to do this by _________.”
  2. Execution Plan– Coaches were hired because it was the trending best practice, but admin were not taking the time to outline systems or procedures for coaches to follow. This meant they had to make them up from scratch without background knowledge. This created mayhem and unproductive busywork. Once you know your vision for coaching, plan 3-5 major tasks that only coaches will tackle. Outline expectations and brainstorm how this could be done. It can be revised along the way, but being on the same page prior to executing will avoid headaches and random task delegation. (See an example here.)
  3. Feedback System– The district provided performance rubrics for teachers but not for coaches. There was no evaluative system to determine if the coach was executing their tasks effectively nor feedback for how to get better. Not having a measuring stick made it hard to know which coaches were making an impact and which were not (or exactly why they were not). Develop a performance rubric for coaching similar to that of a teacher’s in your district. Clarity will ensure coaches meet expectations. (See an example here.)
  4. Loneliness– Whether a coach works for the district or a particular school, they are often one of a few (or the only one). Coaches go from being part of a thriving multiple person team to a solo job. Missing camaraderie and support from others going through a similar situation is common. Creating your own PLN virtually will allow you to swap stories, celebrate wins, share strategies, and feel connected with others just like you. Get into Facebook groups, use apps to communicate by voice or video, and join a mastermind to make the job less lonely.
  5. Freedom– There are moments in the day where coaches have to be at a particular place at a specific time. But for the most part, coaches experience far more freedom than when they were teachers in a classroom. They can go the bathroom, eat lunch and complete tasks in a much more flexible timeframe. Usually coaches can create their own schedules and design them around their own habits, personalities, and needs. When I drove between school sites, I was able to quickly grab a tasty lunch and that brought me so much joy! I also loved being out and about in the building rather than stuck in one room all day. Develop a schedule for yourself with the approval of your administrator and enjoy the freedom! (Read the blog post “A Day in the Life of an Instructional Coach.”)
  6. Multiply Effect- An instructional coach can have a tremendous positive impact on student achievement and teacher proficiency within a school building. Teaching teachers how to be more effective increases the quality of instruction in all classrooms, not just one. Here’s how the multiply effect equation goes: 1 teacher with 20+ kids x # of teachers per grade level x # of grade levels in the school building = one major positive ripple effect across the building.

Being an instructional coach is very rewarding, but it does come with some challenges. I wish I had been prepared, prior to jumping into the role, with the tips I shared with you in this post. Your experience may be much more organized than mine (and I truly hope that for you), but if not, these tips will provide talking points as you chat with your principal to ensure coaching is effective at your school or district.

If you are in need of resources to support your role as an instructional coach, browse here. You can also view my favorite education books here.


About the author, Gretchen

I am a teacher trainer and coach. Working elbow to elbow with teachers and teacher leaders to ensure instructional proficiency and student achievement soar lights me up. We have a real need in our nation for strong educators to remain in the field. My blog, book, podcast, courses and instructional materials are geared towards empowering teachers (and those that lead them) to receive the support needed to grow and thrive today, tomorrow and always.