Five Lessons I Learned from My First Year of Instructional Coaching, Ep. 64 Buzzing with Ms. B: The Coaching Podcast
When I started as an instructional coach I had very little experience coaching. I was expected to transfer working with kids to working with adults. They’re two different things and there were a lot of struggles to figure it out.
In this episode of the podcast, I share five lessons I learned in my first year of coaching. These are things that I learned I was not doing the best way. I’m still learning each day and getting better at these things.
Lesson #1 – Build Relationships Purposely
I thought as a new coach that I was building relationships. I spent time talking with teachers, but I really didn’t get to know them. I didn’t take time to learn their teaching framework and the way that they viewed their work.
Communication was a real struggle for me because we were all speaking very different languages professionally and sometimes literally. We had completely different experiences and that made it challenging to build relationships.
Sometimes my stress level would shoot way up because some teacher’s methods of communicating were very different than mine. It sounded like a lot of complaining, like a lot of blaming and I struggled with that. I didn’t understand that the constant negativity and the complaints were cries for help.
I had to learn how to get to the heart of each teacher and understand their experiences. In addition, I had to adjust my communication style to meet theirs.
Lesson #2 – Educate Teachers About Your Role
Defining your coaching role and sharing it purposefully with teachers is crucial for success. You need to educate teachers on what you do and why it’s important.
When I started, I introduced myself by saying I was “there to help”. That’s a pretty broad statement. It meant I could help with anything from photocopying to modeling in the classroom.
What I should have done is identified the types of supports I was able to provide and then created a coaching menu of those supports. If you want to learn more, listen to Episode 22 where I walk you through the whole process.
Lesson # 3 – Don’t Have All the Answers
As a natural problem solver, I like to figure out solutions. It makes me feel confident and comfortable when I have a plan.
However, coaching asks us to wait, ask, listen, and collaborate. That’s something I had to get better at and it’s made a huge difference in my coaching.
I used to rush to solve teacher’s issues. Now I asked questions and collaborate to figure out what the teacher believes in.
Once I started doing this I noticed a change in classroom practices. Until then I was giving advice. Coaches who only give advice are not making change happen. We have to cultivate thinking and make it work all the way through to implementation.
Lesson #4 – Don’t Say Yes to Everything – Build in Time for Flexibility
I used to say yes to everything. Then suddenly everyone needed me all the time. I ended up on lots of committees and facilitating every meeting.
The trouble with this is that you end up filling your entire schedule with stuff and you don’t have time for the things that matter the most. I found myself in meetings and being pulled from my classroom teacher support time.
Everything is a choice. With every decision, we’re choosing one thing over another. My recommendation is to think about what you’re saying yes to each day because it means you’re saying no to something else.
Lesson #5 – Figure Out the Point of Meetings and Make Sure It’s Clear to Everyone
We’ve all been in meetings that drag on too long and aren’t relevant for our work. You leave the meeting wondering what was the point.
Everyone involved should understand the reason for the meeting. I started setting objectives that stated exactly what we were there to do each time. The meetings became more purposeful when I defined what teachers are going to walk away with.
This works when you are leading the meeting and it also works when you’re a participant. It’s a little different when you’re a participant in the meeting because you don’t always get to choose but knowing the reason for the learning only makes it better.
Those are the five lessons I learned during my first year as an instructional coach. I made a lot of mistakes, but I also learned a lot. Try out these tips and let me know which one works the best for you.
Ready to listen? You can listen below with the media player, or search for Buzzing with MS. B: The Coaching Podcast anywhere you listen to podcasts!
Check me out at buzzingwithmsb.com and on Instagram @buzzingwithmsb.
Podcast produced by Fernie Ceniceros