By Ellen Eisenberg

By Ellen Eisenberg, Executive Director of The Professional Institute for Instructional Coaching (TPIIC)

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

The never-ending struggle to meet with teachers seems to be foremost on many coaches’ hearts and minds… how do they meet and follow the BDA cycle of coaching if they are inundated with all kinds of other “non-coaching” duties? How do they encourage teachers to meet with them if teachers are carrying a full schedule of classes and may have a period or two of extra non-teaching duties? Not everyone has time to meet so how do we communicate if time is limited?

All important questions and none with such easy answers.

Here are my thoughts:

  1. If a coach is actively coaching more than 8-10 teachers (and most are), the coach needs to design a cohort coaching approach so that each group of teachers can receive coaching support in a “buddy” system. For example, group “A” is the first cohort for 6-8 weeks and then becomes the buddy support for the next group “B” cohort of teachers, etc. 
  2. Coaches need to assess the needs of the teachers they coach. Some teachers may need intermittent support on a “as needed basis;” some may need regular weekly support; and some may need more intensive support. Once this is determined, the coach can plan the kind and frequency of the support provided; 
  3. If the communication is the issue: blend the approach so that there is virtual and F2F support. For instance, an email from the coach to the teacher asking what kinds of topics/issues/instructional techniques the teacher would be interested in exploring is a viable “before the before.” That would be followed by a F2F “before” where specifics are discussed, i.e., what are the goals for this lesson; what role do we each play; what kind of data should we collect; and when will we meet for the debriefing. From there, the “during” classroom visit (not observation) is scheduled and followed with the pre-determined debriefing or “after” session. Email communication is most often a set of questions that can be answered and then referenced at the time of the “before” and/or “after.” I would caution a coach to facilitate a virtual “after” as many ideas and thoughts flow from the F2F conversation. (The emails could get very lengthy if every question is asked virtually!)
Coaches typically try a variety of ways to interact with their teaching colleagues. Blending an approach is a solid way to incorporate both the learning and the communication styles.

How do you blend your approach to foster communication with your teaching colleagues?




Tuesday, October 1, 2019

I recently received an email with a question about a situation that I think we have all encountered. The question was, “How do I keep things in perspective and stay positive?”

Many of us struggle with negative thinking. It happens in our personal lives and in our professional lives and manifests itself in different ways. Some of us experience anxiety and stress while others experience depression and lack of confidence. Regardless of how it reveals itself, we all need to be aware that an intervention is sometimes necessary to help us break out of a negative pattern and recognize the positivity in our experiences.

I am a great believer in lists… I have lists everywhere and sometimes even my lists have lists! The point is that when I feel overwhelmed, I make a list of what needs to be done with columns: one column lists the task; the second column identifies if I actually can influence the outcome; a third column asks for specifics about the task, e.g., time constraints, people involved, etc.; and a fourth column asks for strategies that I think will help me achieve my goal. It sounds unwieldy but it’s not. It helps me put into perspective what I need to do, what I can do, and ideas about how to accomplish the task.

It would be an unrealistic if I didn’t admit that sometimes, I just add to the list and not address what’s there. But, even in those cases, I feel like I can be positive about my tasks because I’ve recognized them and haven’t ignored what I need to do in hopes that they will go away! They don’t become bigger than they already are.

Especially at the beginning of a year, take time to re-assess your goals, needs, and habits. Make those lists and practice reflection. Be clear about perception and reality. Rome wasn’t built in a day and sometimes, “No” is the right answer.

How do you stay positive and spread that positivity to the teachers you coach?

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Ah… so the new school year is in swing… so many things to do… so little time to do them!

Take a breath and make a list!

As a coach, take a minute to refresh your memory about the school’s goals for school wide improvement. I’m sure changes have been made to last year’s goals… maybe the goals have been enhanced; maybe the goals have been changed; maybe there are new goals to meet the needs of all students. However the goals were determined and shared with staff, take a moment to reflect on the goals and what you need to do in preparation for working with teachers so they support them.

Build on the strengths of each previous year and remember to honor the teachers’ voices. You are not the expert; you are creating a culture where collaboration is the norm and collective problem-solving is the theme for the year. Every teacher has something valuable to contribute to the conversation; bring your teaching colleagues together so that the learning is shared, questioning is encouraged, and practice is discussed – all without risk!

Coaches visit, not observe. Leave that to the administrators. Focus on creating a place where you model positive and valuable relationships, understanding that instructional coaching is not a cookie cutter model…  not everyone is ready at the same time for the same amount or level of instructional coaching support. You need to take time and assess what the teachers need which generates what you need to prepare for a productive school year.

How do you reflect “on, in, and about” your coaching role in preparation for working with your teaching colleagues?

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

As the school year begins, our goals are sort of like New Year’s Resolutions… we make them in good faith but then life intervenes! So, what can we do about making realistic goals that both support and challenge our instructional coaching roles?

First things first… think about last year’s accomplishments and build on them. Maybe you accomplished all you set out to do. Or, maybe you only achieved a few of the goals on your list. Either way, re-focus your energies and review the goals you set. If your goals were met, great. Move on with enhancing and building your previous goals. If your goals were not met, take a moment and reflect on why not. Were they specific enough, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely? What exactly did I want to achieve? How did I plan on achieving them? Did I have the right people on the bus with me to accomplish those goals? Was my timeline appropriate and doable? Did I have alternative ways to achieve the goals throughout the course of the commitment? What got in the way of attaining these goals? Did I talk to a trusted colleague about these goals and share possible strategies for reaching them? Remember, two heads are better than one!

As you begin this year, review your role with teachers and administrators so you can continue to promote the culture of professional learning throughout the year. Collaborate with your teaching colleagues and gather the collective wisdom of your group to help develop this year’s coaching toolbox of professional learning offerings. Go back to goal setting and encourage your colleagues to co-create the professional learning plan with you for the year. Plan smart and work smarter!

Have a great year!

What are your first steps in setting goals for the year?


Thursday, August 1, 2019

Welcome to the new school year!


Thinking about and planning for a new school year is refreshing, energizing, challenging, and anxiety producing, all at the same time. As instructional coaches, we’ve tried to shut down our brains for the summer but that doesn’t work. We continuously wonder how to help teachers get better at their craft and encourage them to explore new ways to engage students. We want to throw teachers a lifeline to keep them connected to each other, to the school community, and to the teaching profession. We want to make sure we help them answer these questions: “What am I doing as a coach to help teachers change and improve their practice” and “What am I doing as a coach to help teachers increase student engagement and improve student outcomes.”

But what looms in front of us is the staggering rate at which new teachers leave the profession.

44% of new teachers leave teaching within five years (https://blogs.edweek.org) and often leave at a higher rate than many other professions. And, they leave for a variety of reasons.

In 2018, teachers surveyed (as reported in Education Week, Dec. 2018) indicated that 18% said that leadership is key in job satisfaction while 17% said salary considerations were a factor. 17% also said school climate was a factor in staying or leaving the job. Different reasons but the same outcome. So, how do we address this issue and sustain the teaching staff so that every student is in a classroom with a highly effective teacher?

Teacher retention is not just about salary; it’s about a change in culture, climate, beliefs, and practices so that teachers feel supported. All teachers need to feel valued, appreciated, understood, and recognized for the strengths they bring to the classroom.

Enter the instructional coach!

Instructional coaches sustain the momentum, break down the walls of isolation, and ensure that teachers practice with each other. Make sure you lead by example, preserve ways to collaborate, foster open communication, and support teachers in implementing literacy practices across all content areas. Be respectful, persistent, goal-oriented, and focused on helping teachers reach their fullest potential and improve learning for all. Ensure that your coaching interactions are in that “judgement free” zone that supports reflection and mid-stream adjustments in teaching. Help teachers plan, review their plans, and revise them where needed. Be that “elbow to elbow” learning partner and provide that lifeline for all teachers, not just the novice ones.

How are you planning for the new school year?

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Are you a coach or a consultant?

What an interesting question… this topic surfaced when I was recently talking with one of our instructional mentors, aka the coach’s coach, in the work she was doing. So, I decided to do a little thinking about the business sector to see the definition of each and if I agreed.
Initially, I thought about how I would define the two terms and realized that to the inexperienced, the two terms probably seem interchangeable. But, they really are not… in coaching, there is no expert. The coach’s role is to help the “coachee” reach his/her fullest potential by being a learner and deciding the goals and direction to pursue. The coach helps the learner be the architect of the learning; they don’t “tell” the individual what is needed or identify the goals for him/her. There is no “should” in coaching; there is only, “what if” in a coaching interaction. There is a partnership that is formed for the purpose of resolving issues so that practice can move forward. The coach’s goal is targeted on the individual, i.e., how the coach helps the teacher enhance practice.
In consulting, an outsider is brought to the table to identify the “errors” and to “fix” the situation. There is no experimentation; they are there to make the right decisions and to give the answers so the problems are solved. The consultant’s goal focuses on the task at hand; that is, here is the problem and here is the solution… do it! They are not there to encourage collaboration; they are there to present solutions to an exposed problem.
Forbes states that “Coaching can help turn an entrepreneur into a great leader. Consulting provides that much-needed expertise and assistance. Oftentimes, the lines between coaching and consulting can get blurred, creating a situation that is not effective at providing what the client actually needs.”
What are you… a coach or a consultant?

Monday, May 20, 2019

I love it… this is exactly the message we want to convey to teachers, administrators, students and other school leaders… “failure is a part of teaching…” and it’s also a part of learning.

The April 19 EdWeek blog says it all… Lory Peroff expresses the good, the bad, and the ugly about teaching. She bears the pain and the joy of her experiences and shares them in a way that is recognizable to every teacher. After all, teaching gives us the “highest highs” and the “lowest lows” possible… the lights go on and it’s the best day; no lights shine, and we hang our heads in shame.

I used to say that I wished my last two classes were my first two classes. I learned so much from my students during the day that I was definitely a different teacher by the end of the day and I felt that I shortchanged my morning students on many days that I started a new unit or used new resources!

But, it doesn’t have to be and shouldn’t be that way. What was I thinking when I hid my discomfort? What did I deny my students when I didn’t reach out for support? Why didn’t I think my professional growth was important? I know why… I didn’t have the luxury of working with a trusted colleague, aka an instructional coach.  I was too much like Lory trying to be the perfect teacher, one that others could come to for support but not willing to ask anyone else for support; I was not willing to admit what I didn’t know.

Lory’s advice is what we all need and should commit to following: reflect – in, on, and about action enables problem-solving; make a plan and follow it while reflecting on what worked effectively; find support – learning is social; try it out – practicing with an instructional coach makes a difference; be real and admit when change is needed.

Word of caution… for those schools that claim, “Failure is not an option,” think about how to change that attitude… failure is the only option that creates change.

How do you promote the idea of learning from your failures?