By Ellen Eisenberg

By Ellen Eisenberg, Executive Director of The Pennsylvania Institute for Instructional Coaching (PIIC)

Friday, December 20, 2013


At the end of each month, I look back at what I accomplished and either hang my head or give myself a “high five” (more the former than latter). I tend to make long “to do” lists that sound very doable at the time of creation. I then reflect and say to myself, “What was I thinking??” When I review my lists, I notice that my original list has multiplied into about 10 additional lists, each subsequent list becoming more and more detailed about what I want to accomplish. This reflection is perfect for December as we think about the inevitable… what’s this year’s New Year’s resolution and how will I sustain the momentum as I move forward personally and professionally?

Looking back, I want to remind myself what I’ve learned about teaching, learning, and coaching… teacher quality is the most significant factor affecting student achievement; teachers who are supported by instructional coaches are more likely to implement newly learned instructional strategies; follow up support to effectively implement new learning and scaffolding encourages reflective practice and instruction; teachers want to talk to their colleagues about effective instructional strategies; collaboration and open communication make a difference in teaching and learning; teachers and coaches who collectively problem solve around problems of practice are more likely to identify effective strategies that work to address those issues; and most importantly, teachers really like to talk to other practitioners who are non-evaluative listeners with a shared vision about how to help their students grow while improving their own instructional practices.

As I move forward in my practice, I am also reminded about the daily questions coaches, mentors, and administrators must ask themselves: what am I doing as a coach, mentor, or administrator to help teachers change and improve their practice, and what am I doing to help teachers improve student engagement and outcomes? I ask myself the same questions about helping others improve their coaching practices. How can I help coaches and mentors work one-on-one and in small groups to support teachers, coaches, and other school leaders? Providing ongoing opportunities to engage in professional learning and to share new learning with others is fundamental to my own learning.

Janus, the two-faced (in a good way) ancient Roman god of beginnings and transitions, looks to the future and to the past. He looks after passages, causes actions to start and presides over all beginnings. I think the role of the coach mirrors Janus’ role. Coaches certainly disrupt the status quo and foster conversation. Remember your journey and the goals you have set out to accomplish. Celebrate the small accomplishments and remember that Rome was not built in a day…look behind you to see how far you have come and look ahead to see what innovations are possible. This is a journey of change and it takes courage, tenacity, diligence, frustration, and acceptance to stay the course.

Best wishes for a wonderful holiday season. Rest, relax, and rejuvenate your body and soul. All good things in the New Year!

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