By Ellen Eisenberg

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

Monday, November 17, 2014

I am frequently asked by administrators and external evaluators what I think are the most important qualities of an effective instructional coach. That’s a loaded question! Many people believe that effective coaching means that coaches can improve student scores and improve school wide data quickly and without challenges. Some people believe that effective coaching means that every teacher on that staff implements whatever the coach suggests as in “show me and I’ll do it.” Those that understand that instructional coaching is an ongoing teacher professional development/ professional learning support system and a reflective practice believe that coaches are on the side of helping teachers implement effective instructional practices in a non-evaluative, risk-free environment. These are the “enlightened” ones!

Coaches are not magicians; they have no magic wands; and they can’t spread any pixie dust throughout their building immediately resulting in higher student scores and better school profiles. If that were only the case! But what they can do is provide opportunities for teachers and administrators to plan, learn, review, revise, and work together to influence student learning and build teacher capacity.

So, here’s my top ten list:

1. Able to build strong trusting relationships
2. Exhibits deep content knowledge
3. Is a good listener
4. Committed to life-long learning
5. Models collaborative practices and collective problem solving
6. Knows adult learning theory and application in a coaching situation
7. Maintains a positive attitude towards all individuals
8. Identifies current trends in education and provides appropriate resources to support those trends
9. Skilled in questioning techniques to reinforce metacognitive reflection
10. Understands the data collection process (collection, analysis, and use of data)

 What’s on your list??

Monday, November 3, 2014

November 4 is designated as National Coach Appreciation Day. What a wonderful idea! Finally, instructional coaches are being accepted for the service and support they provide to their teaching colleagues and school administrators. This day may not be distinguished with plaques, commemorations, or certificates, but rather with the gratitude and respect that teachers freely bestow upon their coaching colleagues who help them recognize their voices and implement effective instructional practices without passing judgment or disapproval.

In 1953, Eleanor Roosevelt convinced Congress to acknowledge educators on their own special day but it wasn’t until 1980 that the day become nationally recognized. Now we celebrate National Teacher Appreciation Week in May. This is a week where we honor teachers for their dedication, diligence, persistence, knowledge, skills, and for working with our most precious commodity – our children. Our teachers are driven, devoted, and faithful in the work they do with our children. These are the same qualities shared by our instructional coaches.

Instructional coaches are steadfast in their desire to help teachers take ownership of the learning process, committed to helping teachers find their voices, and take personal responsibility for the outcome. That doesn’t mean they control the outcome; it means they take every conversation, every face-to-face session, every individual’s needs into consideration when they establish a coach-teacher partnership. They try to help every individual reach his/her full potential by providing opportunities for teachers to ask questions, communicate freely, reflect on and in practice and make adjustments to their teaching. They also give descriptive and timely feedback to help teachers make those adjustments. Coaches are the voices of reason as well as the voices of uncertainty so teachers are encouraged to think about their thinking and their instructional decisions.

Now is the time for you to reflect on all the wonderful things you have done and are doing to support your teaching colleagues. THANK YOU for all you do to help teachers implement effective instructional practices. You are APPRECIATED for all you do. Think about all the people you have influenced with your willingness to help teachers go from good to great. YOU ARE THE BEST!