By Ellen Eisenberg

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

Monday, September 19, 2016

Although coaching is situational and contextual, we all experience some common “interruptions” to the coaching cycle. Those commonalities or similarities in coaching interactions help us define trends and offer various ways to address these situations when they occur.

We call those disruptions problems of practice and we all face them in our coaching practice. To tackle these, we must make time for reflection. We must identify the challenges, the root issues, and behaviors necessary to address them while moving towards positive outcomes. Remember, however, that coaches help their teaching colleagues resolve their own issues through the art of effective questioning, not by telling their colleagues what to do. It’s all about coaches asking the right questions so that their teaching colleagues reflect and share their thinking, offering multiple opportunities to talk things through to resolution.

In a recent ASCD SmartBrief (July 14, 2016), a survey from ED PULSE found these results in answer to the question, “What is the most common problem of practice you face as a teacher leader?” Coaches, take note… the number one problem of practice is establishing relationships with colleagues and creating a collaborative culture. Interesting… coaches cannot coach unless the environment (physical and emotional) is conducive for change.  That can only happen through the development of trusting relationships.

Relationships with colleagues/collaborative culture
 20.00%
Effective use of structured meeting times
 18.63%
Navigating difficult conversations
 18.08%
Current structures to utilize leadership capabilities
 15.34%
Facilitating effective teams
 14.25%
Building trust (colleagues and administration)
 10.14%
Knowledge of adult learning/working with adults
 3.56%

What is the most common problem of practice that surfaces in your coaching interactions?

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Welcome back! The new school year has begun with teachers, coaches, administrators, students, and parents asking what happened to the summer?? Now think back to last April and May when your thoughts were hovering on the impossible, “I wish I had done …” or “I wanted to do this but didn’t get around to it.” You were probably agonizing over what you didn’t do instead of celebrating the successes of your teaching colleagues.

August is the start of a new school year. (Unless, of course, you worked all summer thinking, planning, wondering, hoping, and actually getting your room ready; sound familiar?) The excitement, energy, and promise to make changes and new commitments take possession of your body and soul. You are ready to jump in with both feet and hit the ground running. You’ve learned many things last year and want to ensure that this year begins on solid footing, supporting a shared vision that builds on previous years’ accomplishments.

So, here are some words of wisdom:
                 1) Remind your teaching colleagues of the “coaching habit” and BDA process of
                     consultation; the conversations are where reality surfaces and change occurs.
                 2) Organize your work and plan your schedule of coaching support; remember, the
                      coaching process is deliberate, targeted, non-evaluative, and descriptive.
                 3) Provide feedback: “nice” is sweet, like candy, but it doesn’t change practice; make
                      sure your feedback is specific, descriptive, intentional, reflective and data driven;
                 4) Focus on a systems approach to school improvement; how can coaching help
                     schools accomplish the goals for school wide improvement;
                 5) Be productive: engage your teaching colleagues in ongoing conversations about
                     teaching and learning and move them to the next level of attainment.

What are your goals for the new year? How will you build on last year’s accomplishments?