I just read a blog entry from The Golden Age of Education written by Lee Araoz entitled, “Instructional Coaches Make a Huge Impact.” In this blog post, he calls instructional coaches, “unsung heroes of the education profession.” That’s a great “shout out” to instructional coaches everywhere.
He mentions that coaches (or TOSAs) provide many things but specifically includes the following roles:
• Provide job-embedded professional development.
• Model and demonstrate highly-effective best practices.
• Offer non-evaluative, objective feedback on a regular basis.
• Create an environment where student needs drive professional development.
• Offer guidance and feedback at the exact time teachers need it most – in the classroom.
• Inspire teachers to try new learning strategies and tools.
• Facilitate the transition from teacher-centered to learner-driven classrooms.
• Are site-based teacher leaders who support both students and their teachers.
• Collaborate with teachers in order to engage students in innovative ways.
• Help to close the digital use divide by ensuring that all students understand how to use technology to create content.
I agree with most of what Lee suggests but a few things concern me: yes, instructional coaches offer guidance and feedback but not directly in the classroom. The outcomes of the guidance and feedback are visible in the classroom but the actual support occurs through the ongoing conversations about practice. That happens in the before and after conversations. The during time is a place where data collection occurs, something that is discussed and agreed upon in the before. The conversations encourage teachers to become very reflective practitioners!
The other thing that worries me is supporting both students and their teachers. From our perspective, coaches do not work directly with students; coaches work to support student learning through their teachers and effective instructional practices. Sure, occasionally, coaches work with student groups in classrooms where the lesson design needs those helping hands but practice doesn’t change when coaches work with students. Practice changes when coaches work with their teaching colleagues in non-evaluative ways and where feedback is a “give and take” process. And, it’s both the student needs and teacher needs that should drive professional learning support. Teachers need to know how to help teachers support student learning.
Do you have any experiences to share about teachers who believe that coaches should lend a helping hand in the classroom more regularly than engaging in conversations about practice?