By Ellen Eisenberg

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

Thursday, November 16, 2017

I just can’t stop thinking about how cuts to education make sense to anyone. Take it from me, I understand what fiscal responsibility means and I know what successful educational programs look like in highly effective places. What I don’t understand is why anyone thinks slashing effective instructional programs is the way to maintain and sustain a literate society or ready our student population for careers and college.

So, what can we do about it? I’m not trying to make a political statement and tell you to be more active in local elections; I am trying to resolve in my own mind what I can do “at the moment” to at least make instructional decisions that influence student learning.

Instructional coaching and mentoring are not luxuries. They are exactly what schools need to move from “good to great.” But, the coaches and mentors have a tremendous responsibility to ensure that the entire school community understands what instructional coaching is, how coaching can help schools achieve their goals, and why instructional mentoring is a critical support to the coaches. They need to send a clear message that instructional coaching is critical in shaping an effective professional development plan. The follow up provided to teachers by the coaches and mentors ensures that professional learning takes place.

“To improve student outcomes, we need to transform the way we think about teaching, learning, and how to help teachers grow as professionals” (Instructional Coaching in Action: An Integrated Approach That Transforms Thinking, Practice, and Schools).

That’s what we can do… show every member of the community of learning that instructional coaching and mentoring are the support system that helps build teacher capacity, increase student engagement, and influences student learning.


How will you make sure your instructional coaching and mentoring voices are heard? 

Monday, November 6, 2017

“Strive for progress, not perfection” (anonymous). Wow, what a great quote for instructional coaches to think about and remember when working with their teaching colleagues.
So often we fall into the trap of thinking we need to know all the answers and all the tricks of the trade so we can share our knowledge with the teachers we are coaching. Alas… the plight of the instructional coach… news flash… coaches are not experts and don’t need to know everything! If we want any message to be heard, it’s that we are all learners and understand the importance of learning together.

Although students are at in the center, instructional coaching is a growth model for teachers. Of course, our ultimate goal is for students to develop into life-long learners and to love learning. That can’t happen unless we touch the thing that is the most important element for improved student learning… implementing effective instructional practices and that can’t happen unless we focus on helping teachers get better at their craft. It is our collective responsibility to help teachers “grow” their love of learning without fear of failing so that they can transfer those feelings to their students.

Instructional coaches do not know all the answers; they help teachers implement promising practices, not best practices. (Best implies that practice cannot get any better.) However, instructional coaches are quite adept at asking the right questions; that is, asking the kinds of questions that consistently encourage deep thinking, critical analysis, hypothesis, application of learning, and synthesis. Coaches don’t see a beginning and end to learning; coaches see ongoing opportunities to collaborate and move practice forward. (They move teachers’ practices forward and at the same time, move their own practice forward.) That’s what progress is… moving from point A to point B and along the way, taking time to plan, think, and prepare with colleagues. Learning is a process and oftentimes, the path to learning is what makes the difference, not the finished product.


What are some of the ways you navigate the delicate balance of progress vs. perfection in your environment?