By Ellen Eisenberg

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

Monday, April 16, 2018


Going to an international conference is awesome. We just returned from presenting at the ASCD Empower 18 Conference in Boston and met so many like-minded practitioners… it was incredible to see how many coaches and administrators were at the conference. Instructional Coaching is truly becoming a household word! And, we almost sold out of our book!!

What really struck me was the variety of definitions for instructional coaching. I always say if you put 10 people in a room and ask them to define the instructional coaching role, there would be 10 different definitions… my thinking was confirmed!

The variations ran the gamut… coaches pulling out students for tutoring, discipline, and missed assignments to coaches described as helping hands so they duplicate materials, go on trips, sit in on IEPs as the teacher on record, and “judge” various school contests, all part of their “coaching” roles. Some coaches do not get a chance to meet one-on-one with their teaching colleagues because coaching is voluntary, and some teachers still think the coach’s visit is an observation. (That’s why we differentiate between coach visits and administrative observations.)

What’s clear to me about the cloudy description of the coaching role is that we need to ensure that everyone in the school community understands what instructional coaching is, how it can benefit the students, teachers, and school. We need to focus on how coaching can help the school community achieve individual and collective goals. We need to build awareness and then remind our “investors” that instructional coaching is a job-embedded teacher professional development model that is a confidential, safe, non-evaluative way to help student learning and teacher practice grow. It’s not a deficit model but rather a model that honors both the students and teachers by providing ample opportunities for learning to take place at all levels, every day, all day. 

We need to remind ourselves that each and every day, coaches help teachers change and improve their practice and increase student engagement and outcomes. If we do that every day, we are on the right path.

How do you ensure that your school community understands how instructional coaching helps achieve school wide improvement and recognizes your coaching role in that process ?

Wednesday, April 4, 2018


How do you handle an angry or negative response to a question you asked? This question surfaced at a recent webinar.

That never happens, right? WRONG! This situation can absolutely happen, especially if the coaching relationship has not been established and the coach is not viewed as a trusted colleague. How the coach handles the situation makes all the difference in establishing a healthy coaching relationship.

If the coach is not familiar with the teacher’s beliefs and practices, then most likely, there has not been a conversation about how those beliefs influence practice. Without that conversation, how does the coach know which approach to the coaching interaction will “feel” appropriate? If there has not been a conversation about how students learn and grow, then the questions the coach asks could be perceived as intimidating and threatening. To avoid this situation, coaches must establish relationships with their teaching colleagues and help them understand the role and function of an instructional coach before they engage in conversations about practice. That's the "before the before" conversation!

How about this…If the coaching conversation is mandated by the principal, the teacher’s response might not be warm and fuzzy. After all, how many teachers are comfortable being forced to have a conversation about their teaching skills when they don’t know if the coach is evaluating them and reporting to the principal? The coach must build trust before asking questions. On the other hand, if the coach’s role has been shared and made explicit to the staff with the coach making his/her expectations visible and then the principal suggests that the teacher contact the instructional coach for support, that would most likely result in a positive response.

Remember, coaching is not a “fixit” model. Coaches are not there to “fix” what’s wrong with anyone’s instructional delivery. The coach is there as a trusted colleague, an experienced practitioner who helps teachers recognize their full potential and take ownership of their own learning. The coach helps guide; the teacher does the rest. 

How have you handled a response that was angry or negative? How did you turn that around into something positive?