Sunday, November 20, 2016

You're an Instructional Coach..Now What?! 10 Tips to help navigate the field!

So I have done 4 months so far on the other side. Is there a learning curve? For sure! Is everyday a learning day? You bet! This job is unlike anything I have done in 9 years. I have never multi-tasked like a boss as I have in these short 4 months. When you are in the classroom bubble as a teacher, you don't always get to see the full spectrum of learning K-5. Especially if you have spent all your teaching time in primary, it is quite an eye opener for working deeply in intermediate. But I have also seen the benefit of a primary teacher having some acknowledgement of what intermediate does and vice versa-to help understand how it all aligns.
I can tell you, there is no training that can fully prepare you for the IC world. It really is kind of a crash course day to day haha. I have a feeling this top ten list may grow throughout the year and years but for now maybe it can help anyone brand new to the IC world get a jump start!

You're on an island:

Okay so this is more of a realization but leads straight into find your tribe! You have to find your accountability partners. So you're not a "teacher" anymore and you're not "admin", but still part of the leadership team. It really is a gray area. In our district we have Cohorts-groups of about 8 IC's. We have the entire district group of IC's to reach out to but this really helps kind of narrow it down to a smaller group to reach out to when needed. When I first met them I was really riding the Strugglebus and I was upfront about that with them haha. Now that is our cohorts name ;) 

Having a few or a group of other IC's that know and understand what you do and go through is such a wonderful thing. You can trust if you need to vent it's a safe place. If you want to share victories they  are there to celebrate. If you have a million and one questions (like me) they are there to reach out to and help- without judgement! 

Keep seeking, investigating, and digging:

As a teacher you are always learning. Education is an ever moving target. Just when you think you are aiming at the bulls eye....
Being an IC is learning new things on steroids. K-5 is a very large span to try to be proficient. Even with all my experience in primary I am always learning, but with very little experience in intermediate this learning curve is quite large. You have to be disciplined and driven to seek information and want to learn, not only for yourself, but for the benefit of your teachers and their kids. 
Here are some great books to dive into:


Clarify expectations-what is your focus:

This is so important!! If you don't, you may end up spending time in an area that is not worth it or not spending time in area that really needs it. This would be a great conversation to have with your principal. Have an open discussion about what their expectations are for your job that year, semester, nine weeks, etc. The goals might change throughout the year and that is okay, but to make the expectations very clear is what is important. What is your principals/schools mission and vision and goals? Are you aligned with those? Or are there some discrepancies?  Does your principal want you to focus on coaching, co-teaching, data, PLC (professional learning communities)/PWC (professional working communities)/PDR's (professional development rotations), or other unlisted areas? Once you know the expectations, you can dive in and really make an impact for success.

Prioritize your many hats: 

In one day I could be anywhere and everywhere.
Working in literacy library coding books, in plannings, making assessments, meeting with kids, earning playtime with kids who made good choices, off campus at meetings, observing and giving feedback to teachers etc,etc, etc.
You will probably never have real balance, so I am not going to say to maintain a balance. What you do need to do is be wise with your time and resources. Obviously I am a planner so I make tons of lists to help myself stay on track. I also have learned (will always be learning) how to say no or not yet. 

Build relationships:

This encompasses a domino affect. 
Building relationships-builds trust-makes for effective communication-plants the seed for effective collaboration-in turn makes targeted planning-turns into effective teaching-increases student engagement- helps raise student achievement.
Pretty self explanatory! Trust is so important to build with other teachers. They need to know that you are for them and with them. Knowing you are not there as a "gotcha" or to pass judgement, but to help foster and grow their passion. 

Something I'd always joke with my team when I was team leader was "Hey if this ship is going down, we are all going down together." Not that I meant it in a negative way at all but more of a, "we are going to work together to be navigating this ship and if we encounter a problem we aren't sacrificing just one, but all in it together no matter what." Now hopefully we have some awesome life boats and life vests. ;) 
I want to know that my colleagues have my back and I have theirs. That we can count on each other to lift each other up and push each other (not each others buttons or off a ledge haha) but our ability to think outside the box and try new things with the risk of failure, but safety to know if you do fail it is going to be alright!

Teach them to fish-coach to problem solve not solve problems:
I want to hug this tip! Steve Barkley gave so much insight when he said this! Don't create learned helplessness!! In kids or adults, people! Don't become an enabler. Now, I LOVE to help, anyway I can, all the time. But I have to find the balance between coaching, leading, helping, and doing it FOR them. 

Importance of using questioning with teachers:

We learned the importance of this very recently when Steve Barkley came to visit our group and spent two days discussing this and he provided a document to help get the brain trained to do this. Because for real, tailoring your questioning is an art form! 

Ask Questions:

And not to disappoint Mr. T...
This one is for yourself. You don't know what you don't know. So don't be shy asking and clarifying. There are SO many new aspects that present themselves when taking on the IC job. Especially if you are coming from a primary background and now swimming through the intermediate world or vice versa. I am currently working on a growing document for this year as a new IC -a tips and tricks and helpful trainings for new IC's coming from primary, intermediate or even just new IC in general. I am hoping to submit that at the end of the year so they can share it out to hopefully incorporate that each year when hiring. 
I am not normally shy about asking questions because I'd rather know than be oblivious or act like I know it all. I also like to know the "why" behind things as well. Not just personally, but also to be able to reinforce and describe that to teachers. 

Gain a common knowledge:

Having only been teaching for 9 years and moving campuses I have still noticed how different teaching can be from classroom to classroom, campus to campus, even district to district. This also goes well with asking questions. Asking- What does it look like? What does it sound like? How do you deliver it? 

Listen and observe more than talk:

If you are married then you might understand the scenario of venting having a productive conversation talking to your hubby and just wanted him to just listen vs. giving a solution or fixing the problem right away. Not that it is meant to be harmful or from a negative place, but sometimes I just want him to listen so I can get it out into the open. This can ring true for teachers as well. Sometimes you just need to listen, observe, and process for them. 

Well that's my top ten! Thank you to Kelly (my IC BFF) for giving her input on this list also! 

Have a BLESSED week!
Thanksgiving is coming! Get those fat pants ready!

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