1. Trust-Coaches must be given time to build trust and become part of the school community. Yes, I said they must be “given” time. That means that if you are an administrator you can’t pressure your coach to get in classrooms and start changing this immediately. This is a process and without trust, everything will fall apart. Trust also means that teachers must trust that when they admit weakness, the coach will not go running to the administrator to report about them.
2. Credibility/Being a Team Player-Coaches need to show that they aren’t all talk. They need to dig in and get their hands dirty. A great way to do this is helping with beginning of the year tasks like being in the hallways to help lost students find rooms and helping with beginning of the year assessments. As the school year progresses this can look like covering duties or volunteering to cover a classroom for a little while if a teacher is sick or has to go to a meeting. This can also be helping a teacher pick apart new curriculum or modeling a new strategy or technique for a teacher.
3. Be on the Cutting Edge-The coach needs to be on the cutting edge of teaching and learning. They need to stay up on the latest professional books that have been released, the latest blog posts and articles, the latest and greatest children’s books, and the newest most innovative strategies. Coaches don’t have to be experts in all of these things, but they need to be aware of what’s going on!
4. Balance-Coaches need to be able to find just the right balance when shifting teachers out of their comfort zones. The coach can’t push so much that teachers feel pressured or forced; but instead they must find that place in which the teachers want to grow and learn and be able to help them get there.
5. Listen-A coach’s job isn't to tell everyone what is right and what they should do. Most importantly a coach’s job is to listen. Coaches need to listen to teachers’ frustrations and fears, failures and success and use this information as fuel for future coaching. Coaches should not feel like they always have to jump in and fix every problem but they must have the keen ability to know what is going on in the building and then be able to use this knowledge to support teachers.
6. A belief in data-Coaches have to be able to use data and help teachers use data to drive instruction. Sometimes the coach needs to point out the uncomfortable truths about the data and help guide teachers to make instructional changes based on these truths.
7. Deep knowledge of content-A coach must have a deep knowledge of content. This means they don’t just have a few good lessons in their bag of tricks but instead they understand their content so deeply that they can see things that others can’t see quite yet. They notice students’ misconceptions and understand these misconceptions in ways that others do not.
8. They don’t know it all-While the coach must have a deep content knowledge they must also know that they don’t know it all. They need to make sure teachers realize that as well. The coach must model the constant quest to learn and understand more about her content. The coach should frequently say, “I’m not sure but let’s find out” or “I’m not sure but let’s try”. The coach must also continue to pursue her own professional development in addition to providing professional development for others.
9. Flexibility-A coach must be flexible! Just like a teacher shouldn’t be planning several weeks of lessons in advance, a coach shouldn’t be planning coaching and PD too far in advance. A coach needs to be responsive to the needs of the teachers and students in the building. A coach needs to work with an administrator who understands how important this is and who is comfortable not knowing exactly what the coach will be doing each moment of every day.
Above all else, coaches need to inspire others to want to learn and grow. This comes from the coach’s ability to do all of the above. A coach is the person who is seen as a leader who others want to learn from and work with. A coach models best practice, life-long learning and the pursuit of excellence.
What coaching essentials have I missed? I’d love to hear your thoughts.