6 Lessons I’ve Learned as an Instructional Coach

The close of this year will mark my fifth year anniversary as an Instructional Coach. Crazy.

My journey into the world of coaching wasn’t necessarily a planned one. So when I first got started, I really had no idea what I was doing. Just keeping it real.

But then guess what?

I embraced the discomfort, learned along the way, and…I started to get better! And then a little better. To the point where these days you might even think I know a bit about what I’m doing!

That’s not to say that I still don’t have a ton to learn. Because I do. For sure.

But in reflection, I thought I’d take some time today to share with you 6 of the most important lessons I’ve learned as a coach in these past five years of practice.

I was thinking I might try to keep the list to five so the post had a better ring to it (you know: 5 Lessons in 5 Years). But I really think all 6 are important :)

Here it goes:

1. Listen. And Then Listen Some More

This was probably one of my biggest first lessons. I had always considered myself a pretty good listener. Then I started coaching.

When you’re in the thick of a coaching conversation and doing your best to guide the flow of your chat and develop understandings along the way, you’ll discover one thing quickly:

You’ve got to learn to listen like whoa.

This is the only way you’re going to get better at this next piece…

2. Get Good at Asking Good Questions

Who knew asking good questions could be so hard? Geeze.

Then I started coaching.

Through coaching, I started to learn and understand more about the difference between a question and a really good question.

The ones you think about and plan for, that give teachers space to reflect and analyze their own instruction, resulting in improved understandings that will positively impact the quality of their next lesson.

Phew. This isn’t an easy task. And to make it trickier, you have to get good at asking these kinds of questions on the fly! Bah!

This is one I just have to keep working on getting good/better at.

3. Don’t Lose Your Street Cred

I’m a coach AND a teacher. Not either-or.

So I don’t want to lose my street cred.

Staying connected to the work that classroom teachers do everyday is super important for myself as an educator, as well as my work as a coach.

With more paperwork responsibilities on your plate as a coach, it’s easy to get caught at your desk and behind your computer for longer than you might like.

I make it a point to keep my teaching skills sharp and that street cred in place through modeling, co-teaching, or even jumping in to sub for a teacher!

Regular teaching keeps me engaged, passionate, and informed about the work I do.

4. Take Your Job Seriously. But Don’t Take Yourself too Seriously

I love the way that Stacie shared and expanded on the importance of this super smart advice.

Yes, I’m a coach and a leader, and I definitely have important work to accomplish during my days. But that doesn’t mean I have to be so dang serious and buttoned up about it.

So I smile often. I laugh out loud and act silly. I don’t try to use really big words and act like I know everything. Cuz I don’t.

I’m not afraid to say “I don’t know” and I definitely mess up.

Taking risks and working through the muck of moving towards classroom and school goals right alongside teachers is what I try to do.

5. Double Down on Knowledge

Make learning a priority. Read all of the books you can, take all the classes you can, and connect with as many other educators as you can.

Invest your time, and even money, into this knowledge. It will be one of your best investments ever.

Knowledge will get you to where you want to go as a Teacher Leader faster, you’ll be prepared for future opportunities, and most importantly all this smart-ness you’re accumulating will provide great value to the teachers and students you work with.

Double down.

Check out the Walk through a Coaching Cycle Workshop
I’ve got coming up!

6. Learn How to Be a Time Management Ninja

When you’re a teacher, your schedule is all neat and tidy. I loved this part of teaching.

I knew exactly when my planning times were everyday, when our weekly PD was scheduled, and of course I had my lesson plans for each subject all lined up and ready to go.

Then…I started coaching.

Goodbye neat and tidy. Helloooo unstructured, things always change, non-tidy schedule.

Man. I’m so routine oriented, so this was a hard one for me. I had to figure out some planning systems and structures, and quick.

It was a process of trial and error, and I continue to tweak and refine each year, but I now have a pretty good system in place that helps me bring some structure to my weeks.

It’s Here! The Time & ToDo Planner, Academic 2016-17 Calendar (updated and Awesome!)

I hope these few bits of advice will help you either reflect on your own journey with coaching, or if you’re just starting out, help you with getting started on the right foot.

Talk to you soon,

A Few Ways to Say Thank You to Teachers

Man oh man, do teachers ever work hard.

While I’m no longer in the classroom full time, I’ll never forget my classroom roots and the time, energy, and dedication that being an excellent educator demands.

There’s just no end to the amount of mad props these teacher-heroes deserve.

And as coaches, that’s what we’re dedicated to doing right? We work daily to support the work teachers do with quality feedback, a high five on a lesson well done, or just a basket of chocolate and a free flowing pot of coffee.

But did you know that Teacher Appreciation Week is right around the corner? (May 2nd-May 6th)

Well, I say we take this opportunity to show the teachers in our school and elsewhere some extra love.

Here are a few ideas to get your creative wheels spinning.

Teacher Appreciation Week Ideas

1. Share an Inspiring Video or Article

I. Love. This. Video. It makes me happy to be a teacher every time I watch it. Great job Google.

 

Oh, and don’t skip over this read. Such a well written article by Justin Minkel on the worthiness of teaching as a life long craft, worthy of lifetime’s practice. I wish every teacher I knew would read this, and refer back to it often.

2. Give a Special Note

Print this out on card stock and drop one in each teacher’s box recognizing them for something special. Maybe how proud you are of how far they’ve come this year, or just a thanks for welcoming you in their room.

Handwritten notes go a long way in making teachers feel special. I still keep a file of all the notes I’ve received through the years, looking back through them every now and then with a smile.

Teacher Appreciation Cards

Teacher Appreciation Note Card

DOWNLOAD HERE!

3. Treat em’!

Did someone say surprise/free staff treats?! I’m in!

Our principal will often surprise treat us with a catered lunch, personal little dessert treats, or just an “it’s on me” happy hour at the end of a long week. This along with a simple email of “Thanks for all the work you do” is much appreciated by staff.

4. Create a Staff Shout-Out Board

A thoughtful staff member at school created this, and I just love it! Each day when I walk into our staff lounge, I can’t wait to see what new “shout-outs” have been posted on the board.

It’s a fun way to build culture and community in your school, and you can initiate it!

Teacher Appreciation Week

So, what do you think?! What’s one thing you can initiate or share in your building to show teachers some extra love?

I’d love for you to let me know in the comments below!

Have a terrific week, and I’ll talk to you soon,

Stories From the Field : Interview with Stacie Giesecke

Today I’m excited to bring you another episode of Stories from the Field. Stacie and I had a fun chat about her journey as a first year instructional coach, after a number of years in the classroom.

Interview with Instructional Coach

Here are some specific takeaways from our conversation:

  • How Stacie uses humor and likes “keeping it real” to build relationships with teachers
  • What Stacie has learned about becoming a better listener, and how to do it!
  • The importance of becoming a “partner” with teachers
  • How Stacie creates a welcoming coaching space
  • The unique way Stacie documents her work as a coach (clue: selfies!)
  • Stacie’s top tips for new coaches

Resources mentioned:

And if you have any follow-up questions for Stacie or would like to connect with her further, here’s where you can find her:

Twitter@staciegiesecke
Pinteresthttps://www.pinterest.com/staciegiesecke/

Thanks for Listening!

Thanks so much for joining me again this week. Have some feedback you’d like to share, or a question for us? Leave a note in the comments section below!

If you enjoyed this episode, please share it using the social media buttons you see at the bottom of the post.

And a special thanks to Stacie for chatting with me this week.

If you’d like to be featured in an upcoming Stories from the Field Interview (all educators welcome!) please shoot me an email.

Talk to you soon!