I was recently asked about the impact an instructional coach can have on an organization by a well-respected colleague. My first physical response, a genuine smile. My first internal thought, now THIS is a thoughtful question and a meaningful conversation I can’t wait to be a part of. Then, the words from my grateful heart said, “I appreciate you being interested in the work of an instructional coach, really THANK YOU!” I believe in the work of instructional coaches and will highlight and celebrate their work every chance I get. As I stated in my previous blog post titled Instructional Coaching Mindsets Move Practice, “When you are deeply passionate about education, the students, colleagues, and community you serve, coaching is the most meaningful opportunity to make an impact on instructional practices at the district, building, teacher, and student levels. Coaching is an opportunity to show schools they are capable of changing practices while honoring the ones that work for our students. Coaching creates spaces to reflect on the past, confront the present, and make plans to shape the future.”
I served in the role of instructional coach for five years and without the experience, I am not sure if I’d be the leader I am evolving into today. Let me be clear, I am well-aware that it is not a role that is easily understood in an educational organization and perhaps not embraced by all. There are times when the work of a coach may not always be visible or noticed, especially when coaches are in the midst of researching, gathering resources, preparing professional learning experiences, and refining curriculum. Instructional coaching is a role that rests on the shoulders of mutual understanding, partnership, collaboration, connection, reciprocity, and trust. I will always celebrate the work of instructional coaches because it’s a role that is capable of shifting approaches to teaching and learning while keeping your most precious stakeholders at the heart of decision-making, students.
While the epicenter of the role is cultivating strong relationships with teachers, this takes time and patience. Instructional coaches, I am celebrating you because I know you do not give up on this process because you know the colleagues and students you serve are worth it. You also understand that your role will not be palatable for all. I’ll admit, when I was a coach, perhaps I wasn’t for everyone. I wasn’t okay with it then, but l’m at peace with it now. I am not perfect…I’m always a work in progress. Could I have been better at times? Sure. Could I have tried harder at times? Sure. Could I have been more empathetic at times? Sure. Could I have smiled more consistently? Sure. Could I have misunderstood the needs of others? Sure. Overtime, I have reflected on every interaction I’ve experienced. I attribute the solid collection of interactions I’ve endured to shaping the leader I am and are continuously striving to be. Living this role paved the way to practices I passionately employ as an instructional leader today. The coaching mindset I embrace is an invitation to grow, support, and distribute leadership across an organization while keeping the focus on teaching and learning.
Coaches, as you embark on a new school year, I am celebrating YOU and the work you continue to embark on to create spaces to reflect on the past, confront the present, and make plans to shape the future of education.
I am celebrating you because I know that growing into your role will require an armor of vulnerability, fortitude, confidence, and intuition. Your intellectual courage and emotional intelligence will encourage teachers to use their voices to reflect on the educators they were, are, and are striving to be!
I am celebrating you because you are nurturing relationships with teachers that will cultivate an inspirational culture of learning for your educational communities.
I am celebrating you because you are navigating relationships between administration and teachers to build bridges to meaningful teaching and learning opportunities.
I am celebrating you because you put yourselves into vulnerable places when you are co-creating lessons and modeling best instructional practices with your colleagues present.
I am celebrating you because you are elevating and recognizing teachers’ gifts, honoring their practices, recognizing their work, and cross-pollinating ideas with other teachers and educational communities.
I am celebrating you because you are working tirelessly to refine curriculum, instruction, and assessments with teachers to personalize instruction and meet the needs of all learners.
I am celebrating you because you are endlessly supporting teachers, serving as mentors, and participating in purposeful conversations as a thinking partner and guide.
I am celebrating you because you are creating relevant resources and swiftly getting them into the hands of educators who need them.
I am celebrating you because you are intentionally creating inspiring and motivating professional learning experiences that fit into the mission, vision, and priorities of your school districts.
Coaches, I am celebrating YOU! Your school districts made an important commitment to investing in continuous job-embedded professional learning and creating spaces for your work to blossom and grow.
Keep throwing yourself into the work you believe in with your whole heart. Keep living it and loving it because education needs you. You became an instructional coach because you have made positive contributions to the field of education. Someone believed that your impact is capable of influencing and inspiring others while you work toward building capacity from within. I’m an instructional coach at heart and will continue to celebrate your work yesterday, today, tomorrow, and always.