Celebrating Instructional Coaches Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow, Always

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.

Mentorship Matters: The 6 Cs to Successful Mentor/Mentee Relationships-Series 2

This blog series is being written from my perspective as I am a Mentor Coordinator K-12 in a school district in Long Island, N.Y. I will share my experiences as my mission and vision are to continuously develop a Mentor Program that will build a strong foundation to support educators during their first years of teaching and for the rest of their educational journeys. Refer to the Mentor Program tabs,#LBLeads 2019-2020 and#LBLeads 2020-21 in my digital portfolio as a window into my experiences. My previous blog Mentorship Matters: 8 Tips for Developing a Strong Mentor Program-Series 1 will provide insight into how to develop a strong Mentor Program.

Limitless Possibilities

Educators have limitless possibilities for shaping and developing the mindsets, actions, and choices for many future generations over the course of their career timelines. They have unique opportunities to create experiences that empower learners to choose a lens that paves the way to purposeful pathways of happiness and success. Since education is in a constant state of transformation, it is critical that educators are provided with the essential tools and supports to navigate the changes, challenges, and systems they live in. These supports will help them develop agency, self-efficacy, instill the confidence to share their own strengths, and unleash the talents of every human being they will ever encounter on their journey. Educators also understand that  time is valuable and at times, difficult to balance. Every minute, every interaction, every moment in their days are precious. However, out of all the ways they can spend their time, mentoring has one of the highest returns on investment because they are shaping the next generation of leaders. 

Who is On the Bus

There is no magic wand for mentoring. The success of strong mentor/mentee relationships rests on the shoulders of WHO. WHO puts in the effort, WHO has sensibility, WHO has the dedication, WHO commits to the process. All of these things matter, but there is a little bit of strategy that goes along with this too. I mention strategy because it is vital to consider WHO will be the right people to guide and create strong foundations for new teachers that lead to long, meaningful, impactful careers. In Brené Brown’s Dare to Lead podcast, titled Brené with Jim Collins on Curiosity, Generosity, and the Hedgehog, Jim Collins discusses the importance of inviting people into your life who will open the doors to greatness. “Pick great people in your life. Those people are your mirror and will tell you if you’re doing ok.” The idea of viewing the people in your life as a mirror of yourself only magnifies the significance of WHO is selected to be placed in a position to mentor, inspire, and influence teachers during the induction process. In his book Good to Great, Collins reinforces this idea by discussing how getting people committed and aligned with a vision and direction will lead to avenues of great realizations, progress, and prosperity. Getting the “right people” on the bus because of “who” is on it rather than being concerned about “where” it is going, makes it easier to change your course. “For no matter what we achieve, if we don’t spend the vast majority of our time with people we love and respect, we cannot possibly have a great life. But if we spend the vast majority of our time with people we love and respect-people we really enjoy being on the bus with and who will never disappoint us-then we will almost certainly have a great life, no matter where the bus goes” (p. 62).

A Mentor/Mentee is Someone WHO:

What is a Mentor? According to the Miriam-Webster dictionary a Mentor is defined as “a trusted counselor or guide.”

What is a Mentee? According to the Miriam-Webster dictionary a Mentee is defined as “someone who is being mentored.”


HERE is the link to the infographic “A Mentor/Mentee is someone WHO”

The 6 Cs to Successful Mentor/Mentee Relationships

The mentor/mentee relationship is symbiotic in nature. The qualities and attributes in both mentees and mentors are synonymous. When mentorship is approached from a holistic lens, it has the power to build social capital and unlock human potential. Great educators have the ability to leave everlasting legacies in the hearts and minds of everyone they serve. This makes the induction years a critical component of the learning journey. That being said, I created a blueprint to sustaining successful mentor/mentee relationships by embracing the 6cs: Connect. Communicate. Collaborate. Circulate. Cultivate. Celebrate.

HERE is the link to the infographic “The 6 Cs to Successful Mentor/Mentee Relationships”

Connect: Get to know each other on a personal level. Share your stories. This will transform the path of a mentoring relationship because you are showing the other person that you truly care about them as humans first. This is a window into a person’s journey which enables you to make more intentional and targeted inquiries over the course of time. In the podcast mentioned above, Jim Collins says “Real conversations happen at the feeling level…The quality of the day is not what you think about it, it’s what you feel about it.”

Communicate: Although informal interactions will naturally be embedded into the mentoring experience, schedule protected time to communicate on personal and professional levels on a regular basis. This protected time values the process and provides a space to ask questions, share knowledge, and learn from various experiences. Come up with mutually agreeable ways to communicate as there are many avenues to reach out to one another. Talking through and reflecting on experiences are important parts of the growth process.

Collaborate: Work together to strengthen and share best teaching and learning practices, how to navigate relationships, and the day-to-day operations. Collaboration can transpire synchronously by interacting in real time with face-to-face, in online meetings, texting, and/or instant messaging through various learning management systems. It can also take place asynchronously by working independently and then uploading documents or annotations to shared workspaces (e.g. Google Docs). The benefits of Mentor/Mentee collaboration are exploring new and better ideas, teamwork, discovering new solutions, and embedding new perspectives into practices.

Circulate: Mentors can be well-connected as they have been in the education field for some time. They should invite their mentees into various professional learning communities (PLCs) and encourage them to think and look beyond their school organizations for ideas by expanding their professional learning network (PLN). As a mentor, you can also broaden your own network by connecting with other mentors and great educators, while also leveraging the opportunity to network with their mentee’s connections.

Cultivate: Mentees come with their own expertise and gifts to share. Help them unwrap those gifts, passions, and interests. Capitalize on, cultivate, and learn from their strengths. Ask questions and allow them to reflect on their areas for growth and development. Use this as an opportunity to let them come up with actionable steps for improvement while providing direction and insights. These interactions are cyclical in nature and should be continuously revisited.

Celebrate: Mentors serve as the greatest and most impactful support system. They should encourage and cheer on their mentee for taking risks and believing in themselves. Celebrate successes big and small and use failure and change as opportunities for growth. Human beings thrive on recognition. When they feel validated and valued, they continue to approach their work with passion and purpose!