Three years ago I interviewed for a new instructional coaching position in my district, without knowing exactly what the job was going to entail. Our district previously did not have coaching positions so there wasn’t a job description created yet. But, from what I had read about on various sites from google, it sounded like I would just be “supporting teachers in their craft”. Sounded easy enough….

Well, I got the job and after about a week in my new role, I quickly realized that there was a lot more involved in being an instructional coach than what I thought there would be! Over the past three years, this job has really helped me grow as an educator and has challenged me every day. I love that I get to work so closely with the incredible teachers in my school every day. Each day is always different than the previous one and I have learned to become better about “living in the gray”. 

This job is constantly evolving and I am continually learning new things each day, but if you’re thinking about becoming an instructional coach, or maybe you will be starting in a new coaching position next year, here are ten tips that I can offer based on my own experience. 

Learn to become a great listener.

Your colleagues are going to want to talk to you about everything. Learn to listen in different ways. Learn when to listen to be able to provide solutions and learn to just listen. 

Find the joy in your role as a coach.

Some days you’re going to wonder if you made the right choice to follow this path. Keep your head up and look for the things that make you smile. Trust me, they’re there. 

Find your own way of doing things.

Maybe you’ll be working with multiple coaches throughout your district. Find your own coaching style that works for you and your colleagues. Don’t try to mimic what others do; it will feel unnatural for everyone. 

Define your role with your administrator.

Right from the beginning, it’s important to have a clear understanding of your principal’s expectations of you. Ask what her/his goals for the school are and think about how you can support them as a coach. 

Maintain confidentiality.

Everyone feels vulnerable when asking for support. Respect the teachers by keeping the information they share with you private. Create a safe, trusting environment where teachers feel comfortable to engage in dialogue with you about their own teaching practices. 

Build authentic relationships.

In the first few months of your new role, building trust and relationships will be crucial. Oftentimes, having a strong relationship with teachers will lead to coaching cycles. Ask about their own children, weekend plans, etc. Trust me, take the time to get to know your teachers.

Come up with an organization system.

Are you a paper planner or digital planner? You’re going to have multiple meetings a day, cycles with teachers, PLCs, etc. Find out a way to keep yourself organized so you know where you need to be and when!

Find a support system.

Coaching can feel isolating sometimes. You’re not part of a grade-level team anymore, but you’re also not part of the administration. If you’re lucky enough to work in a district with other coaches, lean on each other. If you’re the only coach, reach out to surrounding districts and talk to the coaches there. You need to be able to find people that can support you. 

Join Twitter and build your PLN.

I have to admit that Twitter seemed pointless when I joined a few years ago. Now, it’s helped me grow as a coach in so many ways. I have such a strong PLN (personal learning network) that I rely on daily. We share ideas and opportunities with each other. It’s professional development whenever you need it!

Don’t try to be an expert.

Trust yourself and don’t try to have all the answers all the time. You’re going to burn yourself out. Listen to what the teacher is saying and work together to come up with a plan. If you don’t know something, admit it and say you’ll look into it and get back to them.


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Liz Janusz

Liz Janusz

ELA Instructional Coach

Note: Fresh Ideas for Teaching blog contributors have been compensated for sharing personal teaching experiences on our blog. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer or company.