Pennsylvania Institute for Instructional Coaching — A Partnership Between the Annenberg Foundation and the Pennsylvania Department of Education
Coaching Tip of the Month
March 2018 PDF Print E-mail

“In 1970, the top three skills required by Fortune 500 companies were the three Rs: reading, writing, and arithmetic. In 1999, the top three skills in demand were teamwork, problem-solving, and interpersonal skills. We need schools that are developing these skills” (Linda Darling-Hammond).

I would add soft skills to the above list including demonstrating strong communication skills, being a good listener, understanding the difference between cooperation and collaboration, motivating and encouraging the sharing of ideas, showing humility and respect, and understanding how reflection and self-assessment are critical for successful implementation in any workplace environment. 

While these soft skills may seem like “add-ons” to a coach’s job description, they are actually more important than the hard skills like content proficiency. After all, one can browse the internet and locate a plethora of open source materials for classroom use and build that needed content knowledge. Can one browse that same internet for the abovementioned soft skills needed to establish a working relationship that is non-evaluative and risk free?

Interesting that Linda Darling-Hammond suggested that schools build those soft skills back in 1970. We still need to build those skills for students and for their teachers as well. But, we can’t expect students to know and be able to master those skills if their teachers are not given ample opportunities to grow those skills too.

February 2018 PDF Print E-mail

“Accountability breeds response-ability” so says Stephen Covey.

Accountability, responsibility, and response-ability are three factors that impact instructional coaching and influence organizational effectiveness.  While it’s difficult to “assign” accountability to instructional coaches, they view their relationships with colleagues very personally and take ownership of their work with their teaching colleagues. Coaches are completely immersed in working with their colleagues and engaging them regularly in accountable talk, much like we ask teachers to ensure that their students are engaged in accountable talk. So, what does that mean?

January 2018 PDF Print E-mail

As the New Year begins, all of us think about the many ways in which we can make changes and amend our practices both personally and professionally. The same 10 pounds are still here even though I’ve promised myself that with each new year, I’d shed those pounds instead of keeping them around like an old, broken-in, comfortable pair of jeans. Although I have lost some and gained some over the course of several years, one thing remains constant – my attempts to keep those unwanted pounds forever at bay are hindered because my “implementation” of a healthy life style is sporadic, choppy, ineffective, and relatively unsupported. As I get older, I clearly understand why weight loss “buddies” are more successful than me just talking to myself. After all, no matter how many times I get on the scale, the weight does not come off any faster or with any less stress, especially if I do not have a champion who understands the process and has some experience with the challenges that thwart sustainability.

December 2017 PDF Print E-mail
Coaching is a messy and humbling experience. We think at the onset that everyone wants to be coached and everyone welcomes advice. Not so! Although teachers want to get better at their craft, figuring out ways to do that can be challenging.

Most coaches initially experience the “Wow” factor… that is, they think their teaching colleagues teach like they do and when they find out their colleagues teach differently, WOW, what an eye opener that is! As a result, the coach needs to focus on keeping the goal front and center; that is, being mindful that the ultimate goal is to help teachers identify practices that need to be strengthened; engaging the teachers in ongoing conversations about those practices is what leads to change.

Coaching is all about change but how does change happen? It’s not automatic and not a quick procedure or quick makeover like getting a haircut. Think about it… if you want to change your hairstyle, how many pictures and magazines do you review before settling on a few desired ones? And then, depending on your stylist, is there a discussion about your desires vs. the reality of having that cut/style? It may be difficult to hear but I bet your stylist gives his/her “expert” opinion on whether the style fits your hair, facial features, and lifestyle. And, you sit there taking it all in because you are getting some feedback about a hairstyle/cut you want.

November 2017 PDF Print E-mail

As a coach, adjusting to not having your own classroom or your own students was probably challenging at first but now that school has been in session since late August, you are finding your way and strengthening the process of coaching. I am sure, however, you initially engaged in conversations with your colleagues and offered to demonstrate or co-teach some lessons to those teachers willing to share their students with you so that you could demonstrate your street “cred.” (This is especially true if you are new to the school; coaching in a school where you previously taught, however, comes with a different kind of street “cred” issue.)

Although alien at first, I’ll bet it was very rewarding to work with students again and feel that great “high” that a teacher feels when the lesson worked well. In fact, I bet it worked so well that you offered to teach regularly in some teacher’s classroom, basking in the knowledge that “you still had it” when connecting with students. If the teacher needed to leave for a moment (or longer), you were in the classroom and had no qualms about continuing the lesson while the teacher needed to go to the office to deliver some paperwork, duplicate some materials, call students’ homes, or investigate some resources in the library. You were there already so why not become an extra pair of hands for the teacher who is working diligently to focus on TDAs, common core, differentiating instruction, test prep, and a host of other equally demanding district requirements?