I have often been asked in the last few months about my job and what exactly I do now that I’m not in the classroom. I still consider myself new at coaching, thus I’m continually learning every day. However, I’ve decided to write my own description/interpretation of what it means to be an “Instructional Facilitator” or an “Instructional Coach.”
Educators have been searching for alternatives to the “traditional” method of professional development (what some call “Sit and Git”), and the concept of the Instructional Coach/Facilitator (IF) was developed as a result. In a nutshell, IFs are on-site, embedded professional developers who work one-on-one with teachers to enhance classroom instruction (Kansas Coaching Project). Some IFs are assigned to specific content or grade levels. In my building, we do not have specific assignments and we work in any and all content areas. In some places, teachers are required to work with their IFs. However, no teacher in my building is required to work with us, although many do so voluntarily. I am fortunate enough to work with a great team in my building (6 IFs in all) where we each bring our own unique skills and knowledge to the table, along with a willinness to learn new things.
We assist our staff with a wide variety of topics, including (but not limited to):
- Unit/Lesson planning
- Technology integration
- Classroom management
- Student engagement
- Reading strategies
- Writing instruction
- Brain based teaching
- Higher level thinking/questioning techniques
- Researching & implementing new techniques
- Data coaching
- Specific content issues
These topics are really just the tip of the iceberg. While we primarily collaborate with teachers one-on-one, we also coordinate and conduct professional development presentations and classes on topics of interest that fit the needs of our school. You can see my “About Me” to see what I’ve been working on. Just remember that I am part of a team of 6 and we each have presented on various topics over the course of the year. We try very hard to make our classes/presentations interactive. We design each one to model best teaching practices. The majority of these opportunities are voluntary for teachers and occur during planning periods or after school.
Some people make the assumption that coaches are employed to “fix bad teachers.” In my situation, this is very far from the truth. We work with teachers of all levels, experience, and abilities. Our mentality is that we are assisting our teachers as they progress from “Good to Great.” I believe that it is very important that we are not teacher evaluators and we have a general policy of confidentiality. We do not discuss with anyone, not even our administrators, what we are working on with specific teachers unless that teacher has given us permission to do so. The artistic aspect of teaching can be a very personal endeavor, and this way teachers are more likely to invite us into the realm of their classroom.
Our district’s coaching model is based primarily on the work of Jim Knight, an educational researcher at the University of Kansas. We have also been incorporating the work of others such as Joellen Killion and Jean A. G. Kise.
In this new position I have been learning a great deal about what it means to be an effective teacher. Balancing the art and science of education can result in many different approaches, all of them with great possibility. I would love to hear from others on how coaching is set up in your school or about helpful resources you are willing to share. Please also feel free to ask questions about my team’s approach. Thank you.
More Information on Instructional Coaching