My first year as an instructional coach was what I like to call building a platform. Before I could start building the community, I had to build relationships and trust with the teachers as well as create a common language in the school about learning targets, deconstructing standards, depth of knowledge, student-centered learning, formative instructional practices, and more. Year one was a challenging one, and I’d be lying if I said there weren’t moments I doubted myself. However, I put on my smile and did everything I could to support the teachers and to show them that I was there to be an advocate and a resource to them.Mondays were our Professional Development meetings, where I led classes using Georgia’s Formative Instructional Practices (FIP) modules. The teachers were not in love with these modules or with the idea of coming to PD every Monday, but they are very beneficial and have now allowed the FIP language of our school to be a more casual conversation. To hear teachers talking about deconstructing standards into learning targets is nothing out of the ordinary. These “buzz words” have become common language, and our school is building on these concepts. We also completed something called Instructional Rounds, and these were a huge success. I am a firm believer that the best way we can learn to be better is to observe the great things others are doing around us. This opened the door for that opportunity as well as gave teachers the opportunity to be seen with the great things happening in their classrooms.
Because of the groundwork from our Formative Instructional Practices professional development last year and the trust I was able to gain, this year’s Professional Learning Cohorts have been a huge success. The common language allows teachers to dig so much deeper into their own content and to incorporate these strategies because they’ve already completed the platform by creating their learning targets and breaking down the depth of knowledge. I am leading four different Professional Learning Cohorts this year: Differentiated Instruction, Formative Instructional Practices Digging Deeper, Classroom Management, and Literacy in the Content Classrooms (a Focus beyond ELA). We are also completing Data Digs in each grade and content to better form our instructional practices to really meet the needs of all students.
As a coach, especially if you’re just going into your position, do not expect to move mountains in the beginning. You have to work with the administration to establish a direction in which the school is moving, make a plan for building your platform and establishing your common language, and then move forward with Professional Learning Communities to meet the needs of your teachers. Use this platform-building phase to really establish some relationships and build trust with your teachers. Your role will be making a bigger difference than you will feel. Know that your impact will be behind the scenes at first, but, have no doubts, it is there!