By Ellen Eisenberg

By Ellen Eisenberg, Executive Director of The Pennsylvania Institute for Instructional Coaching (PIIC)

Monday, July 21, 2014

So now your summer vacation has probably started and you are beginning to unwind and re-focus your attention to things that you have been delaying all year. Maybe it’s about cleaning closets, or repotting plants or even re-connecting with folks that have been absent from your regular conversations. Whatever the goal, I’m sure you still have flashbacks about the things you wanted to do in school, things you wanted to get back to but never had the time to finish. That’s the plight of the classroom teacher, coach, mentor or administrator… it’s difficult to leave everything behind when you’ve spent the entire year trying to accomplish some school wide goals and your own professional goals as well.

Put things into perspective… what did I accomplish; what is incomplete and why; and what did I learn about accomplishing those goals? Once I answer those questions, I can put to rest the nagging doubts about the successes with my colleagues and how I will move forward. I need to reflect and refine, repurpose and re-evaluate what I want to do. And, I need to prioritize my goals so that I have a short range goal, mid-range goal, and a long range goal with appropriate, realistic strategies to accomplish them.

While you are sipping your coffee at the park, in a playground, or in your backyard, celebrate the milestones and think about how much you’ve learned regarding your teaching colleagues, administrators, and school transformation. Build on those successes and maybe even not such successes and take one step at a time. Just keep a notebook by your side to jot down thoughts that you want to remember about effective instructional practice and your coaching role!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Douglas Reeves believes that clarity and succinctness are integral to success. He indicates that, “There is evidence that schools are well served by one-page plans that are clearly focused and simple enough that every participant in the process understands his or her role in executing the plan.” So, what does this mean for instructional coaches?

Many times, instructional coaches are the liaisons between the administration and the teaching staff. They are neither classroom peers nor supervisors; they are instructional supporters and help teachers implement effective instructional practices. They help provide clarity for the school wide improvement plan and offer strategic reinforcement to implement a variety of techniques to ensure that school wide improvement and student growth are central to teaching and learning.

Instructional coaches help teachers identify instructional goals for classroom content planning and co-create professional goals to help teachers grow their skills. That suggests that coaches and teachers work together to generate both kinds of goals and actually plan ways to collect evidence that supports the level to which those goals are accomplished. That does not imply, however, that the plan must be a 1000 page document! That means that the coach and teachers collaborate to identify the goals and the strategies needed to address those goals, create a feedback loop to make necessary adjustments, and reflect continually on ways that make instruction more effective to meet the needs of a diverse population in a direct and transparent way.

Don’t create another War and Peace; work together to make a simple plan that is easily communicated and uncomplicated to follow. Be sure that each teacher’s goals strengthen his/her skill set in realistic and doable ways while helping students grow.