When talking about instructional coaching, very often the first thing mentioned is the cost to the district to hire a coach, especially in districts where the student population is plummeting and teachers may be furloughed. After all, how can a district justify hiring a coach who isn’t teaching his/her own students when the teaching staff is reduced and class size might increase as a result?
That’s a tough question and takes some very deliberate time to think about the needs of the school, talk through some options, and discuss the existing programs that are supported by the school and district leadership.
Instructional coaching is not an intervention or an “add-on.” Implemented well and effectively, it’s one of the only ways to ensure that “collaboration, inquiry, and reflection” (JSD, Apr 2015 vol. 36, No. 2.) are regularly integrated into the fabric of the school culture. Where else can teachers be honored for what they know and encouraged to work together for the purpose of improved learning for each other and their students? Where else can teachers’ learning be visible, meditative, and non-evaluative?
How to do coaching, however, is always the question.
Restructuring a school day and revising teachers’ schedules are ways to offer opportunities for schools to have instructional coaches on staff. The teachers are already there. Looking at schedules and a variety of responsibilities may yield some options. Yes, this is peer coaching… every instructional coaching model is a peer coaching model because colleagues work together and share their learning. A critical difference in coaching models, however, is the training, preparation, and support. Many peer coaches are not trained to be coaches; they offer to participate in a “peer coaching” initiative because they understand the benefits of working with their teacher partners. They want to support their colleagues as much as they want to be supported by them.
And, as we know, making time to meet with colleagues is critical for any coaching to be successful. That is one of the most challenging obstacles to overcome for colleagues working together without having daily release time devoted to working with each other. Without the identified time to do so, life intervenes and collaboration is not a priority.
What does your coaching schedule look like in your school?