By Ellen Eisenberg

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

Wednesday, April 19, 2017


In the April issue of ASCD K-12 Leadership Brief (ascdleaders@smartbrief.com), author Marlene Chism shares some insights about preventing the pitfalls when coaching employees. While our instructional coaches are not coaching employees per se, they are working with their teaching colleagues in non-evaluative ways to help grow professional practice. At the same time, the coaches are enhancing their own coaching skills and addressing adult learning that influences student performance.

Ms. Chism suggests four common errors that must be avoided when working with colleagues: sending negative messages, lacking clear expectations, confusing goals, and permitting diversions to intrude on intentional discussions.

Again, these are directed towards employers and employees yet they resonant in my own thinking about coaches and teachers who collaborate to ensure they are communicating a shared vision and collective mission for school wide improvement. Coaching is deliberate and purposeful. And, coaches must use their time with colleagues in calculated ways. Teachers have limited time to engage in the BDA cycle of consultation; make every minute count! Be positive, explicit, forward thinking, and focused.  

What “errors” have you encountered that might be added to these four?

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Motivation is a tricky thing. We know that motivation is goal driven and shapes outcomes. And, as teachers, we focus a great deal (or should) on how to motivate our students. How much time, however, do we spend on thinking about what drives the adults with whom we work, helping them move their practice forward so that our students can grow?

While both conditions and issues exist in schools that cannot always be addressed by instructional coaches, the collective problem-solving around those conditions and issues is incredibly beneficial and speaks to the power of collaboration and critical thinking. I think the key here is that coaches and teachers must work together to identify those issues and conditions and jointly plan ways to prompt changes that make a difference in the lives of their students. Venting only goes so far.

But, before that happens, coaches and their teaching colleagues must engage in ongoing conversations to talk about the differences between conditions and issues and what learning means to them. Those conversations evolve into talking about how students learn and what both the teachers and their students need to make learning meaningful. Coaches need to get to the heart of what activates behavior. This type of conversation helps the coach understand what motivates the teacher; they need to talk about the “M” word – that which motivates a teacher to go from “good to great” – to know the kind of coaching approach that will help move practice forward.

For instance, coaches can’t change job security or the influx of a diverse population into a district. They can, however, talk about how teachers can strengthen their professional practice to help them address the influx of new students or how improving their skills might influence their marketability. They can engage in conversations about how to make their work more interesting and more relevant to their students. I’m embarrassed to say that there were times in my own teaching career that I spent far too much time on some things and not enough on others simply because I liked certain content more and I was motivated, one way or another, to use that as my barometer.

A teacher’s own motivation will have an impact on those discussions. As a coach, yours will as well.

What motivates you in your coaching role? How do you motivate others?