Teachers as Instructional Coaches: Bringing Out Students' Best Selves
"A good coach will make his players see what they can be, rather than what they are."-Ara Parsheghian
As educators, we know that our job is all about service and helping others become the best they can be. So, how do we do that?!
Really, every teacher is an instructional coach. Our job as teachers is to coach our students toward their learning goals for the year and bring out their best selves in the process. To do that, we have to be able to see our students' potential, find the path to get them there, and guide our students on that path.
Are students going to deviate from the path? Yup. Are they going to fail? Possibly. Are they going to struggle? Absolutely. It's all part of the journey.
So, how do we best coach our students?
There are four steps in this process that needs for teachers with what I call velvet over steel. A great teacher needs to have a backbone of steel but a velvet touch. No yielding on what we know to be really important, but being willing to be gentle in the daily interactions of getting kids to their destinations.
Here's the process of instructional coaching.
Listen, Question, Listen
This is the most important step. If we quit listening, we've already failed our students. There is no one size fits all in education and learning. The path has many variables, pitfalls and personalities. That's what makes education challenging and fun.
We have to hear our students struggles and perspectives in order to the them grow. This is where we begin to help our students see beyond what is, to what is possible.
Process and discuss
Taking the time to process and think through the right path for each student is essential. Sometimes, we just know. It's a mix of educators intuition, listening and experience. Just as often, we have to ponder and find the best fit, try it, evaluate our efforts and our students efforts and adjust.
Part of this process also involves helping students to process what has worked/not worked and evaluate their own efforts: what they understand and where they need help or where they want/need to go next. It requires regular conversations with students.
This is the science of education. We take everything we know to be true, listen to what our students are telling us, add in our observations, research, be open to trying something crazy different (if needed), make our hypotheses and create a plan.
Once the plan is agreed upon, it's time to...
Act, evaluate and adjust
As we and our students try out that plan, we observe, take notes, make adjustments and course corrections on the fly, encourage, discuss and guide. All this is done while observing and listening to our students over and over again.
Really, this is all about transformation. We help our students move from where they are at the beginning of the year to becoming what we know they can be at the end of the year.