What is an Instructional Coach?

While my official job title is Digital Integration Specialist, I often refer to myself as an Instructional Coach.  I strive to be someone who helps teachers as a collaborator rather than as an expert in technology.  

But what really is an Instructional Coach?  Turns out that’s not such an easy term to define.

Today I had two different learning experiences both tied to defining the role of a coach:  

I discovered the Teaching Keating podcast last school year and find myself listening to random episodes on my way to and from work.  It was such a coincidence that the one I listened to today was about Coaching.  

Wes & Molly talked about how it’s important that coaches have something to bring to the table and the person being coached needs to be willing to learn.  They also talked about how difficult it can be to let someone in and allow them to critique our teaching – so true!

I enjoyed listening to their conversation and thinking about how it applies to what I do with my teachers.  This drive to school listening served as a primer of sorts for the rest of the learning I did today.

Thanks to our amazing district Coordinator of Instructional Technology, Carol Lunsford, I had the incredible opportunity to participate in the first day of Cognitive Coaching Seminars with the rest of the district Digital Integration Specialists and a few other district instructional leaders.  I was not sure what to expect, but I loved it. It was just what I needed to help me work towards creating a clear purpose for my role.

For reference, here is some brief information from their website:

From: https://www.thinkingcollaborative.com/seminars/cognitive-coaching-seminars/

Our day was SO FULL that I can’t include it all here, but I want to record a few of my many takeaways.  Most were helpful because they help frame and give language or structure to ideas I was familiar with but had not formalized.

  • Relationships and trust are the foundation for everything!  (I did already strongly believe this one!)
  • Coaching is not the same as collaborating.  Both have their place and are valuable, but they are not the same.  And neither are the same as consulting. Being aware of what role I’m in at any given time will help me help others get the most out of our interactions. 
  • Coaches need to be great listeners.  We need to be patient and not jump in with “answers.”  We also need to ask good questions.
  • There are five States of Mind that work together: efficacy, flexibility, craftsmanship, consciousness & interdependence.  Our “level” in each of these areas can depend on our roles and our circumstances and can change from situation to situation.
  • Your identity (your role & how you see yourself) affects your actions and how you interact with others.  If you want to make changes, you have to work to change your identity before you change behaviors or your environment.

So, what is a Coach?  I don’t think I’m ready to finalize my own definition yet.  I’ll continue to work on that this school year under the guidance of our Cognitive Coaching seminars.  I look forward to the growth that comes with this (and all my other) learning experiences.

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