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Coaching Program Pitfall and Recommendation #3

Instructional coaching is an excellent way to support teachers in their continuous improvement practices, especially given the speed of change in school policies and environment. Indeed, research shows that job-embedded coaching is the most effective type of professional learning for teachers.

Why, then, do some coaching programs fail to produce desired student learning outcomes?

In this post we will elaborate on the third pitfall and recommendation shared in the overview post “Common Pitfalls of Coaching.”

Pitfall #3: Taking advantage of having another adult in the building.

Your school or district has invested in instructional coach positions for the purpose of improving instruction for the sake of positive student achievement. Because instructional coaches aren’t generally responsible for the supervision of students in a classroom like classroom teachers are, however, it’s tempting to use instructional coaches to cover unexpected absences or to step in for various last-minute tasks. Doing so, however, will derail your coaching program and sacrifice teacher and student growth.

As educators, we understand that many situations come up throughout a school day that require extra adult eyes, ears, and/or hands. The reality, however, is that the adults in a school will always be outnumbered by the students and their ensuing needs. There is always going to be a need for last-minute substitute teachers, lunchroom monitors, test administrators, hallway supervisors, and behavior management personnel. Instead of pulling coaches from their scheduled time with teachers and classrooms of students, administrators should have other means to cover these predictable situations: a pool of community substitutes, a list of parent volunteers, school procedures in place that mitigate crises, alternative schedules, and other support personnel.

When instructional coaches are taken from their primary role, especially at the last minute, teachers learn not to depend on them to be consistent or trustworthy learning partners. Furthermore, the unstated, but very clear message communicated to the adult learners in a building when their time with a coach gets disrupted is that their professional development is actually NOT a priority of the administration. Consequently, teachers will go about their work as usual, teaching as they always have, getting the same student achievement results, - and waiting for the coaching program to “go away,” like so many other initiatives.

Recommendation #3: Respect the role and schedules of instructional coaches.

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