What is an Instructional Coach?

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Every school is made up of a team of key players. You have your principals, the teacher, school nurse, counselor, school psychologist, speech therapist, ELL teacher, paraeducators, etc. But one that many people don’t hear too often about are instructional coaches - and they are critical to teacher effectiveness & retention.

But what exactly are instructional coaches?

Instructional coaches set the pace of how a school runs instructionally, especially in the classroom. They are the connective tissue that is meant to translate the vision of the school leadership into tangible goals and practices for teachers to utilize in their classrooms.  Day to day, this looks like providing feedback on curriculum, conducting classroom observations and finding or delivering professional development.  An instructional coach might also help teachers engage with their student data, families and technology.  Needless to say, instructional coaching is a multi-faceted and multi-modal role that takes certain skills and mindsets to get great at.  But effective instructional coaching can transform the school experience for both teachers and their students.  

Let’s look into what qualities make an instructional coach and then see exactly why they are game changers for education.

Key Qualities of an Instructional Coach

You can’t just hire anyone to give their opinion on how to run someone else’s classroom. Teachers aren’t usually excited to have someone critique their teaching techniques, but it’s necessary to stay open-minded to what could be more effective ways in running the classroom and its curriculum. In today’s rapidly changing educational environment, teachers need to be as adaptable and resilient as ever, which is where instructional coaching comes in.  But an ineffective coach can have an equally profound negative impact on teachers as well so you better figure out whether or not they know what they’re doing. Here are some qualities every effective instructional coach should have.

Prioritizes Teacher Relationships

This person requires a lot of patience and needs to be able to build relationships with their fellow teachers. Just like students, teachers deserve to have the right support and encouragement, but also need someone to push them to always be improving. 

It is important that the instructional coach be a people person because it isn’t easy to get through to teachers when it comes to coaching them on how to teach their students. But coaches who are able to build genuine, trusting relationships with their teachers will see an immediate impact on the experience for students.  

Confident Using Data

Data-driven education has brought a huge turn around when it comes to helping students get the help they need for school. But data-driven decisions also need to be extended to coaching as well.  Instructional coaches need to be help teachers make sense of student data, while simultaneously capturing teacher data - from feedback, observations, evaluations, and so on - to drive teacher development.. You can’t coach teachers properly without it. 

Data is incredibly vital to have especially when helping teachers better understand where they can use the assistance. We recommend that teachers take the Teacher Support Language Quiz, so they know exactly what kind of help they need as a teacher.  Using the free quiz can help coaches establish a common language around teacher support from which they can build a strong coaching relationship.  From there, staying on top of each touch point with a teacher will ensure that the coaching is being cumulative and not sporadic (one of the biggest irritations of teachers!).

Knowledgeable in Instructional Best Practices

This key quality is what makes an instructional coach important and stand out from a lot of other professionals. They always need to be up to date with educational practices and trends, so that they can provide helpful resources for teachers when needed. Research is essential when it comes to giving effective instruction. As an instructional coach, you need to know what the best methodologies are, which continues to evolve post-pandemic and with the increase in student use of technology. 

It can be difficult to give up traditional techniques or methodologies, but it may that is part of the responsibility all of us have to our students.. Students deserve the best education and that means schools have to keep iterating on what’s working and what’s not.

Why are Instructional Coaches Important?

Instructional coaches do a lot of the complex work behind the scenes and are what keeps schools moving forward. Sure teachers can survive without them, but their job is going to amplify the teachers’ work.

Support Systems

Instructional coaches are the backbone of the school and its staff and students. One of the leading reasons teachers leave the classroom is due to a lack of support, which is why instructional coaches exist in the first place.They keep teachers and the staff together, save teachers countless hours in planning & research, and help translate school visions into teaching and learning.  Without instructional coaching, teachers will be more likely to burnout.

Improve Instruction

New methods and techniques seem scary, but instructional coaches serve as the messengers and installers.  When districts change up priorities, teachers get wary. Instructional coaches are able to build relationships so that trust exists when these integrations need to happen.  Using that trust and knowledge of each teacher, coaches can then help to make sure implementation of new methods or priorities actually occurs in ways that are sustainable for the teachers themselves.

Instructional coaches are professionals that know exactly how to help where teachers wouldn’t have known they needed it. Their position keeps schools afloat by giving teachers the proper resources and support they deserve. Because of instructional coaches, parents and students can count on their schools staying dynamic and providing a great education experience. 

Are you an instructional coach? Check out our tools that can help make your job easier by signing up today for a FREE 30-day trial! 

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