3 Ways to Build Your PLN as a New IC
Posted by Violet Christensen & Courtney Groskin on August 10, 2021 at 7:25 PM
Being a new instructional coach can feel like you're on an island with few resources, which is why it's crucial to build a learning network on your own. 🏝️ Violet Christensen and Courtney Groskin eagerly share three tactics for making connections—both in-person and online—and even suggestions of whom to follow online.
f you've just started your first coaching job: congrats and welcome to the greatest job in education! If you are the only coach in your building or district your job might seem a bit isolating at first. As educators, we're used to being able to pop next door or talk to the teacher down the hall because we are surrounded by like-minded individuals who understand our job. Then, you take a coaching position and realize you can no longer share your stories in the same way. The transition from educator to coach can feel like you are jumping across the great divide all on your own.
As coaches who have experienced this and who are now on the other side, we can let you in on our mantra: every coach needs a coach. The key is finding yours.
Once you start to look, you will see that—within all the relationships around you—you are never truly alone and you can find your own coaches everywhere. There are many layers to building your personal learning network (PLN), but the cornerstone is starting to build it from the ground up.
How to grow your PLN
1) Loop in your leaders
Many ICs jump right to getting to know every teacher or even every person in the building because getting to know them and their strengths and skillsets is vital to your relationships and their future growth. However, rather than spreading your investments so widely, you should make your administrators your priority and focus first.
If you start with the principal, you can gain a clear view of the school leadership's vision for their sites. Once you all have your priorities aligned, then you are better equipped as an agent of change through coaching.
You have to honor the time and space that it takes to forge your new relationships with your educators. Build on these each day and each week with check-ins, offers of support, or even a quick email or tweet to them. All this time, you have to be mindful to continuously loop back to your administrator showing your knowledge of staff and instruction, using that information to refine your roadmap for coaching impact throughout the school.
The key is to build in with both administrators and educators with intentionality, creating a symbiotic relationship in which both sides are informed, supported, and heard.
2) Tap into your peers
Your success as a coach requires you to take time to refine your skills, as well as to extend your network. Leveraging the coaches you know to practice your coaching techniques can be absolutely transformative. For example, many ICs within school districts will conduct monthly coaches meetings, with dedicated time to split off and coach in groups of two or triads for meta coaching.
Another great way to find like-minded coaches is to engage in a book study. If you're looking for a book to start a new study group with, we suggest Brene Brown's book, Dare to Lead. While it's not specifically about coaching, it centers on becoming a brave leader. This is a title that ICs—anyone who has a leadership role—can connect with to discover new skills and steps to take in our common purpose.
3) Leverage social media
With coaches being so busy, you might not think that social media would be the place to find them, but tons of amazing coaches freely share their tips and tricks. The key is finding a platform you're comfortable with and that helps to propel your practices to the next level. Connecting with coaches outside of your direct network will always help you grow as an IC. Here are a few avenues we enjoy the most.
We have found that Twitter chats are a great space to share ideas and glean from others. For example, Kathy Perret hosts a regular Twitter chat for ICs every Wednesday night under #educoach. You can hop in, see what others post, and then find other coaches to follow. It's a supportive group that always has great insights or strategies to share.
Clubhouse is an audio-based social media app that allows you to speak with people without being on video. Since many of us are always on the go, with Clubhouse you can opt to just listen in and you don't have to be a host on the stage.
One of our favorite coaches on this platform is Miriam Guerrero Cheuk, who is a dynamic leadership/ mindset/instructional coach who hosts rooms regularly. Also, you can't go wrong listening to Gretchen Bridgers, another IC, who hosts instructional coaching chats on Sunday nights.
Facebook is another active place for coaches. Two tremendous coaching leaders that stick out to us on Facebook are Diane Sweeney of Student-Centered Coaching and Nicole Turner of Simply Instructional Coaching.
Diane consistently reaches out to her Community for Student-Centered Coaching group for feedback on current projects, sharing new thinking, or clarifying her coaching work. This group is a wealth of information and chock full of dynamic educators looking to connect and expand their PLN as well.
Nicole leverages her Simply Coaching Instructional Coaching group to promote her coaching summits (which TeachBoost is a proud sponsor of!) that provide opportunities for enriching professional development for coaches. This group is a supportive network of educators who help address and solve problems together.
If you want to connect with coaches worldwide to gain new perspectives, either of these groups would be a great start.
Once you have started to build PLN, don't let all those connections sit in their digital spaces. Continue to put yourself out there: start a book study, participate in a Twitter chat, or find an accountability buddy to coach with monthly or bi-monthly.
To elevate our coaching, we must learn and grow with others. Simply put, every coach needs a coach, and there are coaches to connect with everywhere. Now, find yours! 😀
About our Guest Blogger
Violet Christensen is an instructional learning coach with St. Vrain Valley School District in Longmont, CO. She serves coaches, school leaders, educators, and others throughout the district. Violet is also part of the Office of Professional Development, where she creates dynamic blended professional development to meet educators' learning needs.
Outside of her daily role, she co-created the Inter-District Coaching Collaborative to connect instructional coaches and help them reflect, refine, and elevate their practices together. Violet is an iLearn Collaborative Blended Learning Certified Educator.
Be sure to connect with violet on Twitter @vhchristensen!
Courtney Groskin works as an instructional learning coach with St. Vrain Valley School District in Longmont, CO. She has over 18 years of experience teaching, coaching, and designing curriculum. In addition to coaching, Courtney works for the Office of Professional Development to create educator-focused professional development. Courtney has her Masters of Science in Educational Technology from Ramapo College of New Jersey and many other education certifications.
You can follow her on Twitter @MissGroskin!
Topics: Guest Blogger, twitter, First Year as a Coach, Practical Advice, Building Relationships, PLCs, Collaboration, Principal and Coach, Mentors, First Year Coaching Tips, Social Media, Online Tools, Twitter Chats, PLN