Lauren Smith, instructional coach in Indiana, reflects on three themes that have sustained her this year in her new dual role as both teacher and coach, and how they'll guide her work in the future.
s instructional coaches, we're constantly adapting our support to be responsive and flexible to meet the needs of those we serve alongside. During the last academic year, this was particularly challenging as I've taken on the dual roles of instructional coach and teacher. This stretched me in new ways and has allowed me to practice and apply new contexts to my work, all the while building and maintaining relationships with students and teachers.
Trying to keep the delicate balance between my roles has increased the intentionality of my actions and also affirmed the importance of finding strength in unity through relationships, empathy, and collaboration.
As I continue to think through the remainder of the school year and beyond, the following reflections have helped me identify ongoing action for the flexible and responsive mindset needed within this role.
1) Keep relationships as the core of learning
Juggling being both a coach and teacher this year has reiterated the importance of relationships at the core of all learning experiences. The resilience needed to sustain this school year's hardships has tested both students and staff.
As a coach, this included intentionality creating time and space to connect with colleagues—both in-person or virtually. The ongoing collaboration provided the social connection needed to sustain and foster relationships. From the lens of a teacher across multiple learning environments, this has also included taking time to talk and connect with students—both virtually and in-person—to get to know them better as learners and individuals.
There is joy in finding time to laugh, share stories, and listen to one another. Whether building and maintaining relationships as an instructional coach with teachers and staff or as a teacher with students, relationships support the whole learner's needs and provide the pathway to learning.
2) Focus on self-care
Often, we overlook self-care, but it's essential since we can't pour from an empty cup. Setting boundaries helps protect ourselves, especially when supporting across multiple learning environments. While I find myself flexible and jumping in where I'm needed, I've also made it a point to say no to things that would typically be a yes.
This makes me mindful of not only my commitments and limitations but forces me to slow down and recharge outside of school with things such as working out, reading, or spending time with my family and encouraging my colleagues to do the same.
Through these clear boundaries I've set, I can maximize my impact across disciplines and maintain a healthy balance.
3) Teamwork makes the dream work
Regardless of the learning environment, collaboration is at the heart of moving learning forward. As an instructional coach, I have supported our teams this year both virtually and in-person in designing meaningful, accessible, and equitable learning experiences. Meanwhile, I've also leaned on those same teams to support my own instruction and learning experiences with students.
Additionally, I'm able to use those collaborative conversations and the same level of intention to guide my instructional planning with my virtual learning small groups and in-person instruction through the lens of related arts. Collective, collaborative actions have made me successful this year.
Wearing many hats this year as an instructional coach has not only led me to become a stronger coach but has provided me with new perspectives that will continue to guide my actions for years to come.
Although this year brought its own challenges and new ways of thinking for many, hope has shined through despite the hardships. Ultimately, as we continue to move forward, let's remember to move forward together with a shared purpose that is stronger than ever before.
About our Guest Blogger
Lauren Smith is in her seventh year as an instructional coach for Noblesville Schools in Indiana. Aside from coaching, Lauren has over sixteen years of teaching experience and is passionate about supporting colleagues and students in ongoing learning and growth opportunities.
Outside of school, Lauren has a joy for writing, is an active member of the Collaborate.Lead.Coach community, and enjoys serving as a co-moderator for the #educoach and #INCLC Twitter chats. She welcomes the opportunity to connect and collaborate with others across the country.