Coaching Partnership Agreements, Part 1: Principal and Coach

Header - Deacon - Principal and Coach

Partnership agreements are incredibly helpful for coaches and their peers to outline core responsibilities and create transparency around their coaching role. Lindsay Deacon, a school improvement coach in Portland, Oregon, walks through the steps for first creating a partnership agreement with your principal in part one of her series.


believe coaching can feel like the best job in the world. When the conditions are right, you get to spend your day deeply invested in helping others get better at what they do. You get to engage in authentic conversations about learning and witness the tremendous efforts of your colleagues. Nevertheless, I often see a prevalent misconception in schools where a coach assumes that their principal clearly understands their role.

More often than not, principals have only a surface-level understanding of what being an instructional coach truly entails and how they can best use the coach's skills. That means a coach needs to proactively educate their principal on what an effective coaching program should look like and work independently to calibrate their efforts to support teachers.

As many of us know, this process isn't easy because many principals have misunderstandings or dated beliefs around coaching. Plus, since they're the "boss" of the school, it can be uncomfortable for a coach to challenge these beliefs.

A coach should sit down with the principal at the beginning of the year to establish agreements about their work and develop shared goals for lasting change

Consider it an opportunity to discuss the best coaching practices and gradually broaden the principal's knowledge base.

Creating the principal/coach agreement

I've had the most success creating agreements with my principals when we're working on it together and set specific time aside:

  1. Schedule time with your principal to draft mutual agreements. Pick a time and space that are least likely to be interrupted. Let them know that this is not "just another meeting."
  2. Include a short reading or article on coaching and share it with your principal ahead of time. Say, "It would be helpful if you could take a look at this beforehand so that we can talk about it together."
  3. At the meeting, share the Developing Principal/Coach Partnership Agreements from The Educoach Survival Guide as a tool to facilitate a discussion about the expectations of your role.
  4. Ask your principal how they plan to positively communicate the benefits of coaching to teachers. Reminder: this messaging shouldn't portray that you're there to "fix" anything or anyone!
  5. If there are disagreements or areas of concern, mark them for additional partner learning. Say, "It sounds like we need to both learn more about this. Can I do some research and get back to you?"
  6. After the meeting, create a copy of your formal agreements and share them with your principal. Keep them handy for upcoming meetings in case you need to reference them.

Final note

Once you mutually clarify the coaching role and goals, it's time to do the same with the teachers you support. The next step involves you explicitly and simply explaining your role, especially to those who have not worked with a coach before.

We'll look at what it takes to build a teacher/coach agreement in my next post. Stay tuned!

About our Guest Blogger

Lindsay has a passion for coaching and currently serves as a school improvement coach, leadership coach, and soccer coach in Portland, Oregon. She is also the co-author of The EduCoach Survival Guide (2020).

Be sure to follow Lindsay on Twitter @TheRealLindsay2 and @edu_survival.

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