Although ICs deserve support from their peers, that's not always what they receive. Margaret Harris-Shoates, district Ed Tech coordinator in Virginia, shares what ICs can and cannot expect from their supervisors and what to do when they are feeling less than supported.
hile instructional coaches' roles can vary greatly, the support and supervision that ICs receive can be even more diverse!
An IC supervisor may be an experienced coach, leading the work through modeling and strategic support. It could also be the case that they don't have formal coaching training or experience. They may evaluate coaches, or they may be strictly non-evaluative. They could work in a school building or operate out of a central office. IC Supervisor might be their exclusive role, or it may be just one of many hats they wear.
From my experiences as both a coach and an IC supervisor, I've learned a thing or two about the importance of setting reasonable expectations. No matter what your IC supervisor's background or job specification is, there are certain things you should expect from them–and a few that you actually shouldn't!
What to expect
1) Expect them to show up
This is one of the most important things an IC supervisor can do. If your supervisor is also your evaluator, they cannot evaluate you if they've never seen you in action!
Even if your supervisor is non-evaluative, there are things that they should be doing to support you that begin with being present. This could be amplifying the story of your impact, providing you with feedback, or just understanding your context and lived experiences as an IC. If your supervisor hasn't seen you in action recently (or ever), invite them! Bonus points if you invite them to play a specific role in supporting your work during the visit.
2) Expect them to support your coaching
This should be a given, but your supervisor must clearly understand your role. They will likely spend a good amount of time clarifying your role to stakeholders who may not understand it. An IC supervisor should advocate for you and your work, especially in conversations that take place at the district level. Just remember that there are things you can do to protect your time!
3) Expect them to encourage your professional growth
Perhaps you are fortunate enough to have a master coach as your supervisor. If so, they should be providing consistent support tailored to honing your coaching skills.
If your supervisor has limited coaching experience, their role is to support you in exploring skill-building opportunities beyond what they can provide. As you build those skills, your supervisor should encourage you to share your expertise with others. You should hear way more "Yes, ands…" than "No, buts…"
What not to expect
1) Don't expect them to solve all of your problems
In the same way that an IC wouldn't swoop in to solve a teacher's problem for them, you shouldn't expect your supervisor to give you all of the answers either. While your supervisor should advocate for you, you must also advocate for yourself. This means reflecting on your values and decisions, owning your mistakes, having tough conversations, and committing to do better each day.
2) Don't expect them to tell you what to do
It can be difficult to adjust to managing your schedule, particularly as a new IC. Coaching is an art—there's no one size fits all. However, as you gain experience and grow as a professional, you'll begin to navigate your role with more finesse. Do not expect your supervisor to micromanage your day. If you have trouble filling your schedule, reflect on your values as a coach, and then use those values to clarify your role. Consider what matters to you and how this manifests in your daily work.
3) Don't expect them to be an expert in everything
The cold, hard truth is that your IC supervisor may have less experience in coaching than you. They may even have less experience in education than you. You cannot expect your supervisor—or anyone, for that matter—to be an expert in everything. However, it's reasonable to expect that they commit to their professional learning in a way that is tailored to expanding their capacity to support you.
What to do if you're not getting the support you need
1) Make sure you advocate for it.
While it is an IC supervisor's responsibility to monitor your growth, you should not use that as an excuse to suffer in silence. If you need support in an area, speak up! Your supervisor may be unaware, and practicing clear communication is the quickest way to help you both.
2) Customize your own professional learning journey!
3) Find a strong Professional Learning Network (PLN).
Be intentional about creating space for your own reflection, growth, and support. Take all of that learning from step 2, and share it with others. Surround yourself with people who can build you up. Those people may not be in your school, district, or even in your state. Explore the power of digital pathways to build connections.
As an IC supervisor, I can tell you that we don't have all of the answers. But you can expect us to show up, support, and let you be great!
About our Guest Blogger
Margaret Harris-Shoates is a district Ed Tech coordinator, supporting a district of nineteen schools to implement their instructional coaching model. She currently leads a team of thirteen ICs working to integrate technology and STEM. Before this, she was an IC for five years— spending one year supporting a district initiative, two years supporting technology integration, and two years supporting secondary instruction for all content areas.