How Instructional Coaches Can Build Teacher Capacity (and Why It Matters!)

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Genevie Rodríguez-Quiñones, instructional coach in San Antonio, Texas, shares three tips for building teacher capacity, while both reducing the pressure on coaches and empowering teachers at the same time! 

As instructional coaches, we have multiple roles and responsibilities to manage daily. From supporting teachers and administrators, to serving as guides in the development of quality instruction, to analyzing data to determine next steps for professional learning—we stay busy!

As we seek to balance the tasks that find their way onto our plate, we need to work to ensure that we "keep it together" and avoid becoming overwhelmed. Our demeanor, attitudes, and reactions in our fast-paced roles all impact the way we interact with others, and how others perceive us, our capacity, and our ability to provide support.

As I enter into my tenth year of coaching, I've discovered that the best way to ensure I remain calm and collected is by building the capacity of the teachers and teams I work with. When educators feel that they can positively impact student achievement, it takes some of the pressure off me as their coach. Here are some tips to help you do the same!

Model learning

Many of us became coaches because of our ability to impact student achievement in our classrooms, but that doesn't mean we're experts in all areas. If we can accept the truth that we don't know it all—and be open about this with our teachers—it actually brings us some benefits!

By expressing vulnerability and acknowledging that, as a coach, we're still a learner, we help foster relationships with teachers. It also shifts our mindset. We become inquisitive action researchers trying out best practices and adjusting our instruction based on our results as we work alongside teachers in our coaching cycles. By doing this, we're modeling our planning processes and showing what it means to learn and grow as an educator.

Clarify expectations

When I'm supporting the rollout of common campus initiatives, I find clarity is key. It's important to be clear about expectations, and just as important to give clear, consistent feedback to teachers and teams as they work to embed new practices.

One way I do this is by developing strategy implementation guides for new initiatives. I develop these with teachers because their input creates teacher buy-in and it also helps me assess their level of understanding. A quality implementation guide should include three items:

  • An explanation of the initiative.
  • Why the initiative is important or necessary.
  • Instructions on how to carry out the initiative.

This document then serves as a central resource for all teachers, and makes it much easier for me to give consistent feedback using the same language each time.

Reveal the knowledge in the room

As a coach, I feel the greatest success when teachers can turn to their teams for support and guidance on their instructional practices. Building teacher efficacy takes time, and it's an ongoing process as a team develops their ability to collaborate around student achievement results, and to adjust planning and instruction based on those results. As teachers dialogue and discuss possibilities for instruction, they’re deepening their capacity as educators.

To help lay the groundwork, I like to have teams take part in Steve Ventura's Collective Teacher Intelligence resume exercise. This team activity helps teachers uncover the years of experience and areas of expertise of the collective. Once they complete the task, I remind them to keep calm: "The answer is in the room!"

Final note

Sir Ken Robinson states, "Teachers are the lifeblood of the success of schools." He couldn't be more accurate. The work we do to build collective teacher efficacy is essential, necessary, and demanding. As we learn to do this, we create the space to maximize our impact as instructional leaders.

It's always helpful to see what's working! Learn about the steps that South Bend, IN leadership have taken to scale their coaching program across the district so that instructional improvements reach every classroom, teacher, and student.

About our Guest Blogger

Genevie C. Rodríguez-Quiñones is an advocate for equity in the classroom, an avid reader and passionate collector of culturally representative children's books, a literacy coach focused on collaborative and culturally responsive practices, and a mother to one very inquisitive boy.

Be sure to follow Genevie on Twitter @genevie79cr!

Illustration by Olha Khomich from Icons8.

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